February, 2009

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Borders Layoffs more Corporate Staff

The net is strangely quiet about this layoff round…. if anyone has news about who got cut and who is left, please leave it here or twitter it to @thecadencegrp. Thanks!

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 19, 2009—Borders Group today announced that it has reduced its corporate workforce by another 136 positions, which were eliminated effective today. The majority of the jobs, which represent about 12% of the corporate workforce but less than 1% of the company’s total workforce, are based at the company’s headquarters in Ann Arbor. The workforce reduction was spread across virtually all business areas, including marketing, human resources, field management and corporate sales. The reductions were made at various ranks, ranging from entry level to middle management. Affected employees are being offered transition pay, severance and job placement assistance.

Today’s changes follow the company’s announcement just over two weeks ago that several top-level corporate positions had been eliminated to reduce management layers and help drive expense reductions.

“While reducing payroll is never easy and we respect the impact it has on employees and their families, it is one of the necessary steps we must take along with other non-payroll expense reductions to help get this company back on track financially,” said Chief Executive Officer Ron Marshall. “In this time of transition, I greatly admire the tenacity and focus that employees at all levels here have shown as we drive to significantly reduce expenses and bring other key financial measures in line. We will continue to move forward with deliberate speed to make the changes required to get Borders back on firm financial footing.”

A Game of “Chicken”

I got a call from a publisher pal the other day asking me to help him rework his 2009 sales estimates.

Book #1? 1500 units. Book #2? 1000 units Book #? 2000 units….

As I go through the list it becomes clear that he cannot afford to publish most of his Fall line.

Looking over his list again, I see wonderfully written, smart, quirky books that in 2006 would have charmed the socks off of the media. At least one of them would have become a minor sensation and carefully nurtured by a score of pr and marketing people. The books would have sold between 5000 – 10000 in the first year to the bookstores and libraries who support new authors and small presses.

Today, the books are not going to receive any pr or marketing outside of the author’s efforts and a few press releases from the publisher’s office. In addition, while the publisher is realizing he has no money to promote, bookstores are realizing that they have no money to risk on smaller books without promotion.

It is a vicious game of chicken… publishers lament the lack of distribution and bookstores bewail the lack of promotion. And more and more consumers go on line. How are small publishers going to get the word out about new authors with print media crumbling in on itself and the online cacophony rising with each passing day?

The Power of an Apology

Last month I messed up. I mean REALLY messed up. Never mind what I did, but suffice it to say… It was bad. It was an error, not an omission, but should not have happened and it impacted a client’s book launch.

My client (let’s call her Rebecca) called to let me know that she was beside herself and she rightfully let me have it. She wanted her money back. She wanted my head on a platter. And then she wanted me to really suffer.

Today Rebecca is my happiest client and has just signed up for another 6 months of service.

What happened?

I apologized.

When Rebecca called up last week yelling, my first instinct was to defend myself. I wanted to explain that there were extenuating circumstances. Iwanted to remind her that she was just as much to blame.

But I bit back the urge to interrupt and fight back. I ignored the voice in my head telling me that it was not FAIR to be blamed. I listened to what she had to say and then I completely copped to it. No excuses, no defense. I took full responsibility and promised to do everything in my power to make it right.

As I apologized and made a commitment to fix what I could, I gave Rebecca the only thing I could at that moment… I honored her by admitting she was right to be upset without a defensive tone or throwing around passive-aggressive blame. In an instant, I was once again her partner and would work with her to make things right.

There is strength in admitting that we are wrong. No one is perfect. Admitting we are wrong without justification can help us lose our fear of imperfection. No matter how unfair we think it may be or what other circumstances are to blame, when something goes wrong, it is best to take a deep breath, look at the situation honestly and take responsibility for the parts of which you are responsible.

…. and then not do it again.