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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  • Cody A

    You are a mentor from afar to me and I look forward to seeing what comes out of this next chapter in your life. Thank you for your insight, commitment to creativity, and courage.

    Here’s to what’s right around the bend!

  • Tim Grahl

    Congrats Michael! So happy for you!

  • Steve

    Michael, Congrat’s on your decision and courage to move into the next chapter. So often, for us men, it’s difficult to see where our value and worth lies without our business cards and our titles, which can sometimes be barriers to what God is doing in our lives. You’re an inspiration!

  • K.C. Pro

    Congratulations! I’m sure the folks at Thomas Nelson will miss you, but I have no doubt you’ve set in place a great team to succeed you.

    Looking forward to seeing where God takes you on this adventure. I hope your speaking engagements take you to the northwest sometime soon.

  • Ben Forsberg

    Congratulations. I am excited to see what these new changes bring. I am praying that God will use you as an even greater inspiration to Christian leaders in the years to come.

  • tonychung

    I’m glad I signed up for your blog at the right time, otherwise I would have missed this exciting announcement! Congratulations, Michael. You’re leaving behind some big shoes to fill (as you recently posted that you inheriited.)

    Congratulations, Mark. God has positioned you perfectly to continue the growth and development of the company (especially with the advances in the field of mobile publishing), and leave behind a legacy to your own successor when the time comes!

  • Dale Jones

    Congratulations, Michael, on this new chapter in your life!

  • Anonymous

    Good luck Mike and Mark!!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, David. I appreciate you being on our board and for all your encouragement and support. See you at the next board meeting!

  • Julie

    How exciting! This is my first comment on your blog- I just felt led to share with you how much I enjoy what you have to share and how practical your advice is. I look forward to opening it every time it is in my inbox :) wondering what I will be learning that day.

    I am a type B leader that the Lord has given lots of responsibilities to oversee (oversee discipleship at my church and I am very relational at heart) so your blog has helped me grow in my organization and prioritization. I just wanted to say a big thank you for stewarding your influence well. It sounds like you are going to have any more opportunities for this now! (And I love to hear a man say how much he loves spending time with his wife- very honoring and encouraging :)

  • Lisa Reid

    Michael, I wish you and Gail every joy in this new stage of your life. I’ve valued your wisdom for the last few years as I’ve followed your blog and twitter feed, and I look forward to what you’ll share in the future as you put more energy into creative pursuits. May God bless you and Gail for your faithfulness, and may you see the fruits of some of the seeds you’ve planted!

  • Rmerpi

    God be with you.

  • Sara Rassler

    May your new chapter be even more blessed than the last! Also, where can we find Mark in social media?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Mark is not involved in social media personally. I will continue to maintain my presence in social media on behalf of the company. Mark will remain focused internally on driving operating results.

  • Anne Marie

    Congratulations! This is the leap I would like to make to. One day!

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

  • heather

    May your new chapter in life be filled with your richest blessings! I hope you will continue your blog. I have learned so much from your wisdom and insight.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. I will have even more time to focus on my blog. Thanks.

  • Audra Krell

    Every blessing as you run the race God has marked out before you!

  • Carmen E. Richards

    Congratulations Michael, Mark and Thomas Nelson. As always, you articulated the details without all the drudge. May God continue to bless you-working from home is great-and thank you for being an online educator and a blessing to the world of writers.

  • Scott Eblin

    Congratulations to mark and to you Michael. You role modeled a gracious and effective transition in your post. I predict great things for both of you and for Thomas Nelson. Enjoy your next chapter! All the best – Scott Eblin

  • Roland

    I am going to miss reading your blog and trying to get a free book!! Good luck Mike

    • Michael Hyatt

      I will keep blogging right here, Roland. I will also still be giving away free books!

      • TNeal

        Yay!!! Free books.

        Oh, yeah, and still blogging. That’s good too.

  • Carlester T. Crumpler

    Congratulations Michael! Before I read your post, I read about your departure in the Nashville Business Journal. Exciting times ahead and I look forward to reading about and hearing more from you.

  • Therese Thull

    Wow, Michael! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog.

    I’m sure closing the door on the CEO chapter of your life wasn’t easy, so congratulations on taking a bold step. I look forward to continuing to glean from you and appreciate all that you deposit in the lives of others. A heart felt “thank you” to you, Michael!

  • Steven Cribbs

    May God bless you tremendously in this next chapter! You have impacted, and I know you will continue to impact, the lives of many people.

    And, Gail, thanks for sharing your husband with the rest of us :-) The two of you make such a great team!

  • Sonya Reece

    Congrats! During my nearly 2years at Thomas Nelson Live Events, meeting you was indeed one of the highlights of being there. I was truly impressed and inspired by your leadership and remain a fan of the company and especially of your creative work. Thank you for the *contribution* that you are to the those around you ––– near and far. All the best to you! Sonya

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Sonya. It is kind of you to say that!

  • AymieJoi

    Congratulations, Michael! I pray that God will continue to bless you in your new(ish) endeavors! : )

  • Joni Hannigan

    Congratulations! You have provided excellent advice and encouragement through your blogs and twitters. I wish you well–and will anticipate being able to continue to say: “Michael Hyatt says … .”

  • Daniel Decker

    Excited for you and hopeful that as you have more time, we might be able to collaborate on some ideas. :)

    Side note… does Mark blog?

  • Jeff Goins

    Very cool. Excited for you!

  • kathyfannon

    Congratulations, Michael! I’m excited for you and the dream God is giving you for this next adventure in your life!

  • Joseph Sanchez

    Congrats on starting a new chapter in life. I’m sure it’s gonna be great! I’m also happy you get to work from home. That must be exciting.

