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BUILDING THE BUSINESS
High Tide Rides High on Making Connections

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About 10 years ago, a
fortunate accident created High Tide Press, which publishes books and training
materials for professionals who work with the mentally and developmental
disabled, and for managers of not-for-profit organizations.

 

Art Dykstra, the executive
director of Trinity Services, a nonprofit working on behalf of the disabled in
northern Illinois, had an idea for a book based on his experiences over more
than 20 years in the field, principally with the Illinois Department of Mental
Health/Developmental Disabilities.

 

Trinity Services struck a deal
with a company to market and publish the book that Dykstra would write. “That
company failed, and as part of the settlement, we inherited the book,” says
Steve Baker, director of High Tide Press.

 

Convinced of the need for it,
Trinity’s staff decided to start High Tide to publish that title and others as
part of its “education mission.” Which is how <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Outcome Management: Achieving Outcomes for People with
Disabilities
launched a publishing company that now has annual
revenue of approximately $400,000, with roughly 30 titles in print. “We’ve been
growing at about 10 percent for the past two or three years and expect to do
about the same this year,” Baker says.

 

The Cheapskate Initiative

 

High Tide Press shares its
educational mission with a sister company—Cherry Hill Bookstore, which
predated the press. “You can say that the reason we started the bookstore was
because we were cheapskates,” Baker says. “One of the things we required of our
employees was 80 hours of continuing ed every year, and that could include
everything from taking a course to reading a book,” he explains. Having a
bookstore let Trinity get books at a wholesale price for its employees.

 

A money-saving step, yes. But it
also turned out to be a smart business move. The book publisher and the
bookstore help each other succeed, while both help Trinity Services fulfill its
goal of educating nonprofit managers and professionals who work with the
disabled. High Tide publishes two or three new titles each year, and those
books, along with earlier releases, are sold partly through Cherry Hill
Bookstore’s catalog. Cherry Hill Bookstore, in turn, gets more titles to sell through
its retail outlet as well as its catalog, which comes out three times a year.

 

High Tide Press aims to find and
hit precise marketing targets—“front-line” healthcare and social
professionals and nonprofit executives—using well-honed databases and direct
marketing the old-fashioned way, by mail rather than the Internet. “We actually
don’t get a lot of sales from the Internet,” Baker explains. “It’s our catalog
and other mailings that get us sales.”

 

Patrick Grace of Grace Associates
agrees. A West Virginia publisher of books by professionals and a business
partner of High Tide Press, Grace says, “What’s made High Tide successful, more
than anything else, is building a great database.” High Tide has “mastered the
art of finding out who wants to read their books and marketing to them through
its catalogs.”

 

The press targets entry-level
mental-health-care professionals and develops relatively technical books to
meet the needs of that specific group, such as <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Doing What Comes Naturally? Dispelling Myths and
Fallacies About Sexuality and People with Developmental Disabilities

and Scanning the
Horizon: Using Organizational Data to Prevent Abuse and Neglect of People with
Intellectual Disabilities
.

 

Among its leadership books for
managers at nonprofits are Catch and Release for Managers: A Guide for Self-Leadership, Delegation
and Follow Through, Based on the Principles of Sport Fishing and Outcome
Management
and Fund Raising for Social Services.

 

Networking Works

 

Like other independent publishers,
High Tide wants to “figure out more ways to get our name out there and make
people aware of what we are doing,” Baker says. Pursuing this goal involves
being a sponsor of the National Conference of QMRPs (Qualified Mental
Retardation Professionals). High Tide is “quite a player nationally in
conferences and seminars for the community of people who provide services to
the disabled,” Grace reports. “All that leads to more great database building.
Their genius is networking. They have the database and the catalog, and, of
course, they care about the books.”

 

To reach its target market, High
Tide Press sends out monthly mailings in addition to its catalog. Recently, it
sent out an invitation to subscribe to another print product from High Tide
Press and Trinity Services, Perdido magazine, a quarterly about management.

 

High Tide is quick to work with
partners, including a labor arbitrator who connected it to one of its
best-selling authors, and Grace Associates, which is part of an effort to build
a consortium of likeminded independents who can join forces and form a loose
distribution network. The idea, according to Patrick Grace, is to gather enough
independent publishers together to co-publish a catalog that will give the
group the “critical mass” members need to catch the eye of the big bookstore
chains.

 

Tracing Relationships

 

High Tide’s structure looks
byzantine at first. The press publishes books for two distinct but sometimes
overlapping audiences. Its bookstore sibling also serves as a conference center
that is used mainly for Trinity Services seminars and trainings but is for hire
too. Trinity Foundation—which helps finance Trinity Services and its
offshoots and makes up for shortfalls in government and grant funding—is
a parent or perhaps grandparent of sorts. High Tide’s graphic design department
works not only on High Tide Press’s titles, but also for Trinity Services, the
Trinity Foundation, other Trinity subsidiaries, and unrelated customers. And
Trinity Services, the press’s parent company, includes several other
revenue-producing enterprises (one of its local gift stores specializes in
gourmet fudge).

 

Somehow all the parts work
together. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game, but instead of finding links between
another actor and Kevin Bacon, you can find links connecting each of Trinity
Service’s seemingly disparate subsidiaries and business partners. For example,
Patrick Grace found out about High Tide when he was at a poetry reading and saw
a copy of Outcome
Management
, the book by Trinity Services’ executive director, Art
Dykstra, that was High Tide’s first offering. Dykstra’s book inspired him to
contact High Tide and see whether it would publish a book about dyslexia by his
friend Barbara Guyer. That partnership gave High Tide Guyer’s profitable book, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Pretenders: Gifted
People Who Have Difficulty Learning
, and led the press to work
with Grace Associates on a variety of ongoing and other projects.

 

It’s such twists and turns that
have fueled and enhanced the success of a company that does meticulous database
marketing.

 

 

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