Brittany Carter's ascendancy to president of Columbia Books & Information Services (CBIS)—announced earlier this month—probably took its biggest step late last year. At that time, she became the driving force behind a decision to restructure the company after some acquisitions. Ten new staff teams were created based on the industries they represented.
In February—speaking at SIPA's Onboarding and Renewal Bootcamp (which members can view here)—Carter spoke of the stress of the new staff who came with those acquisitions.
"They were trained to put their head in the sand and just get the job done," she said, "[thinking] it will be fine. So we acquired a lot of people who were afraid to speak up and get to know their customers. People who said, 'this isn't my job.' We had gone from being very customer-centric to a lot of people who had never interacted with the customers for fear of staying in line."
I followed up with Carter yesterday—"I'm very rarely at my desk these days," she said—to ask her about the new position and the ongoing transition of the company.
"We were able to ask our teams to come together and dig deeper into their customer communities, with more focus," she said. "Lots of strong leadership emerged from that and successful new products. Without knowing it, I stepped into a new place for our internal teams. So when the decision was made for me to move to president, we already had this amazing leadership team in place. And that freed up time for my thoughts on potential growth opportunities and new efficiencies. Having a great team in place made it a lot easier."
Carter will succeed Joel Poznansky, who led the company for the last decade. Poznansky will remain in his role as CEO and chairman of the board.
"I am delighted for Brittany Carter to become the new president of CBIS," he said in a statement. "Over her 11-year tenure with the company, she has exhibited her extensive industry knowledge, an expansive network and strong leadership. She is the perfect person to take the reins of our dynamic and rapidly growing company."
Carter said that Poznansky will "still be advising, working with us, just involved in a different capacity. He felt it was time for this to happen." She also credits him for giving her the room to grow.
"I've been here long enough to see a lot of the changes that the company has undergone—a lot of positive steps," she said. "We've grown substantially from 11 years ago. It has given me a tremendous level of insight and an ability to see where we needed to go. It was important to have a boss that allowed me to act on that.
"We have 35 staff people now in the U.S. And we're actively hiring in several divisions. The challenge—what we're looking at working through—is keeping that entrepreneurial spirit going while we grow and scale. You want to keep acting like a startup all the time."
During her CBIS career, Carter has progressed through various leadership roles. She initially led the marketing and business development teams before being promoted to vice president in 2015. She has played a key role in driving strong revenue growth while simultaneously leading new product development, data licensing negotiations, creation of the company's robust training offerings and most recently the aforementioned structural changes.
In 2013 she was named the specialized publishing industry's Rising Star by SIPA and continues to advocate for innovation within the publishing industry.
"It's about finding the right people who can make an impact," she said. "For a company of our size to keep growing, everyone has to be on board. We just launched a data product in our Thompson division and it's doing very well. They didn't have any data products before joining us. We were able to apply our data product skills to the Thompson line—in record time I might add."
That's about as un-humble as Carter gets. When I complimented her on the name of the new event they're putting on—Learnapalooza—she laughed and said, "[the name] was my only contribution. I love names—you'll never get the marketer out of me."
But then the new president of CBIS quickly got serious again. "We were brave in launching that, and I think it will sell out. Hopefully you'll hear more news stories and new successes from us in the future."