    Thanks for being such a great servant leader!

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful! Congratulations. Your story continues to unfold. But I was just getting to know you through your blog and finding it encouraging and inspiring…will you continue?

    • Michael Hyatt


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  • Lynette Sowell

    Congratulations! It definitely is a step of faith, walking out of your corporate “comfort zone.” I have learned from your nuggets of wisdom. This March I stepped out, in my own way, by going part-time on my “day job” to three days per week instead of five. I was putting in the 60-hour work week between the 40-hour day job, fiction writing, and freelance newspaper reporting.

    Someone named Michael Hyatt posted on his blog about the dangers of working that type of schedule. I too learned that the more I worked like that, the less effective I was becoming in each area. And my husband likes to see me in the evening too, not my face buried in my laptop. We prayed about it, and I have been at this new part-time schedule for just over one month now. It’s amazing how mundane things can still gobble up those two precious days for writing.

    Thanks for leading us by example. I know I look forward to hearing more about your new ventures.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lynette. I appreciate the support!

  • Gina Burgess

    I go away for just one day and look what happens!!! Congratulations, Mike. I love officing from home. The commute is great and I can work in my pajamas if I want to.

    Congratulation to Mark. Glory! To have Mike as a mentor. That’s just wonderful.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That made me laugh out loud. That’s what happens when you skip a day!

  • Jeff Randleman

    Sad to see the change, in a way. But very excited to see what God has in store for the next season of your life! I’m sure it will be amazing!

  • Jeffery Weita

    Great! Now you will be able to focus on more things Orthodox! You are a tireless advocate for the Kingdom and I know that we will be hearing great things from you in the future.
    Blessings and Many Years doing whatever!
    Jeffery Weita

  • Getahn Ward

    Best wishes on all of your pursuits, Mike.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Getahn. I appreciate your coverage in The Tennessean yesterday.

  • Gary Taylor

    Truly impressive as a man, a man of God, a leader, an executive, a motivator…and did I mention a fine husband to Gail, father and grandfather? You’re the stuff of “Generational Fathering” I’m pounding out on the keyboard. Always better to have the real deal to refer to.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Gary. That’s very kind of you to say.

  • TomGrey

    I would have loved to hear about your own, personal favorite book you published; but that might be too tough to be honest. Some books that helped you; books you supported despite misgivings that later sold well (like your own Millennium Bug, Y2k book, but by others).
    As I write, I think about how being honest about your own opinions might create problems — how you deal with that problem in general.
    Finally, here’s a good book review on how God wants us to Be Happy:

    Congrats on a new phase in life.

  • rick hubbell

    Fascinating, Mike. Blessings on the new direction. I hope in this major transition you’ll have time to celebrate, vacation with family and have special time with the Lord before full involvement in the ‘new’.

    If I may encourage you: steward your growing influence wisely as I’m sure you will. I have a feeling there is a significant major project – that will take all your talents – just ahead… and that there are two or three others to avoid that although look interesting, will drain the main thrust the Lord has for you, as you have been instructed to build a new foundation.

    Don’t be afraid to say no.


    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a good word, Rick, and I will take it to heart. Thanks so much.

  • Anonymous

    Michael, I have enjoyed your blog since the day I discovered it over 4 months ago. I am so excited for you to be able to move in a direction of creativity. The more I read your blog the more I wonder how you could have the time to produce such wonderful content and be a CEO at the same time. I guess when it’s your passion, you just make it happen. Cheers to starting a new chapter!

    • rick hubbell

      totally agree.

  • Deanna

    I feel like I learned a little of “Thomas Nelson” through you and enjoying reading what you have learned about leadership, writing and life. Congratulations on taking this step and following God’s lead in the next chapter of your life.

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  • Bethany Planton

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us via your blog! Congrats to you on this new chapter in your life!

  • Mike Oates

    Hi Michael,
    I find your transition very interesting as I embark on a big transition myself going from working in the job world to full time ministry. Would you consider writing a blog post that talks about the how you handle the decision process or the process of make yout transition. What sort of thing signaled that a change should take place. What were you sensing over the last few months that led to a transition. I hope that makes sense. I guess I believe that God often stirs the up nest to get us to the next step in our journey. Can you comment on what that process was like for you?

    • rick hubbell

      yes. that would be great…

  • William H Spinks

    Congratulations to you, Mike, and to Mark and your (old) team at Thos Nelson. It must feel exhilarating to be moving into this new phase. I am hopeful for you that it is all you imagine it will be.
    -bill spinks

  • Blair

    Congratulations Michael! It is great to see you follow your dreams even when the first step seems to be the hardest. I applaud you for taking that step and am looking forward to hearing about the next part of your journey through life. And don’t worry, there will be many of us on the sidelines cheering you on. Blessings…

  • Jonathan Sigmon

    Congratulations! I hope this big move has big rewards for you and your family. I’m praying for your transition even as I type this…

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  • Tsh @ Simple Mom

    Congratulations! I’m excited for you, and can completely understand the need to transition out of management and into a role that really uses your gifts. And of course, working out of the home is the best thing we’ve done for our family, so I’m all about that.

  • Kirkweisler

    Thank you so very much for your thoughtful sharing of wisdom, counsel and encouragement. I am just one of many who have been blessed by and recieved impressions from considering your words. I was also fortunate to be gifted one of the 100 copies of Mr. Andrews book…which I would like to express my grattitude for. Thank you! Someday we will meet and I will shake your hand…but my appreciation for you then will not be more than it is now.

    With regard to your post today about leaders being great followers. A foavorite clip comes to mind… narrating the importance of “followers” in the making of a movement.

    Thank you again
    Kirk Weisler