Cover Story: What's F.A. Davis Doing Right?
It was known as the Green Room, a relic of 1960s-era decorating—felt walls and all—that served for decades as prime meeting space on the first floor of Philadelphia health sciences book publisher F.A. Davis Co. While nobody mourned its passing when it was finally renovated two years ago, it was believed that the demise of the groovy grotto warranted the creation of a commemorative plaque, handed out around the office at the holidays. Amid photos and an actual mounted green wall swatch was engraved a promise to hereby “stop meeting like this.” The plaques do more than inspire an affectionate chuckle. Like the large photo of employees standing in front of company headquarters in 1968 that occupies the wall behind company President Robert H. Craven Jr.’s desk, they serve as a reminder of the unique legacy and continuity of F.A. Davis, one of the few remaining independent health sciences book publishers.
“We have been able to see the dividends that are paid for stability,” Craven says. “I have eight [people who report directly to me] whose average tenure with the company is over 11 years. In most cases, the management team and the acquisition editors … got their love of publishing [working] elsewhere, but got tossed around. Here is a sanctuary for them to enjoy what they came to love about publishing in the first place.”
It also is a place for them to enjoy just going to work, evident in the company’s rank as the No. 1 “Best Book Publishing Company to Work For” this year.
Letting Employees Know They’re a Part of Things
In a volatile publishing market where, lately, anxiety has been the name of the game, F.A. Davis has managed to provide workers with a welcome sense of security. While the down economy has necessitated a hiring and salary freeze, the company—which grew in recent years from about 100 employees in the late ’90s to its current 136—has managed to get by without staff layoffs or payroll reductions.