Dare to Dream – Berrett-Koehler Aims to Transform Work

January 2002
by Judith Appelbaum

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The call came down from mogul Robert Maxwell. All units in his Macmillan empire must reduce headcounts by a specified percentage. Steven Piersanti said no. As the president and CEO of Macmillan’s Jossey-Bass and the founder of its notably profitable Business and Management series he was unwilling to fire his quota — eight people — at an imprint where profits were up 46%. Predictably, he himself got fired.

That was 10 years ago. Today, Piersanti and his colleagues are celebrating the 10th anniversary of his Berrett-Koehler Publishers company, which opposes “the corporate way of looking at the world” or, to put it more positively, supports “the movement toward a more enlightened world of work” and “more humane and effective organizations.”

The day after he left Jossey-Bass, Piersanti remembers, he began getting calls from authors and suppliers who wanted to pitch in if he founded his own firm. “I had so many offers of help,” he says, “that it made sense to go in that direction.” To name his new company, Piersanti and his wife made lists of family surnames and tried them out on various people in various combinations (his great-grandmother and her grandparents won). To structure it, he altered the traditional balance of power in business.

Redefining Publishing Partnerships

“I just couldn’t accept the idea that one stakeholder group should be calling all the shots,” Piersanti says, explaining that he was strongly committed “from Day One” to ma…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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