The Recession Hits Home

Today, was a very difficult day at Thomas Nelson. We informed fifty-four of our friends and co-workers (about 10% of our workforce) that we have eliminated their jobs, effective this Friday. This will affect nearly every department in our company.

a road sign with the words "2008 Recession" on it

This was the second round of reductions this year. Unfortunately, this one was no less painful. We did the first round after significantly cutting our SKU count. However, this second round was purely a result of the slowdown in the economy.As a leadership team, we struggled with this decision for several weeks. As recently as September 19, I assured our employees that we were not planning another reduction in our workforce. It was not even a remote consideration. But the final September and October sales reports changed that.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on the global financial crisis. I’m not an economist, but I do know that whatever is happening has had a very adverse effect on retailers, including booksellers. Despite some initial positive news regarding Black Friday, many retailers have shared with us that they are still “bracing for a difficult holiday season,” and that they expect “the trend to continue well into 2009 and perhaps beyond.”

Obviously, it is extremely difficult to part with long-time friends and co-workers. I am at a loss for words to describe the emotion; I am personally close to several of them. However, we are offering generous severance packages, including professional outplacement, to each person. We are committed to assisting them in their transition.

The one thing I do know is that the world needs our message of inspiration now more than ever. As a result, I remain optimistic about our prospects once we get past the current economic crisis.

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  • http://www.GabeSmith.com/ Gabriel Smith

    Very sorry to hear the news, Mike. Our thoughts are with you and your team.

  • http://www.GabeSmith.com Gabriel Smith

    Very sorry to hear the news, Mike. Our thoughts are with you and your team.

  • TN Employee

    Mike,

    I am surprised you even say anything anymore (online or face to face) because of all of the negative responses thrown your way. Thank you for adressing what is going on in our company and for doing it so honestly and openly.

    Also, thank you for giving us the opportunity (through your twitters and blogs) to have a direct line to you with our questions and concerns – as well as the liberty to remain anonymous. I have never worked for a company where the executive leadership gave their “lower-level” employees such direct access to their time.

    Here is what I hope you and Jim can help us with moving forward – I have seen job cut after job cut this year (2 at TN & 4 at WOF) and sometimes feel as though I am coming to work and just waiting to get fired. How can the ELT encourage and motivate us who are still employed (and who’s productivity is crucial to the sucess of TN) to continue working hard – and even harder now that we may be picking up additional responsibilities for those jobs that are no longer?

    Please don’t get me wrong – I thank God everyday that I wake up and have this job to go to, especially in our economic environment. However to me, these cutbacks are more of a distraction than blogs, twitters, and facebook.

    Thanks for any inspiration you can give. Maybe it’s a topic for your next blog…

  • TN Employee

    Mike,

    I am surprised you even say anything anymore (online or face to face) because of all of the negative responses thrown your way. Thank you for adressing what is going on in our company and for doing it so honestly and openly.

    Also, thank you for giving us the opportunity (through your twitters and blogs) to have a direct line to you with our questions and concerns – as well as the liberty to remain anonymous. I have never worked for a company where the executive leadership gave their “lower-level” employees such direct access to their time.

    Here is what I hope you and Jim can help us with moving forward – I have seen job cut after job cut this year (2 at TN & 4 at WOF) and sometimes feel as though I am coming to work and just waiting to get fired. How can the ELT encourage and motivate us who are still employed (and who’s productivity is crucial to the sucess of TN) to continue working hard – and even harder now that we may be picking up additional responsibilities for those jobs that are no longer?

    Please don’t get me wrong – I thank God everyday that I wake up and have this job to go to, especially in our economic environment. However to me, these cutbacks are more of a distraction than blogs, twitters, and facebook.

    Thanks for any inspiration you can give. Maybe it’s a topic for your next blog…

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @TN Employee: Yes, I was actually planning on writing on this topic. My working title is, “So We’ve Had the Layoffs. Now What?” I want to specifically address those who have survived a layoff (or two).

    Thanks for your input.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @TN Employee: Yes, I was actually planning on writing on this topic. My working title is, “So We’ve Had the Layoffs. Now What?” I want to specifically address those who have survived a layoff (or two).

    Thanks for your input.

  • http://www.ramonarichards.com/ Ramona

    Yow! To Mr. “Franklin,” perhaps you should take your own advice about reading Poor Richard (or our own Bible products) and not judge someone based solely on public statements. Until you have walked Mike’s path, you cannot know him, his heart, or his judgment.

