SIPA Member Profile -- Crossley manages well at BLR
Monday, August 27, 2012
| | Monday, August 27, 2012; Vol. 3, Issue 135The Road Ahead
Checking what's on the desk and mind of a SIPA member… Guy Crossley, Chief Operating Officer, BLR, Nashville SIPA: How did you get started in the field?
GUY: I began in consumer publishing. A professor from the college I graduated [University of Arkansas at Little Rock] introduced me to the CEO of a consumer publishing company, Leisure Arts, Inc. They published a variety of books and magazines on crafts, patterns, quilting, topics like that. It was a great learning ground for the process of going direct to the consumer and direct mail. We grew that company into a very large niche publishing house. A couple of the publications had more than a half million subscribers. We eventually got on the radar of Time Warner which bought us, and we became part of the Southern Progress division—their titles included such mainstays as Southern Living Magazine, Cooking Light, Coastal Living to name a few. I would guess this was not what you envisioned in college?
No, I was a finance major, so Wall Street was probably more on my radar And then you went to Euromoney's Institutional Investor?
Yes and that's where I first became involved with SIPA. I had become a big proponent of associations and was involved with the DMA. So once I made the transition, I thought there must be a great association for what we do. After some research, I found SIPA and attended my first conference in Philadelphia around 2001. I met Lee [M. Lee Smith] and Dan [Oswald, the current CEO of BLR] and a number of other great people in the industry who were highly involved at that time. Considering where you are now, it sounds like a great testimonial for us
You hear a lot about what are the benefits of SIPA membership. You'll see bullet points like webinars and the daily articles, but for me the value lies in the relationships with the people. I found that to be true in the DMA, with places that I am involved with locally here, and with SIPA. Because of that, I've never doubted the value of SIPA. That element is a constant You were at M. Lee Smith for a few years and then you merged with BLR. Has your role evolved?
Yes, very much so. I began as the VP of marketing in the executive team. Now as the chief operating officer, I lead our efforts in web and software development, IT and database services and operations – lots of fun stuff I've written about the challenges of integrating IT with the rest of the company
It's always a challenge. IT is one of a number of service departments for the company at large. They have to translate and implement technology for employees so the company can be successful. They support internal systems for marketing, support the infrastructure of our website, make sure everyone has the proper technology on their desktops. The mantra is service with a smile; we have to help people be successful. You're also now a veteran of mergers. Any thoughts?
Integration on that level is always interesting and challenging. In our recent merger between BLR and M. Lee Smith, we've been able to hit all the goals and benchmarks that we set. It's been an incredible team effort. Another key is transparency about our goals and objectives and communication through to all levels of the organization You've talked a lot about being open. I'll take it that you are a big proponent of the publishers roundtables like the one SIPA is having next month in Washington, D.C
Yes. I've attended many in the past and always come away feeling energized and more knowledgeable. To be able to sit in that relaxed, small-group environment and discuss all those relevant topics with my peers is a great benefit. You're not being talked at; you're part of the conversation What's keeping you up at night these days?
I'd say the overall disruption in our industry. Our business models are changing. Our main goal now is to integrate into the customers' workflow. So we're reshaping our products, trying to make them more valuable—give them a stickiness. Renewal rates used to be high for the information we provided. Now it's SAAS and workflow that keep people renewing—it's not an easy transition. That and the uncertainty with the economy and what lies ahead make long-term planning very hard How do you know what goes into customers' workflow? Do you ask them?
Sometimes they can help. But sometimes they don't know what they don't know. That's where you need a really good product development process. So it's a combination of people having vision and also listening to the customer.
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Specialized Information Publishers Association