FROM THE BOARDROOM
Inside the August 2010 Board Meeting
by Carlene Sippola
CHAIR, IBPA BOARD
The last report you got from me (July) was a recap of the State of the Association address given at our annual meeting in May. As you may recall, I heralded IBPA’s accomplishments from last year and reported on the challenges we faced as a nonprofit organization in the midst of an economic downturn. Now it’s time to look forward.
Five Who Are New
Your IBPA board kicked off the new fiscal year (2010–2011) with a very productive meeting held August 3–4. We began by welcoming five new board members and expressing our gratitude to those leaving. I want to personally thank the following for their tremendous contributions to IBPA and their service on our board: Cevin Bryerman, Kassahun Checole, Robert Goodman, Norman Goldfind, and Maggie Lichtenberg.
One of the strengths of IBPA is our board’s diversity. This year’s new members exemplify it perfectly:
Davida Breier joins us from Johns Hopkins University Press in Baltimore, MD, where she manages distribution services. Davida previously worked at NBN (as marketing director) and at Biblio (as sales and marketing director). One of her colleagues reports that she is extremely organized and an excellent writer and communicator, and that she understands publishing from a variety of perspectives.
Roy Carlisle, a veteran of the publishing world, is the marketing and sales director for The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA. His previous publishing roles included senior editor, co-owner of a publishing company, publishing consultant, and bookstore general manager. He comes highly recommended because of his dedication to publishing and his wealth of knowledge of both the publishing and bookstore worlds.
Dr. Haki Madhubuti, founder and publisher of Third World Press in Chicago, IL, was recommended by two of our previous board members. He is a poet, educator, publisher, and editor who has written 28 published books. His vast experience in the literary publishing world and his clarity of thinking will be huge assets to our board.
John Mutter, co-founder and editor of Shelf Awareness, based in Upper Montclair, NJ, has been reporting on the publishing industry for close to 30 years. Prior to beginning his own business, John was with Publishers Weekly for 23 years. We expect to benefit greatly from his knowledge of the publishing industry and his experience in starting his own small business.
Robert Rosenwald, publisher of Poisoned Pen Press in Scottsdale, AZ, is the past president of one of our affiliate groups, the Arizona Book Publishers Association. He brings expertise in publishing and experience with a regional publishing association that will be enormously valuable on the board.
Progress and Plans
After brief introductions around the table, we got to work. Here are highlights of the discussion at the meeting.
Amazing results amid financial challenges. I want to publicly congratulate Terry, his staff, and Florrie on one of the most remarkable turnarounds I’ve ever seen. We started last year with serious financial circumstances that required some serious tightening of belts.
Without sacrificing quality educational and marketing programs, the numerous benefits we offer our membership, the support that staff provides on the phone, and the many other services IBPA offers, we ended the year at near break-even.
The work is not over, however. We will continue to be fiscally responsible and work hard at the revenue-generating projects planned for this year.
IBPA Strategic Plan for 2010–2011, followed by a “charge.” Florrie and Terry presented a strategic plan to the board for approval, based on direction from the board. Short-term goals include:
• Stabilize membership
• Explore new strategic partnerships for the Publishing University held in
conjunction with BEA
• Hold a Publishing University on the West Coast
• Review all current membership benefits
• Move ahead with new electronic marketing programs
• Revise our K–12 targeted mailings
• Set up clear performance metrics
• Participate in the regional bookseller shows, Frankfurt Book Fair, BEA, and ALA
• Implement the Mentor Program
After questions and discussion, the board gave its blessing to the plan. This is where the “charge” came in. I belong to one of our local Rotary Clubs. As you probably know, Rotary is a service organization that relies on its membership to raise money for community projects. Once a year, a Rotarian gives a “Rotary Charge” that is essentially a pep talk to new Rotarians, encouraging them to regularly attend meetings, get involved in one or more committees, and enjoy the many fellowship opportunities Rotary offers.
IBPA is in a unique situation. One of the reasons Terry was able to pull us out of the financial slippery slope we were on is that he downsized his staff. What this means is, we are relying heavily on the volunteer hours our board is willing to put in to meet the goals set out in the strategic plan. Florrie, Terry, and the IBPA staff just can’t do it all.
So I charged the board members with the task of rolling up their sleeves and jumping in with both feet to achieve our goals. Now, more than ever, IBPA needs a working board. We divided up into focus teams and worked the rest of the day on setting concrete goals, establishing strategies, setting timelines, and creating performance metrics for each of the items included in the strategic plan.
I have to say, this was one of the most productive board meetings I’ve been to. We narrowed down what was really important for the short run, made our plans, and began our work.
Generally speaking, I think the major role of a board is to look at the big picture and offer direction based on long-term needs. This is a time, however, that we needed to act more like a group of kindergartners playing soccer. You’ve seen it. The ball gets kicked to the right, and all the kids go to the right. Next, it gets kicked to the left, and all the kids go to the left. You get the idea. Right now IBPA needs the staff and the board to focus and work on some specific short-term goals. Once they are achieved, we can go back to the big-picture scenario.
Despite this, I want to reassure all of you that we are still very much aware of our mission–the Independent Publishers Association is here to advocate for, support, and educate our members, and to improve the standards of independent publishing. Even though we are working on the specifics, we aren’t losing sight of the bigger picture.
I’ll be waiting to hear from you. You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.