    I am an author and a current employee of TNI who thought I would be one of the ones cut. I had already cleaned my desk and prepared my personal employees (I’m the mom of a disabled child who has caregivers) because the loss of my job would affect the income of three families. That I am still employed is a praise, but there were six who are leaving my department. We all know it happens.

    You have no idea how the employees who have been cut feel about this move. Some are justifiably angry, but most I’ve talked to understand what’s happening inside and outside Nelson. Some have already received inquiries from other publishers because those in our industry know how well Nelson trains their employees.

    And some are rejoicing that God has closed one door and opened others. Yes – REJOICING. This is not lip service to the bosses; this is private expression to friends.

    Today our department is taking those who are leaving out to lunch to love on them. I’ve already hired one as a freelancer to help her transition. This afternoon, they have the outsourcing counseling.

    To seriously believe that Mike is not grieving because he’s not constantly beating his chest in public and slicing open the inner workings of Nelson’s private finances is a serious misjudgment of the man and the company. To say that cutting our output is to blame (or is short-sighted) is to reveal a lack of knowledge of what we cut (much of which was NOT new product or innovative, helpful books) and how the book business works.

    So you are judging not only Mike but his team without full information or knowledge. Your disgust is seriously misplaced.

  • http://www.ramonarichards.com Ramona

    Yow! To Mr. “Franklin,” perhaps you should take your own advice about reading Poor Richard (or our own Bible products) and not judge someone based solely on public statements. Until you have walked Mike’s path, you cannot know him, his heart, or his judgment.

    I am an author and a current employee of TNI who thought I would be one of the ones cut. I had already cleaned my desk and prepared my personal employees (I’m the mom of a disabled child who has caregivers) because the loss of my job would affect the income of three families. That I am still employed is a praise, but there were six who are leaving my department. We all know it happens.

    You have no idea how the employees who have been cut feel about this move. Some are justifiably angry, but most I’ve talked to understand what’s happening inside and outside Nelson. Some have already received inquiries from other publishers because those in our industry know how well Nelson trains their employees.

    And some are rejoicing that God has closed one door and opened others. Yes – REJOICING. This is not lip service to the bosses; this is private expression to friends.

    Today our department is taking those who are leaving out to lunch to love on them. I’ve already hired one as a freelancer to help her transition. This afternoon, they have the outsourcing counseling.

    To seriously believe that Mike is not grieving because he’s not constantly beating his chest in public and slicing open the inner workings of Nelson’s private finances is a serious misjudgment of the man and the company. To say that cutting our output is to blame (or is short-sighted) is to reveal a lack of knowledge of what we cut (much of which was NOT new product or innovative, helpful books) and how the book business works.

    So you are judging not only Mike but his team without full information or knowledge. Your disgust is seriously misplaced.

  • http://www.lynettesowell.com/ Lynette Sowell

    First, I am sorry about the difficult decision TN had to make to let people go. Let’s hope that Christians will step up and support those who’ve been laid off at times like this, and let’s hope that we can point others to opportunities.

    As far as a CEO twittering, I see no problem with it. As a “worker drone” in the company I work for, it has been easy for me to think of CEOs as being out of touch with what “average” people are doing. Twitter can be a tool to change that. At least I hope so.

  • http://www.lynettesowell.com Lynette Sowell

    First, I am sorry about the difficult decision TN had to make to let people go. Let’s hope that Christians will step up and support those who’ve been laid off at times like this, and let’s hope that we can point others to opportunities.

    As far as a CEO twittering, I see no problem with it. As a “worker drone” in the company I work for, it has been easy for me to think of CEOs as being out of touch with what “average” people are doing. Twitter can be a tool to change that. At least I hope so.

  • http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/ Bonnie Calhoun

    Mike, I am so sorry to hear this sad news. My empathy goes out to you. I know it is a great burden on your heart, and I will pray that God grants you peace at this time of the season when hearts should be joyous.

    In life we don’t have a testamony until we’ve had the test and gone thru the fire.

    I have worked with some very fine people at Nelson, and I pray that the Lord gives them encouraging directions in this great time of distress.

    God bless!

  • http://www.colleencoble.com/ Colleen Coble

    Mike’s foresight in cutting back on titles a few months ago prevented more people being laid off. I’m CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and I heard from many publishing professionals–and bookstores–that Thomas Nelson’s move was smart and what was very much needed in the industry.

