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50 Best Workplaces of The Year 2018

An Interview with Bob Young, Lulu Press, Inc. CEO: ‘As the Pioneer in Online Self-Publishing, We Empower Everyone to Share their Stories and Ideas with the World’

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“We are passionate about providing a remarkable experience for you to tell stories, share knowledge and fulfill your creative potential.”

There once was a time when authors would write their manuscript, hand it off to their agent, and let the publisher turn it into a book over the next 12-18 months by editing, publishing, distributing, and marketing it.

For most, those days are long gone. Today, authors and creators alike are turning to self-publishing to get their work into the hands of readers at a fraction of the cost and time it would take traditionally publishing.

In light of the above-mentioned scenario, we are thrilled to present Lulu Press, Inc.

Lulu created a new model in publishing — open publishing — that empowers more creators to sell more content to more readers more profitably than ever before. Through its open publishing platform, Lulu is helping creators make works available in multiple formats and markets, and improving discovery so buyers can more easily find the content they need.

At Lulu, it’s free to publish, and authors can create everything from hardcover books to eBooks, photo books to calendars. Authors keep all the rights to their works and retain 80 percent of the profit they set when their books sell. Lulu operates a global print network and provides worldwide distribution so that authors can reach readers just about anywhere, including on Amazon.com and the iBookstoreSM. If authors need any help along the way — with cover design, editing, formatting, marketing or the publishing process in general — Lulu’s services team can provide expert assistance through a la carte offerings and bundled packages.

The company was incorporated in 2002 and is headquartered in Morrisville, North Carolina.

Bob Young, Lulu Press, Inc. CEO spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?

Like all for-profit companies, it was set up to serve our customers, by harnessing the talented team who could design and deliver those services with the resources necessary to enable them to be successful in that quest. The inspiration for Lulu was the concern at the time (2002) that the major content publishers would use their monopoly position to serve their most profitable content developers (authors, film-makers, musicians and others) at the expense of all the more specialist content that was of great value to more niche or specialized consumers –in general, known as long tail content. The Internet was then, and is still, the most effective medium for human communication ever invented. Using the reach of the Internet enables Lulu to help specialized authors deliver their content to their audiences, no matter how small or how widely distributed those readers might be, all faster and at a lower cost than ever.

Q. What challenges did you face in your initial years?

There were all the usual challenges, from assembling a talented team, to raising the capital necessary to build out the solution before the first customer could be served. But the most interesting challenges were the ones that could not be foreseen. One example: our customers truly value the ability to ensure their readers receive the very latest version of their book. If they write an update this morning they want their customers to receive the updated version this afternoon. But despite the new digital printing equipment being capable of printing books one at a time (print-on-demand) in 2004, the printing industry was wedded to the idea of a job ticket where customers would order a minimum of hundreds of copies of a given version of a book. It required significant effort to re-engineer the front-end to these digital printers to enable them to think in terms of order flows, not job-tickets.

Today, when a Lulu author updates her book, the very next reader receives the newest version of that book. In the military, it’s common wisdom that no battle plan survives the first skirmish, meaning you have to adapt your plans to the situation you find yourself in. The idea that you need to have a plan, but you also need to adapt that plan constantly based on what your customers (the market) are telling you, is probably the single most important lesson all entrepreneurs and their boards need to embrace.

Q. What is your company’s vision statement? And to what extent are you successful in achieving the same?

As the pioneer in online self-publishing, Lulu empowers everyone to share their stories and ideas with the world. Since 2002, our mission has been to break the orthodoxies and traditions that were once barriers to publishing those stories and ideas, with cutting edge technology and unrivaled customer service. To date, we have helped over 1,200,000 people publish their content, printed 5.7 billion pages and paid out more than $95 million in royalties.

Q. ‘It is difficult to start a venture. But far more difficult to maintain it.’ How would you and your team interpret this saying?

This speaks to the two related priorities of any business. The first, you need to have an idea for a compelling product or service that your customers value. This idea will enable you to raise the capital and assemble the team necessary to develop the compelling product. Secondly, you need to discover and adopt a profitable business model that your customers are willing to tolerate to pay for the value you are delivering to them. Without this viable business model, you won’t get to profitability. Without profits you cannot continue to serve your customers; and your project will inevitably fail.

Q. What makes a best company to work for is a culture of listening to what employees want to do, and a commitment to help them do it. Do you agree to this statement?

Absolutely! An employee that feels valued, respected, and most importantly, invested, will be happy and productive.

Q. Do professional development opportunities exist in your company?

We put a big emphasis on professional development and continued learning, with lots of encouragement from the senior staff down to the frontlines. We offer tuition reimbursement, host ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, as well as many other events. We encourage their development not only in the workplace, but in their community as well. In fact, to further this mission, all Lulu employees are given three paid volunteer days per year to help others in their communities. Employees can participate in Lulu sponsored group activities or share their skills with organizations close to their hearts.

Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

We will be doing the same thing we set out to do 16 years ago…providing the best print-on-demand publishing platform in the industry by empowering authors, entrepreneurs, educators and others to share their knowledge more profitably and efficiently with the rest of the world, all while disrupting the status quo of the traditional publishing giants!

Bob Young: A Brief Background

Bob Young is the Chief Executive Officer of Lulu Press, Inc. He is a serial entrepreneur who is best known for co-founding Red Hat Inc., the open source software company (NYSE: RHT). Red Hat is now a member of the S&P 500 Index. Mr. Young served as Red Hat’s CEO until 1999. Healso served as CEO of PrecisionHawk, a commercial drone technology company, from 2015 to 2017. Prior to being named PrecisionHawk’s CEO in 2015, Mr. Young was an early investor in the company. He continues to serve on its board as Chairman.

Mr. Young owns a Canadian Football League franchise called the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He serves as self-appointed caretaker of the team.

Mr. Youngwas born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

“To date, we have helped over 1,200,000 people publish their content, printed 5.7 billion pages and paid out more than $95 million in royalties.”