The following is a different kind of list. These are my Top Ten favorite things about Better World Books:
10. Feeling Connected – Through the wonders of Facebook it’s so easy to know what’s going on in the company. At 200+ people we’re right on the fringe, but it’s still like middle school where you know everyone–or at least have heard a slightly incriminating story about them–and thus are comfortable wishing anyone a happy birthday (even at the UK office!), new birth (to Casey and Justin’s newborn!), marriage (way to go Dustin!), or holidays (everyone!).
9. The Employee Discount – I would be bankrupt if it weren’t for the sweet discount that we get for being the loyal horde that is BWB employees. It’s just that simple.
8. Customer Service – Have you ever had a problem with an order? If you’re one of the few who have you’ve encountered our studly team of CS rockstars, you know that they’re a rare kind. They don’t just want to talk to you, they won’t rest until your problem is sorted. Don’t believe me? Ask them sometime for the feedback the get every week; it’s unbelievable. The head of CS and I once got very lost, very late on a Saturday night and tried to wander back to where I was staying for probably two hours. You know what we talked about? What he wanted to do to make his division better. Seriously. For two hours. This was at probably 3am on side streets in South Bend, IN. That’s devotion. And maybe insanity.
7. Account Reps – These are the folks that actually get the books in the door and allow us to be the extraordinary machine that we are. I once was an “account rep” of sorts (as a somewhat prehistoric “Regional Director”) and my fondest memories and most ridiculous stories are from this time. The ATL office is full of incredible people holding it down for BWB and everyday surpassing what we thought was possible when I was trying to coordinate NY, CT and Ontario. Also, together we locked down a karaoke bar in Goshen, IN in a legendary group effort where “The Online Bookstore with a Soul” became “The Online Bookstore with Soul.”
6. Leadership – I like the leadership at this company so much that I’m not going to make a joke about Notre Dame football (that’s love right there). But in all honesty when you have 2 cofounders who play ultimate, a CEO like David “D-Murph” Murphy, Xavier/Frank “my carbon footprint is smaller than yours” Helgesen and Kreece “Christopher” Fuchs (as if Chris is his real name), and now the funniest accountant in all of Georgia, CFO Paul Sansone, you wake up everyday a little more comfortable with the company is being run. Does your company have a “thinking disc” to throw whilst making important decisions? Yeah.
5. The Green House – The warehouse is a surreal collection of bibliophiles, Fightin Irish, and all quality individuals. You should see what the scanners have to do everyday. They never get the credit they deserve, scanning in hundreds of books every hour(!) Sadly, us out of towners only get 1-2 times in the Green House each year, but it’s a pleasure watching the heart of this company beat on a given day. It’s amazing. Seriously. On this note, the first time I went to the warehouse, Casey taught me how to scan in books, at the entry level in the company, and now she’s the head of the pricing team. Isn’t that so cool?
4. The San Francisco Office – The grandest office of them all. Better World Books would just be a warehouse full of books in Indiana if it weren’t for this group getting people to know we exist and buy books from us. Sure, we get a bad rap for a bunch of things, including the fact that people have no idea what I actually do on a daily basis (it’s not just write on the blog, naysayers) and other reasons that I’m not at freedom to mention, but it’s a simple fact, the SF office is making it happen. Don’t believe me? Did you see what betterworld.com looked like before (note: it was like a undergrad CS project trying to make the Google website using giant print)?
3. Our Literacy Partners – Books for Africa, Room to Read, the NCFL, Worldfund and Invisible Children, have you seen these folks? And now, we see a great opportunity, invite Invisible Children to the warehouse, watch the video, vote on partnering with them, undergo a vetting process on their books and BOOM we have a fantastic new partner. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people from each group, organizing bookdrives for each group, and publicizing them whenever possible, and I can say without any delay that these are some of the most dedicated and hard-working people in the biz. We could all learn from the hustle that each of these groups put in everyday.
2. The Mission – What can I say? This one gets me up in the morning and puts me to sleep with a smile at night. We’ve given over $5.2 mil to literacy groups, we’re saved thousands of tons of paper from landfills, and we’ve done all this while providing over 200 people with benefits and the money to pay their rent.
1. The People – You’ll notice there’s a common thread in all my responses: the people. The worst part about this job is that I only get to see the other offices 1-2 times per year. Every summer at the company meeting, we all get together and what occurs is a weeklong explosion of high-powered brainstorming, fast paced numbers, previews of all the fantastic new plans and a collage of kickball, tossing the disc, going out to the pool hall and rocking the ‘Backer/someone’s house/backyard/the Jameson (or whatever it’s called now) all hours.
I’ve had a bunch of jobs before this one, and you can say whatever you want, but I’d without question put up our worst times together against anyone else’s best. If I want a smile, I can just open up my address book, look through at who is doing what and be amazed about the collection of talent we have in every position. It’s like the ’96 Bulls over here. The starters won’t let you get anything and the bench is still better than your squad.
What other company could I send out Top 10 lists for people to vote on and get a colorful debate from different parts of the country all over my email? In what other company could I not embarrassedly admit that I’m a literary misfit in comparison to some of my coworkers (I’d hate to take a literary pub quiz against ARC)? And this doesn’t even mention our savvy book arbitrage, the downright sexy Goshen store (and the fact that we have more fans on facebook than Barnes & Noble or Powell’s means other people must like us too).
If you got all the way down here, then you know how blessed I am, and truly all of us at Better World Books are. Have a fantastic holiday season and let’s see what we can make happen in 2009.