    One thing I love about Mike is that he is always thinking ahead to what is best. He has a huge weight on his shoulders and takes his responsibilities very seriously. No one was more grieved at having to lay off employees than Mike. I’m proud to be part of the Thomas Nelson author family and proud of Mike’s integrity.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Mike’s foresight in cutting back on titles a few months ago prevented more people being laid off. I’m CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and I heard from many publishing professionals–and bookstores–that Thomas Nelson’s move was smart and what was very much needed in the industry.

    One thing I love about Mike is that he is always thinking ahead to what is best. He has a huge weight on his shoulders and takes his responsibilities very seriously. No one was more grieved at having to lay off employees than Mike. I’m proud to be part of the Thomas Nelson author family and proud of Mike’s integrity.

  • http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/ Bonnie Calhoun

    Mike, I am so sorry to hear this sad news. My empathy goes out to you. I know it is a great burden on your heart, and I will pray that God grants you peace at this time of the season when hearts should be joyous.

    In life we don’t have a testamony until we’ve had the test and gone thru the fire.

    I have worked with some very fine people at Nelson, and I pray that the Lord gives them encouraging directions in this great time of distress.

    God bless!

  • B Franklin

    Ramona,
    As a pragmatist, author and scholar, I and my namesake reject your statements about judgments. It is for us to judge the information that we are provided from the source and since this is passed to the public forum, it is what it is. As a CEO, Mr. Hyatt, should be judged on what he says and does rather than the “love on them” mentality that you expound. That is the problem that brings us here today. How are your books doing by the way?

    I have held several positions and walked many a mile, granted not in his shoes, and have made sure that I personally had exhausted all possibilities and made a demonstration before affecting others. We have felt the pain and prospered before.

    I find it astounding that you do not feel that you were betrayed from the top. We will not have any additional layoffs and 60 days later, back from my vacation feeling good, oh by the way I was wrong, now good luck and get out in winter.

    Perhaps you feel blessed and you are fortunate. Others were not and I am one of the angry.

  • B Franklin

    Ramona,
    As a pragmatist, author and scholar, I and my namesake reject your statements about judgments. It is for us to judge the information that we are provided from the source and since this is passed to the public forum, it is what it is. As a CEO, Mr. Hyatt, should be judged on what he says and does rather than the “love on them” mentality that you expound. That is the problem that brings us here today. How are your books doing by the way?

    I have held several positions and walked many a mile, granted not in his shoes, and have made sure that I personally had exhausted all possibilities and made a demonstration before affecting others. We have felt the pain and prospered before.

    I find it astounding that you do not feel that you were betrayed from the top. We will not have any additional layoffs and 60 days later, back from my vacation feeling good, oh by the way I was wrong, now good luck and get out in winter.

    Perhaps you feel blessed and you are fortunate. Others were not and I am one of the angry.

  • Lindsey Nobles

    @ B Franklin: As a Thomas Nelson employee, I just want to clarify one thing. Mike Hyatt did not tell us on September 19th that there would be no further layoffs. He said that a layoff was not being planned and that there had been no discussions about layoffs at that time. Obviously the economy has seriously eroded since that date and they become unavoidable.

    This is a difficult time for Thomas Nelson employees, both those who remain and those who have lost their jobs. I think that our time should be focused on how we can support each other during these hard times instead of pointing fingers and placing blame.

  • Lindsey Nobles

    @ B Franklin: As a Thomas Nelson employee, I just want to clarify one thing. Mike Hyatt did not tell us on September 19th that there would be no further layoffs. He said that a layoff was not being planned and that there had been no discussions about layoffs at that time. Obviously the economy has seriously eroded since that date and they become unavoidable.

    This is a difficult time for Thomas Nelson employees, both those who remain and those who have lost their jobs. I think that our time should be focused on how we can support each other during these hard times instead of pointing fingers and placing blame.

  • http://www.ramonarichards.com/ Ramona

    Mr. “Franklin,” then we will have to agree to disagree. I would not have felt “betrayed from the top,” even if I had been one of the ones cut. As I said, I was prepared for it because I keep my head up, stay aware of my environment, and listen to those around me, including the ones at the top.

    As for my books, they are doing quite well. The ones I edit here are fine, and the ones I write for another publisher (who has also seen losses recently) just as nicely. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and publishing has always been feast or famine. It’s the nature of the beast.

