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PRESIDENT’S REPORT: Anatomy of a Board Meeting

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by Florrie Binford Kichler

Anatomy of a Board Meeting

Ever wonder what really goes on in our association’s board of directors meetings? What do we talk about? What does a director actually do?

Everyone on your volunteer board of directors gives time generously all year long on your behalf, with the bulk of work taking place in individual committees outside formal meetings. However, four times a year—three times face to face and once by teleconference—the board meets as a group to chart the direction of our organization. The in-person meetings last one-and-a-half days, and one of those meetings is held in conjunction with a Mini-University presented by your board in partnership with an affiliate group.

Each meeting requires a written agenda that is set about two weeks in advance. What follows is a trip inside the boardroom through the high points of our November 2007 meeting, which included a Mini-University in partnership with the Arizona Book Publishers Association:


Welcome and Approval of August Meeting Minutes

Director’s Report and Comments—Terry Nathan. Terry brought us up to date on major events of significance to our association and its members, and presented issues for board input. Among the items he included in this report were Publishing University 2008 progress, the recent BookWorld bankruptcy and transfer of distribution contracts to Atlas Books, an update on the association Web site redesign, a report on the Frankfurt Book Fair and ways to save freight costs in the future, and a meeting with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is interested in consulting with publishers about expanding overseas sales.

Treasurer’s Report: Budget 2007–2008—Cevin Bryerman and Terry Nathan. Cevin Bryerman of Publishers Weekly serves as Treasurer of the board. The treasurer’s report included presentation of the 2007–2008 budget for final approval.

Committee Reports

Jan Nathan Publishing Award—Kent Sturgis. Kent Sturgis, Epicenter Publishing and past president of PMA, presented the committee’s recommendation for the criteria for this new award, in honor of our late Executive Director Jan Nathan, which will recognize a person or entity for having made a significant contribution to publishing. Details, including the final name of the award, will be announced in the next few months.

Jan Nathan Memorial Fund—Steve Carlson. The purpose of this fund, created from contributions in her memory made by Jan’s colleagues and friends, is to support publishing-related causes that were particularly significant to Jan. Steve Carlson of Upper Access Publishing and the committee are working on a final recommendation to the board about how and to whom monies will be distributed.

Advocacy Fund—Rudy Shur. Our mission includes advocating proactively in the industry for the well-being of our members and providing support during periods of business uncertainty. The idea of the Advocacy Fund arose as a direct response to the recent PGW bankruptcy, which affected many small and independent publishers. Rudy Shur of Square One Publishers leads this committee, which is defining criteria for use of the fund, subject to final approval by the board of directors.

Publishing University Online—Frank Gromling. Frank Gromling of Ocean Publishers has spearheaded the programming and methodology for this educational series of monthly webinars since inception. He reported that eight courses were held in 2007, with a full slate planned for 2008.

Benefits—Rudy Shur. As head of the Benefits Committee, Rudy, along with Terry Nathan and Lisa Krebs, takes responsibility for the care and feeding of the more than 30 member benefits currently offered and searches actively for more ways to save you money. Rudy reported on the latest benefits, which include significant shipping discounts that a new freight partner will provide.


Committee Reports, Continued

Midsized Publishers Initiative—Rod Colvin. Rod Colvin of Addicus Books reported on progress with a separate educational event for our midsized publisher members at BEA in 2008. Piggybacking on the success of a similar event at BEA last year, this year’s Graduate School program will be the first in a suite of benefits and programming designed to better serve our more experienced publishers.

Affiliates—Carlene Sippola and Bob Goodman. Chair of the Affiliates Committee, Carlene Sippola of Whole Person Associates, assisted by Bob Goodman of Silvercat, reported that the board of directors has partnered with Affiliate groups to present five mini-Universities since 2004. The yearly Affiliate Retreat, which brings leaders from affiliates all over the country together for a day of educational programming and networking, is on schedule for April 2008.

Communications—Mitch Muncy. Mitch Muncy of Spence Publishing presented a thorough report for board discussion, recommending an overall strategy for improving communication both inside and outside the association.

Transition Team. The Transition Team is a temporary board task force put together to assist Terry Nathan as we move through the leadership change brought about by Jan Nathan’s passing. The Transition Team recommended that the current president’s term be extended one time only for one year beyond the normal ending time, to June 2009, and the board approved by formal vote. This will help ensure continuity of leadership, as I continue to work with Terry Nathan to guide our association through and beyond this transition period. (Note: By the time you read this, we will have announced the extension.)

Strategic Planning, Stage 2. In my January column, I presented the outline of our association’s strategic plan, which resulted from small-group breakout meetings of board members and numerous discussions over the past six months. During the November board meeting summarized here, the board discussed and approved the final version of the strategic plan, as presented to you in January.

Old Business; New Business; Spring Board Meeting.These three wrap-up items dealt with topics that had not been resolved and/or broached at previous meetings, and we touched on one or two new topics for discussion at a later meeting. At this time, we also agreed on a date for the next meeting.

And that was just a summary! When the meeting ends, the real effort is just beginning. The three months between board meetings are as chock-full of work as the meeting itself, thanks to the dedication of your indefatigable directors: Kent Sturgis, Epicenter Press, past president; Cevin Bryerman, Publishers Weekly; Steve Carlson, Upper Access, Inc.; Kassahun Checole, Africa World Press; David Cole, Bay Tree Publishing; Rod Colvin, Addicus Books; Bob Goodman, Silvercat; Frank Gromling, Ocean Publishing; Jeanne Kramer, National Book Network; Maggie Lichtenberg, Open Heart Publishing; Mitch Muncy, Spence Publishing Company; Rudy Shur, Square One Publishers; Carlene Sippola, Whole Person Associates; and Nancy Stewart, Ingram.

Closing Comments

Last on the agenda, and a beloved tradition of all board meetings, closing comments give each board member the opportunity to share impressions of the meeting just completed. Sample comments from this meeting included praise for Terry and Lisa and the rest of the hardworking staff and enthusiasm for the initiatives we are undertaking to better serve you, our members. My favorite comment follows, as it perfectly describes the way I feel about not just our board but about each and every one of you:

“I couldn’t be more excited and delighted to be part of this group of talented people.”

Meeting adjourned.

My virtual door is always open. Please share your comments, thoughts, and ideas by emailing me at fkichler@patriapress.com.



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