Strategic Inflection Points in the Publishing Industry

I had the good fortune of doing a book signing last Friday in New York at Book Expo America. I also spent a couple of days with the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University. Although I learned a ton, met terrific people and enjoyed being around book people and books for 3 days, there was a huge gorilla in the room. In this case King Kong was named e-books.

Andy Grove, former Chairman and CEO of Intel, coined the term “strategic inflection point.” Basically, a strategic infection point is a major shift in your markets. Grove has suggested that good business people know when they are in the midst of a strategic inflection point, the great ones can see it coming and the also-rans say something like “what ha-happened?”

The publishing industry is certainly struggling with the shape and form we will be using to read content in the future. The auto industry is challenged with what size, shape and propulsion options consumers will demand for their transportation. Many traditional industries are wrestling with how best to compete in this ever-changing business climate.

The balancing act for those of us in the middle market is to take advantage of emerging market trends while still keeping the lights on in our current operations. There will be a few of you that risk it all in pursuit of the next hottest thing, but more often, middle market execs will choose a strategy to “have their cake and eat it to.”

As you develop your new market strategies, be very clear on your tolerance for risk and your expected return. Build transformational initiatives that are executable mini business plans. Review them early and often. Add funding when required. Pull the plug when necessary.

Focusing on current operations is necessary, but not sufficient. Focusing on the next hot thing can leave you empty-handed. Identifying specific initiatives with known tolerances for risk and return allows you to plan your expenditures and kill projects when that next hottest thing turns out to be ice cold.

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