    I’ve been fired before, the kind where they escort you to the door and ship your personal things to you in crumpled boxes. I know how it feels. It happened to me when my husband and I were already bankrupt. It was the last straw and resulted in a divorce and three years of part time jobs. So I’m not talking from an ivory tower. I’m talking from the position of a survivor.

    So, yeah, I feel blessed, and I can see all too clearly how TNI is handling this. I’ve never known a company to handle it better. And I will continue to love on those who are leaving and support the ones left with the heavier workloads.

    It’s life.

  • http://www.ramonarichards.com Ramona

    Mr. “Franklin,” then we will have to agree to disagree. I would not have felt “betrayed from the top,” even if I had been one of the ones cut. As I said, I was prepared for it because I keep my head up, stay aware of my environment, and listen to those around me, including the ones at the top.

    As for my books, they are doing quite well. The ones I edit here are fine, and the ones I write for another publisher (who has also seen losses recently) just as nicely. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and publishing has always been feast or famine. It’s the nature of the beast.

    I’ve been fired before, the kind where they escort you to the door and ship your personal things to you in crumpled boxes. I know how it feels. It happened to me when my husband and I were already bankrupt. It was the last straw and resulted in a divorce and three years of part time jobs. So I’m not talking from an ivory tower. I’m talking from the position of a survivor.

    So, yeah, I feel blessed, and I can see all too clearly how TNI is handling this. I’ve never known a company to handle it better. And I will continue to love on those who are leaving and support the ones left with the heavier workloads.

    It’s life.

  • http://www.faithmouse.com/ Dan Lacey

    A cartoon of encouragement for you-

    http://www.faithmouse.com/a_strong_foundation.jpg

  • http://www.faithmouse.com Dan Lacey

    A cartoon of encouragement for you-

    http://www.faithmouse.com/a_strong_foundation.jpg

  • http://www.daveneta.com/ Neta Jackson

    Oh my. I am just now hearing about the layoffs at TN. My heart goes out to all who have been laid off, to those who had to make the tough decisions, and to those still holding the fort. It’s tough, tough, tough on everyone. I’ve been in this business with its ups and downs long enough–and believe me, as a TN author, I’m having to cut new notches in my belt too–to know one thing: God is faithful. I will be praying for all concerned.

  • http://www.daveneta.com Neta Jackson

    Oh my. I am just now hearing about the layoffs at TN. My heart goes out to all who have been laid off, to those who had to make the tough decisions, and to those still holding the fort. It’s tough, tough, tough on everyone. I’ve been in this business with its ups and downs long enough–and believe me, as a TN author, I’m having to cut new notches in my belt too–to know one thing: God is faithful. I will be praying for all concerned.

  • Mary

    I’m sorry (and a little surprised I guess since personally I’ve been on a book buying spree lately) to hear of the layoffs.

    Books make wonderful Christmas gifts and usually cost a good deal less than say, a nice sweater.

    Just a thought from a satisfied customer (I recently purchased all the Frank Peretti books for kids but I’m not affiliated with Thomas Nelson.)

    I’d like to add that our son experienced a devastating lay-off several months ago. He found his dream job earning 4 times as much and “having” to travel to Paris several times a year. I know it’s anecdotal but when you hear these stories again and again ….

  • Mary

    I’m sorry (and a little surprised I guess since personally I’ve been on a book buying spree lately) to hear of the layoffs.

    Books make wonderful Christmas gifts and usually cost a good deal less than say, a nice sweater.

    Just a thought from a satisfied customer (I recently purchased all the Frank Peretti books for kids but I’m not affiliated with Thomas Nelson.)

    I’d like to add that our son experienced a devastating lay-off several months ago. He found his dream job earning 4 times as much and “having” to travel to Paris several times a year. I know it’s anecdotal but when you hear these stories again and again ….

  • http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/ Ellen Weber

    Hearts have gone out – and that’s as it should be. My question is this: “When it is time to let anger and regret go? Why care about letting go, when emotions heat? Dynamic new research shows there are barriers to the plasticity you’ll need to rewire the brain’s plasticity for the next exciting place in your call. Holding onto anger and blame is the brain’s road to disaster for you!

    http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/

    No accidents here – but huge barriers to the very place that holds new rewards for each one let go! Why block these new segues?

    Life is tough. People move on – and get stronger for so doing.

