Stepping into the Next Chapter

Today at Thomas Nelson we promoted Mark Schoenwald, our President and Chief Operating Officer, to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer. Effective immediately, I am stepping out of active management of the company, and turning over the reins to Mark. However, I will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board.

Michael Hyatt and Mark Schoenwald, the new CEO of Thomas Nelson

Michael Hyatt, Chairman, and Mark Schoenwald, the new CEO of Thomas Nelson

I hired Mark in 2005 to be our Chief Sales Officer. I promoted him to President and Chief Operating Officer in 2009. I have watched him grow and develop over the years. He is an outstanding executive in every way, yet humble and committed to our company’s Christian mission. He was my first choice as a successor, and I know he will do a terrific job.

The reason for this transition is that I want to spend more time externally focused: writing, speaking, and pursuing other business interests. This is not a big surprise to my family or closest friends—perhaps not even to you. I love the creative life, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to give expression to my gifts while running a company the size of Thomas Nelson.

I feel that this is the perfect time to make this transition. We finished our fiscal year on March 31st with very strong momentum. We currently have several books on the bestseller lists, including Heaven Is for Real, which has been #1 on the New York Times list for 10 straight weeks. The company is healthy, vibrant, and poised for growth. We have a talented and proven successor in Mark, who can lead the company forward.

It is hard for me to believe that I have been the company’s CEO for nearly six years. The time has flown by. One of my closest friends asked, “What do you think were your biggest accomplishments during this time?” I have been thinking about that now for a few weeks. I would point to five:

  1. Taking the company private and getting a great price for our shareholders.
  2. Creating a mission-focused, values-driven culture.
  3. Steering the company successfully through the Great Recession.
  4. Maintaining the company’s market share in a very turbulent industry.
  5. Launching the company into the world of e-books and social media.

I certainly didn’t do these things alone. It took my executive leadership team, including Mark; Stuart Bitting, my chief financial officer; Mary Graham, my chief live events officer; Lindsey Nobles, my director of corporate communications; and Vicki Parr, my executive assistant. In fact, it took every employee at Thomas Nelson.

In my new role, I will still be very connected to the company, remaining on the board and presiding at our meetings. I will also serve as an advisor to Mark and his team. I will represent the company at the various conferences I attend and will continue to scout for new authors and speakers. I will be involved in a handful of key author relationships, as Mark deems appropriate.

One change I am really excited about is officing out of my home. This has been a dream of mine for years. (Did I mention that I love hanging out with my wife, Gail?) I also think it is important that the former CEO get out of the new CEO’s way, so that there is no confusion about who is in charge.

If life is a story (and it is), then I have just finished an important chapter in my life. But the book is not over. There are more adventures in the pages ahead. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next!

Note: here is some additional news coverage that came out since I first posted this:

Question: Is there anything I didn’t cover? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • BeverlyMChi

    Praise God and congratulations on your this next phase of your life. What is so wonderful about this story is how you were able to hand pick your successor. Mark came in with his own abilities and skills but it is apparent that the two of you learned from each other and have a great relationship which makes for a smooth transition because he has your heart for the business. I believe you will be instrumental in helping other leaders make this type of transition for the health of their companies.

    God bless and I look forward to reading more.
    Beverly Moore

  • Jeff Brown

    You’ve had an amazing run. I look forward to the day our paths cross face-to-face. All the best to you and your future endeavors.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jeff. I hope so, too. I feel that I am just getting started. Like I just graduated from college.

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  • Robert Ewoldt

    Congratulations on the new direction of your life! I wish you happiness as you embark on this new era.

  • Jeaton111

    Congratulations Mike. Follow your dreams.
    And BTW, this was bound to happen eventually. After all, he has better executive hair than you. ‘-0

    • Michael Hyatt

      Now THAT is funny.

  • Bonnie Gray

    Hi Michael, Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been following your blog — and just wanted to circle back and say congratulations. It takes guts to let go, especially in a position you’ve already found success in. That is a mark of a creative spirit. I’m sure you had a memorable Easter celebration, in your season of new. Faith is hanging onto The One who moves ahead of you and leads you forward!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bonnie. I am pretty excited about this stage of my life.

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  • Jonathan

    Noticing that this is your last post under publishing, will there be more or are you just concentrating on the other 3 areas more now?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t really have a game plan. I write on what interests me at the moment. It does in waves. I am still very much into publishing, so I am sure I will have more to say.

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  • Michael Mulligan

    Impressive.  In 2005, my business partners and I left our jobs at a company considered to have a monopoly in our field to compete.  We saw the inefficiencies of the established model, a brick and mortar company with over 4,000 sales people and thought we could do better.  Our database became “virtual,” meaning anyone could access it while interacting with customers.  When social media entered the picture, we moved one of our graphic artists into a “virtual” role and put her in charge of our car club blogs.  Cynthia finds relevant material for her posts and responds to messages while constantly searching for more people to add on our social media sites.  You can see her work going to and clicking the car club button. Because our company is “virtual,” she has the choice to work while on a school break, from her home, or at our small brick and mortar building, now a hub for other cities we serve.

    I’ve interacted with Tricia recently about a guest post and find her to be A+.  Her passion for her virtual job comes through in her emails.  The biggest benefit you are getting from this, Michael, is the time you get to be with your wife.  You can live your dreams while helping us as you pursue new adventures.  Congratulations finding your virtual match.  Looks like a match made in Heaven.

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