SIPA Member Profile: Holland Passes Tests and Then Some

Anne Holland, Publisher, Anne Holland Ventures Inc.

SIPA: What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
HOLLAND: Data entry operator for the World Aviation Directory, which is when I first became obsessed with order form design and how simple changes can increase publication sales. I then weaseled my way into my supervisor’s heart and got her to take me with her as a marketing assistant when she landed a gig at The Oil Daily.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
For me it was in early 1999 when a 22-year old tried to convince me to leave Phillips Publishing to help with his dot-com subscription start-up. It had never occurred to me that I could start a publishing company myself… but I thought if this kid can do it, so can I. The entrepreneurial-style environment at Phillips at that time in the B2B division, made a big difference to my eventual success. That grounding made it possible.

In brief, describe your business/company?
Anne Holland Ventures Inc is my second company (the first, MarketingSherpa Inc, I sold in 2007). We’re a B2B publisher specializing in research-based practical information to help our customers. We’re on the M&A path—looking for print and online subscription publications to buy to add to our fold. We’ve also launched a few lines—a sponsor-based site called for the marketing community and a paid content site for the $14 billion online membership site industry.

Although the company is named after me, I’m just one of several partners, including former PBI-er Cassandra Farrington (nee Behringer) who after getting an MBA and serving as an executive at CITIgroup, joined us as CFO. It’s incredibly pleasurable for me to be back on a true team of peers rather than it being the anne-holland-hour.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
Market research is number one. Most publishers say they “listen to their customers,” but very few really set up formal systems and processes to do so, and then base all product development around it.

Good people is number two. I laugh at entrepreneurs who want potential investors to sign NDAs. Sorry sweetie, it’s all about the people; business ideas are a dime a dozen.

Lastly, it’s all about editorial excellence. Great, practical business information takes a lot of intelligence and sweat to put out. Most people really don’t want to work that hard at it. I have competitors who talk about outsourcing content to cheaper countries or going to a 100% contributed model. No way. With the tons of free content out there, you have to be incredibly good to stand out these days. Editorial excellence is your barrier to competition. Nothing else is or can be.

What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing right now?
Editorially we’re testing changing the content model from long text articles to other formats to see what’s really best for our audiences. For example, takes the traditional 1,200-word case study format and turns it into a fun online voting game with a 250-word write-up and dozens of reader comments. And, took the 10-page, written, how-to report format and turned it into a highly illustrated 40-slide PowerPoint presentation that our customers can download, learn from and use in their own companies. So, I think we’re trying to reinvent what is practical business journalism for the 21st century. Exciting times.

Do you see a trend or path in 2010 that you know you have to lock onto?
I think it’s a great time for M&As. There are SIPA publishers who are ready to sell either because maybe they’ve reached retirement age and they’d like someone good to take on their baby, or because they aren’t sure how to grow their publications in the Internet age, and they’d rather have someone else take on the challenge. Publishers like myself see a lot of opportunities.

What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
For me it’s like old home week. I’ve been involved with SIPA since 1992. Sometimes it seems like everyone there has either worked for me or vice versa or considered it, or at least we’ve partied together at an event. Back when I started my first company, SIPA members were my initial investors and mentors. We’re still all good friends.

Where did you grow up?
New England… although I guess you could say under Tom Phillips.

What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
Connecticut College. It’s a great school. My favorite moment was when as an alumna I was invited to give a speech to seniors about career paths in online publishing along with the then-president of Google. I am quite passionate about the value of a liberal arts education—most of my best employees have come from general BA backgrounds, not business or marketing BAs. There’s a restless intelligence and more thorough interest in the world of our customers from people who have liberal arts degrees. But then, I was a religious history major and look how far that got me!

Are you married? Do you have children?
I’m married to a former Yugoslavian and we have homes in both Serbia and Croatia, as well as near our headquarters offices in Newport, R.I. My two step-children happily worked for my companies in the past but decided on careers in medicine and hospitality respectively. It’s fun to watch them now navigating the career world at the age that I was when I first got into publishing.

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
I’ve always said I loved gardening and that was what I planned to spend much of my time on when I retired the first time… at 45. Even with multiple gardens to occupy me, I went nuts in under nine months and wound up thankfully starting another publishing company. But this time, I brought in a solid team of partners, each expert in their own part of running the company, so I can keep a semblance of a private life—and keep those gardens going—even with a growing business. Learning how to balance is not easy.

What was the last book you read and movie you saw?
I think I’m memorizing “Secrets of Plant Propagation: Starting Your Own Flowers, Vegetables, Fruits, Berries, Shrubs, Trees and Houseplants” by Lewis Hill because I’ve reread it so many times. It’s continually at my side. Best $15 I ever spent. As for movies, if it’s not “Top Chef” on TV, I don’t watch it.

Become a SIPA member today
and learn more about what other companies are doing
to connect—and stay connected to—their customers.

Sign up for our trial membership
and get premier access to the monthly
Hotline newsletter, the very active and
online forums, and free Management Reports.
Attend conferences (at a lower rate),
register for cutting-edge Webinars and engage in roundtables.

Sign up for a trial membership today!
It’s a presence that keeps on giving.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.


Leave a Reply