    We’ve all been disappointed and we’ve all been given mental tools we need to engage in order to make new wonders happen. We are all rooting for you, but only you can break loose from anger and move into curiosity for God’s next place for your fine talents! Why tie His hands from moving you on!

  • http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/ Ellen Weber

    Hearts have gone out – and that’s as it should be. My question is this: “When it is time to let anger and regret go? Why care about letting go, when emotions heat? Dynamic new research shows there are barriers to the plasticity you’ll need to rewire the brain’s plasticity for the next exciting place in your call. Holding onto anger and blame is the brain’s road to disaster for you!

    http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/

    No accidents here – but huge barriers to the very place that holds new rewards for each one let go! Why block these new segues?

    Life is tough. People move on – and get stronger for so doing.

    We’ve all been disappointed and we’ve all been given mental tools we need to engage in order to make new wonders happen. We are all rooting for you, but only you can break loose from anger and move into curiosity for God’s next place for your fine talents! Why tie His hands from moving you on!

  • http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/ Ellen Weber

    Sorry – why let it go and how to do so now – should have read http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/plasticity/let-it-go/

    I posted wrong url.

    Best blessings Thomas Nelson Community! You deserve the best!

  • http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/ Ellen Weber

    Sorry – why let it go and how to do so now – should have read http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/plasticity/let-it-go/

    I posted wrong url.

    Best blessings Thomas Nelson Community! You deserve the best!

  • Mary

    I often comment then go back to read what everyone else is saying. I hope it’s okay to add one more thought … I appreciate reading posts like these and all the comments as it’s a reality check for me. I prefer to put my energy into working hard, getting (and/or staying) out of debt, saving and giving to those less fortunate than to be so critical. It’s easy to deal out harsh words but I don’t think that is productive or helpful. I do think Christmas is a season of giving and it will be more needed and appreciated than ever.

  • Mary

    I often comment then go back to read what everyone else is saying. I hope it’s okay to add one more thought … I appreciate reading posts like these and all the comments as it’s a reality check for me. I prefer to put my energy into working hard, getting (and/or staying) out of debt, saving and giving to those less fortunate than to be so critical. It’s easy to deal out harsh words but I don’t think that is productive or helpful. I do think Christmas is a season of giving and it will be more needed and appreciated than ever.

  • Mike Mason

    As a former Nelson employee, I grieve at the loss of jobs for some old friends and their families. These decisions are agonizing for senior management. I know, I recently had to do it myself. I also know that Mike is one of the finest people I have ever known. During the most difficult year of my professional life, a year in which I was thrown around like a ragdoll in a political tornado, he befriended me when there was nothing to be gained by it. He kept my spirits up and I will always be in his debt for that. I have no doubt he treated the affected employees with that same love and care.

  • Mike Mason

    As a former Nelson employee, I grieve at the loss of jobs for some old friends and their families. These decisions are agonizing for senior management. I know, I recently had to do it myself. I also know that Mike is one of the finest people I have ever known. During the most difficult year of my professional life, a year in which I was thrown around like a ragdoll in a political tornado, he befriended me when there was nothing to be gained by it. He kept my spirits up and I will always be in his debt for that. I have no doubt he treated the affected employees with that same love and care.

  • Troy Miller

    Michael,
    Maybe less “twitter” and more work?
    My prayers are with the people that were laid off, their families and the wisdon of your Board of Directors who are responsible for your review. The reason why your stock went up was that you cut expenses… people.

  • Troy Miller

    Michael,
    Maybe less “twitter” and more work?
    My prayers are with the people that were laid off, their families and the wisdon of your Board of Directors who are responsible for your review. The reason why your stock went up was that you cut expenses… people.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    @Troy:

    I answered the Twitter question above, earlier in the comments.

    With regard to our “stock price,” we are not a public company. Our stock is not traded, so I am not sure where you got the idea that our “stock went up.” Perhaps it was from my earlier tweet that our market share went up. This is completely different and unrelated to cutting expenses.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Troy:

    I answered the Twitter question above, earlier in the comments.

    With regard to our “stock price,” we are not a public company. Our stock is not traded, so I am not sure where you got the idea that our “stock went up.” Perhaps it was from my earlier tweet that our market share went up. This is completely different and unrelated to cutting expenses.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com/ Michael S. Hyatt

    I am shutting down this thread. Everything that could be said has been said. It’s time to move on.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    I am shutting down this thread. Everything that could be said has been said. It’s time to move on.