The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, adopts 'market-driven' approach

Addressing steadily declining sales, the board of Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, endorsed a business plan that calls for a "market-driven" approach to producing and selling products.

"If Augsburg Fortress continues the way it's been continuing, it's not going to survive," Mark W. Sheffert warned the board of the ELCA publishing house. Sheffert is chairman and chief executive officer of Manchester Companies, a Minneapolis consulting group hired last year to study the publishing house and draft a turnaround plan.

Board members meeting in Chicago in April endorsed the plan and instructed Augsburg Fortress executives to begin implementing the recommendations, including:

  • Creating a new position, vice president for marketing.
  • Reorganizing some staff into six units, each devoted to a market segment. Three would be institutional units (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, ecumenical and special needs) and three consumer units (children and families, "teens plus" and adults).
  • Broadening efforts to serve the needs of ELCA congregations, thus improving market share.

"It obviously calls for a shift in philosophy within the publishing house," said Marvin L. Roloff, president and CEO of Augsburg Fortress. "This adds a perspective that says, before we develop a product, we know there is a market and there is a use for it."

Since 1990, the publishing house has been plagued by a decline in sales every year except 1995, said Robert McNulty, vice president for finance. But its overall financial condition is strong, "with positive cash flows, excellent liquidity and substantial reserves available for investment in growth," he said.

Board members welcomed the new plan. "As a publishing house, we haven't been a good steward of the mission-not only in dollars but in lost opportunities," said Timothy I. Maudlin of Eden Prairie, Minn.


Charles Bolden

Charles Bolden

Posted at 11:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 11/10/2008

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