Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Digging Deep

Many of you who know me know, I’m rather proud of my twin sons for their participation in Karate. This email came in over the weekend, and I found it quite inspiring:

Dear Dojo Family,

It's only been a couple of weeks since so many people gave themselves to long, sweaty, dusty hours to make our new dojo a reality. But already, circumstances have moved me to ask you all to mobilize yourselves to an even more profound undertaking.

You certainly don't need to me tell you about the massive humanitarian crisis going on just a few hundred miles off the shore of our country. The Red Cross estimates that as many as 50,000 people were killed by this week's earthquake in Haiti. In a country where daily existence was already a struggle for so many, an unthinkable amount of rebuilding will be needed for them to even return to that status quo.

What many of you do not know is that some very dedicated students of ours, the Groder family, run a mission in Haiti. Kevin Groder is Pastor to, and adminstrator of, Mission of Hope Haiti (missionofhopehaiti.net). In addition to providing thousands of pounds of food to families in need, Mission of Hope also runs schools that educate 1,000 children who otherwise would go without, and was in the process of building an orphanage. That planned orphanage now lies in ruins, along with a number of school buildings. Two teachers died.

Our Tokyo Joe's community can help Mission of Hope rebuild what was lost. So we are organizing a "kickathon" fundraiser that will give 100% of its proceeds directly to that undertaking. As of this writing, Kevin is on 24 hour standby for the next military cargo transport out of Springfield that has room for him. As soon as he is on the ground and able to assess the full scope of what's happened to Mission of Hope, he will give us a concrete project that can benefit from our efforts.

Think of this: if every student in our school can find ten friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers or classmates to donate just five dollars; $10,000 can go to this rebuilding effort. And while that does not go too far (speaking from recent experience) in construction costs here in the U.S., it can make a mountain of difference in the impoverished nation that is Haiti. And as that money is put to work, you will be able to see it happening thanks to members of our community who will be there.

Here's how a kickathon works:

Starting Monday, every student will be able to pick up a pledge sheet, and begin gathering sponsors. Between February 15 and 19, each student will be given 60 seconds to throw as many kicks as they can. The participants can use any kick, and either or both feet. Feet must touch the ground between each kick, and the instructor who times the participant will have final say as to whether the kick meets the level expected of that student. Sponsors can either give a set amount of money per kick, or pledge an overall amount.

Caroline and I would like to extend our thanks for your participation in this by offering some incentives. Any student who collects $50 dollars receives a free patch. A total of $100 or more gets a special tee-shirt designed for this occasion. The top donations for each student in our Panthers, Dragons, Junior, Teen, Adult and Kickboxing levels gets $100 in "dojo dollars" that can be used for any item or service that we sell.

And the greatest prize: turning the horror and empathy that we feel watching the images that emerge from Haiti into concrete action, and watching as concrete results are achieved. I could not issue this call to action to a greater group of people.

Yours Gratefully,

Sensei K

All of us here at Firebrand have a few traits in common, one of them being that we try to help other people where possible. The devastation in Haiti is unbelievable. The numbers I heard this morning are tragic, estimates of 200,000 dead. About all I’ve been able to do is text “HAITI” to 90999 a few times, but who knows where that money really goes?

What was inspiring about this email for me was 3 things:

1. It’s a very specifically targeted place to help,

2. We can keep the money out of the hands of middlemen, and get it directly to the mission, and

3. With all the dead, there are probably a lot more orphans in need than there were before the quake.

What Firebrand is going to do is this: donate 2.0% of our top line revenues for the next 3 months to the Mission of Hope orphanage in Haiti.

This will be a strong challenge for us, but not nearly as difficult as many people are facing in Haiti. We have faith that our customers will support us during this effort. We also hope that our efforts on behalf of the Mission of Hope will inspire other friends and colleagues to find their own way to help.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Scott Lubeck will be good for the future of the Book

In my opinion, one of the bigger pieces of news in the book industry last week, passed by very quickly and very quietly. The appointment of Scott Lubeck as the new Executive Director of BISG barely made a ripple in Twitter and the Blogosphere. But, I'll bet that two or three years from now, when we look back at this appointment, we'll all understand how important a date it was.

In this huge industry transition that we are all feeling, many of my colleagues in the industry have attempted to define what publishers are and why they are important. Most of these arguments center around editorial and marketing value added services. While I agree that these are hugely important, I have not yet read anything that talks about how publishers are the managers of the content supply chain.

The content supply chain is a dirty, ugly, frustrating, and expensive part of the business that facilitates the movement of money and product. Ordering, billing, shipping, status, returns, and product information movement, are things that publishers and readers simply take for granted. But without it, there is no business, and no money for anyone.

Until very recently, the content supply chain meant only the movement of physical product, and the processes involved were largely sorted out among the key industry players. For the last 25 years, publishers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, and data aggregators have scratched and clawed at standardizing almost every piece of this complex operation. Much of the credit for this accomplishment belongs to BISG for facilitating standards and driving consensus among its members.

But now we are in a new era. The product being supplied is still physical, and it is also electronic. The number of partners involved in the content supply chain is exploding to include many who have never been involved in books before, and have no knowledge of standards used in the book industry. Many believe that the cost of doing business should be far cheaper as there are no "trucks" or "warehouses" or "printing" involved. True, BUT, there are now no standard processes for content delivery, or storage, or distribution, or security or display. It's a complete "wild west" again, and most of what's happening now is largely manual, very time consuming, and very expensive.

All of this means that the book industry needs to largely re-invent the content supply chain, and we don't have 25 years to do it. This means that we need to bring together people who are familiar with the old supply chain, with people that understand the issues involved with the new supply chain. This is where Scott Lubeck comes in.

There are many people in our industry that are regularly seen as pioneers. People who see the future run out ahead of the rest of us, and start clearing a path for the rest of us to follow. Often those pioneers get wounded or killed in the process, but the best of them keep on moving forward.

If there was ever a pioneer in the field of digital publishing, it is Scott Lubeck. Now, my guess is that many of you have never heard of him, but this is a man who has been working diligently in and among us for a very long time. A man who has held senior publishing and technology positions inside publishers and for publishing services companies. He's been an editor, a press director, a CIO and a General Manager.

One need only look down the list of his resume to see his legacy as leader and entrepreneur in a culture of change. He has been on the leading edge of digital publishing technology as far back as 16 years ago when he was the director of the National Academies Press - where they were the first press to put their full publications online for free.

Scott may not have a pedigree from the current locus of big publishers and big retailers that have determined the current supply chain best practices, but I think that this is a real advantage during this time of great change. There is no doubt that the locus of publishing is moving, and right into Scott's wheelhouse. BISG will need to bring in a whole new set of constituents, and once again hammer out the unglamourous details of how to make money and product move smoothly and efficiently, and to bring down costs.

I applaud the BISG board for recognizing this trend and recognizing that they need a leader who has a skill set that is different from prior directorates - one who will be able to build on what BISG has built and lead it into new directions that will better serve the entire industry.