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Berrett-Koehler Publishers - Ideas That Make An Impact

Oct 11, 2022

Berrett Koehler Publishers CEO and CFO David Marshall sitting at his desk

Connecting people with ideas

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Berrett-Koehler Publishers is a for-profit company with a mission: to connect people and ideas to create a world that works for all. They believe the solutions to the world’s problems come from all of us, working at all levels: in our organizations, in our society, and in our own lives.

Berrett-Koehler is a media company that represents changemaker authors. “We have the honor of helping to take ideas and co-creating them into something easy to digest,” explains David Marshall, CEO & CFO. “Our work is to amplify, to be the loudspeaker for ideas and help them grow.” The Berrett-Koehler network includes strong relationships with authors, a network of speakers and customers, and an engaged audience. If you are a reader, you may have heard of Berrett-Koehler without realizing it. The titles they have published have become staples in personal development, business development, and current affairs. Their books are printed on environmentally sustainable paper, are available as e-books and audiobooks, and some are found as online training courses and at summits.

Berrett-Koehler works with many authors whose identities are not well represented in publishing: people of color, women, authors under 40 years old, and international authors. “It’s important to us to have lots of different voices at the table. That’s how the best ideas come together,” says David. In 2021, Berrett-Koehler published 59 titles and editions. Over half of those authors are women and people of color. Read their recent impact report.

Publishing as a force for good

As a B Corp, the company prioritizes stakeholders over shareholders. “Our stakeholders are our authors, readers, employees, shareholders, and suppliers and partners, as well as the planet and the community we operate in,” says David.

Before B Corps existed, Berrett-Koehler was part of Social Venture Network in the 1990s. “We created books about and for social ventures,” says David. “When B Corp was getting started, we decided to sign up for certification, because it was so aligned with our founding principles.”

Many of books Berrett-Koehler published have a big influence, including on the B Corp movement.

  1. The Devine Right of Capital, by Marjorie Kelly, inspired Jay Coen Gilbert to co-found B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corporation movement.

  2. The Shareholder Value Myth, by Lynn Stout, influenced the Business Roundtable to declare in 2019 that it was high time to move from “shareholder primacy” to include commitments to all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities.

  3. Power & Love, Collaborating with the Enemy, by Adam Kahane, describes his reconciliation work in South Africa and Columbia, leading to a Nobel Peace prize for the president of Columbia.

“The idea of shareholder primacy is a myth,” says David. “We’re seeing more and more evidence that this approach is not best for businesses, our communities, or the environment. Even leaders at large companies are acknowledging that a stakeholder-driven model represents the future of business.”

Putting ideas into practice

Berrett-Koehler looks for books and ideas that make an impact. “In our work, we have the opportunity to go back to school with each new book we publish,” explains David. “We call it ‘eating our own cooking.’ We take ideas from groundbreaking, world-class authors and test them out. We think about how we can apply these ideas and practices in our own work.”

One example of this approach came from the book Abolish Performance Appraisals. “The traditional performance review process can cause managers not to give feedback daily or weekly, and that can cause dysfunction in an organization,” says David. “We hire for self-accountability. Our review process is now driven by our employees, not by managers. This practice aligns with our servant leadership model and commitments, where our leaders serve our employees so that our teams have the ability to do their best work.”

As a learning organization, Berrett-Koehler has deep credibility. “We try the things we publish, see what works, and continue to evolve our organization,” says David. “As a B Corp, we know how useful these ideas are for our company. We have books for every B Corp - in whatever ways your organization is looking to grow or improve, we have ideas to help.”

We chose to bank with Beneficial State because they are a B Corp too. Beneficial State Bank is on a similar journey as our company. It’s not enough to know that you’re doing good work. We have to share those stories and amplify the message so others can join us.

David Marshall, CEO & CFO, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
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