Setting the Scene
Red Planet is the overarching name for a small group of imprints delivering books to specific markets – Red Planet for rock music, Ovolo for building and Hornet for novels. It is an independent publishing house with a small team of both in-house and external staff. While it produces relatively few new titles each year a handful of books have been published in numerous editions and consistently sell in extremely high numbers. Like many companies its working practices, systems and data management have evolved over time without clear thinking about their functions or whether they are truly fit for purpose.
As Red Planet have a lean team the MD, Mark Neeter, plays a vital role in all areas of the business – commissioning, producing books, talking to bookshops and suppliers … a scenario not uncommon in many small businesses. He is so busy dealing with day-to-day issues and with fighting fires that finding the time (and state of mind) to step beyond the practical to focus on the future of the business and a strategy for growth is almost impossible. And yet being able to do this is essential for the on-going health of the business.
The Turning Point
When Mark Neeter was introduced to i-Publishing Consultants’ Jo Burges her 30 years’ experience of the publishing industry meant she was able to recognise the challenges facing Red Planet. Significantly, she had a wealth of practical knowledge about more effective ways of working which, if introduced, would enable Mark to think more strategically while at the same time continuing to perform the essential tasks of creating, producing and selling successful books. A crucial element was i-Publishing Consultants’ sensitivity to Red Planet’s ethos, satisfying Mark that they would be able to work together positively, even when a difficult message might need to be delivered.
The Success Story
Some months later work began in Red Planet’s Cambridgeshire offices, involving several days of meetings with individual employees. The purpose of the visit was to uncover the processes used across the entire business – from commissioning to book production to data management, the creation of marketing materials and the website. As outsiders to the business i-Publishing Consultants was able to ask fundamental questions to get to the bottom of what individuals were really trying to achieve. (So often someone does something because it’s what they’ve always done, even though the circumstances in which that task was originally designed may well have changed beyond measure.) Working systematically through an imaginary life of a book ensured that as many scenarios as possible were examined. It quickly became clear that formal processes were often being set to one side in favour of seemingly quicker ad hoc workarounds, with the result that inefficiencies had crept in and information flow (both within and from the company) was not facilitating the maximisation of sales.
Having gathered sufficient information work continued off-site to develop a structured report defining the bottlenecks and risks inherent in the existing operating practices and suggesting solutions. The latter included precise details of things that Red Planet could easily and quickly implement themselves to improve data flow and processes, suggestions for technological developments that would increase efficiency, plus a proposal for a redefinition of roles and responsibilities across the company that would ensure more efficient ways of working in the future. The delivery of the report represented the beginning of an on-going process of change and development, in which i-Publishing Consultants is proud to continue to play a part.
A Note from Red Planet
‘As a growing business we had reached a point where we needed to review our operations and look at introducing new ways of working which would see us through the next stage of our expansion. Jo (from i-Publishing Consultants) was incredibly empathetic to our company culture and was superb at helping us to reshape our working methods and approaches as well as helping find new suppliers and outlining the positions we will need to fill in the future.
The help we received was invaluable and we are implementing her suggestions. We could have stopped at that point and we would have had excellent value but it seemed clear to us that having Jo involved as a consultant on an on-going basis as the business evolves is extremely cost-effective and allows us to progress seamlessly.’
Mark Neeter, Managing Director