Our fiscal year begins on April 1. To celebrate this past year and to kick off the new year, we had all our Nashville-based employees gather around the flagpole this morning. I shared a few thoughts that I thought I would repeat here, in case you weren’t able to attend.
A Look Back
Last year was tough. The economic environment was challenging, as was the retail sector. The publishing industry was at best flat. And, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the religious segment was down 10.2% for the year. However, this appears to be turning around.
In addition, we experienced a tremendous amount of transition this year:
- We took the Company private after almost 40 years as a public company.
- We got a new Board of Directors. (I am the only one left that was on the previous Board.)
- We bought Integrity Publishers, which has turned out to be a terrific acquisition.
- We sold Cool Springs Press.
- We launched our One Company Initiative.
We have not yet had a chance to tally the final numbers, but I am sure we fell short of our original goals for the year. However, given the economic environment and the amount of transition we experienced, I think we did pretty well. We out-performed the market and grew by more than 5 percentage points.
I want to especially thank:
- Our Live Events Group. This group had a fantastic year. They experienced double-digit growth, increase in the number of conferences, and an overall increase in attendance. Almost every metric was positive.
- Our Publishing Group. Many of these people pulled double-duty in order to make the One Company vision a reality. As I described it at various times, it was liking trying to change a propeller on a flying airplane without losing altitude. And they did a great job.
- Our Marketing Group. They also had a big year of transition. Marketing had been a free-standing function. This past fall, we integrated it back into publishing. The team managed all of this and still executed on our marketing plans.
- Our Sales Group. This team performed heroically. Like locusts through fresh vegetation, they stripped the leaves down to the bare dirt. I have never seen a team more focused and more committed.
- Our Operations Group. The warehouse finished on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. They didn’t leave a single order unprocessed. They got it all out the door. And our Credit Department did an unbelievable job collecting from our customers. We had high expectations, but they even exceeded those!
A Look at Today
Today is especially significant in the life of our Company. It is our official “go-live date” for One Company. In the last year, we have spent a great deal of time (1) clarifying our editorial standards, (2) organizing our publishing group around felt needs, and (3) consolidating all of our imprints into the single Thomas Nelson brand. From this point forward, only our Thomas Nelson “house” logo will appear on the spines of our books. No more W Publishing, Rutledge Hill Press, J. Countryman gift books, or any other imprint. Today there is just one imprint, one purpose, and one common vision. We are all very energized about this.
A Look Ahead
I am especially excited about this coming year. It feels like a new start. I am excited for three reasons:
- Most of the change is behind us. We have paid the price. We have all worked hard. We have accomplished a tremendous amount since last year.
- We have laid a great foundation for the future. We have a clear purpose, a compelling vision, solid values, a powerful strategy, and access to all the capital we need.
- We have the best line-up of products and conferences we have ever had. We have new books from all of our major authors scheduled plus a few news one, too. In addition, we have a few surprises that might just take off in a big way.
The bottom line is that, with God’s help, I believe this next year will be our biggest year yet.