Friday, February 6, 2009

On coopertition

"coopertition" (co-oper-tition), a hybrid of cooperation and competition, is the term coined for the teaming up of rival companies.

"Print Partner Summit" week is one of my favorite weeks of the year as SVP Print Operations for Blurb. For the third year running, we brought all of our global print partners (the folks that actually print and fulfill books for our customers) together for a week of meetings as a post mortem for 2008 and to begin planning for 2009. It's a concept that I first used when I was at Corbis and we were literally writing the rules about converting silver halide film to press-ready digital imagery, the backbone of all legacy stock photography that now resides on the servers of the major stock photography houses. At that time we really needed to better understand how to repurpose prepress equipment that had been used for purpose-specific scanning and make it work for building a digital image archive. The meetings were interesting, and the power of Gates allowed me to get participation from all of the major players in the industry. The meetings advanced the cause of high-end capture quickly and the results speak for themselves.

At Blurb, it's a bit different landscape. We have print partner locations throughout the US and Europe. These printers often compete for business in the consumer printing sector. But in our case, they have come together to really change the way that people author and self-publish books. It is really terrific to see all of these great minds in one place, each with their personal agendas, but with the overriding desire to see Blurb (and, in turn, themselves) succeed. Again, the results speak for themselves.

In 2008 we printed over 800,000 books with nearly $30 million in revenue with a growth of more than 3X year over year. This, in our second full year in business. We are definitely a success story in a down economy, but it wouldn't have happened at all without the trust, guidance and partnership of our print network members. You don't change an industry alone, it takes a group of entrepreneurial-minded businesspeople with equal doses of guts, operational and technical acumen, and belief that the time is right to push the envelope.

Each year our Summit group grows larger and it's Blurb's role, besides the obvious of making sure we have adequate capacity available that meets our quality demands, to make sure the people in the room "get it" and are willing to share when appropriate while maintaining their overall business objectives. That may seem like a hard balancing act, but it's really been a joy to see the relationships and ideas that come out of our sessions each January.

Coopertition is not an easy path to navigate. It takes confidence from all parties in themselves and the overall goal. And it takes the right people in the room. For Blurb this has come up aces and because of that we are changing the way that the world views book publishing.

1 comment:

George W. Flopos said...
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