Cover Story: What's F.A. Davis Doing Right?
A Sport Publishing Execs Can Appreciate
Crowning the celebration of the warmer months is an annual Summer Solstice party, held in the parking lot of F.A. Davis’ distribution center. “It’s a carnival atmosphere,” Craven says. “There are a lot of country fair-like events that take place, a lot of them really specific to publishing.” Games include a yearly tradition that is surely unique in the industry—the “book toss,” which utilizes a damaged copy of the “Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses.”
“You have to be able to make it slide,” Craven explains, “and you have to get it going quickly so it doesn’t open up, because as soon as it opens up, aerodynamically it fails. So there’s a real trick to it.”
For those fond of more conventional sports, the company offers “sports casual” days, allowing employees to wear the jersey of their favorite team.
Central to the company’s approach is team building among sales staff, which most years means golfing at exotic locales such as the The Broadmoor in Colorado. The “F.A. Davis Scramble” allows even novice golfers to play a role as important team contributors.
A Family Company With Family-Style Values (and Parties!)
Asked to describe the corporate culture, Craven says that F.A. Davis draws character and inspiration from its storied 130-year history (iconic president Irene Craven Davis, who ran the company from 1917 to 1960, was Craven’s great aunt; he is the company’s fourth president), as well as its willingness to embrace new techniques and technologies. The ethos is summed up in a poster displayed in the office, a reproduction of a portrait of Irene Davis in full Edwardian garb “Photoshopped” to show her wearing an iPod and ear buds.
The family heritage continues with Craven’s sons; Robert works in sales, and Matthew, in the IT department. “There is a certain calm that has gone through the organization now that they see succession before their very eyes,” Craven says. “Everybody knows that every other competitor we have has sold out and been reconstituted in a million different ways, and [having my sons working here] gives a reassurance for everybody where the legacy is, and that there’s a commitment. We have had success being independent, and we can be more effective than some of these conglomerates that have been extremely clumsy with mergers and acquisitions.”