October 3, 2002
When Lee Morgan began working at Antioch Publishing in 1970, he joined a Yellow Springs-based company with 30 employees and yearly sales of $350,000.
Thirty years later,
Morgan heads an organization now called The Antioch Company
with 1,100 employees in four U.S. locations, plus six overseas offices.
This year the company is projected to reach $340 million in sales, a number
larger, said Morgan, the companys CEO, than sales of the other three
Yellow Springs industries combined.
One of the countrys
10 largest direct-sales businesses, The Antioch Company had more U.S.
sales last year than Tupperware, Morgan said. And while this years
30 percent increase in sales over last year is exciting growth in anyones
book, its not that unusual at The Antioch Company, which has seen
a compound annual growth rate in excess of 20 percent for the last decade.
The reason for all
only employee-owned direct sales company, he said in an interview
last week. The combination of mission-driven employees and employee-ownership
has given us a competitive advantage.
Work is a communal
activity, Morgan said of his choice of office space. If you
value privacy, you might as well stay home.
say that The Antioch Company is a business that lives its values. Those
values, according to its most recent quarterly report, are to act with
integrity, to enrich the lives of its employee-owners, customers and partners
through a sense of purpose, civility, community and fun, to
value people, and to provide opportunities for a bright future through
empowerment, encouraging and supporting new ideas, and the sharing of
risks, rewards, and ownership.
Placing people above
profits has been the companys guiding value since it began in 1926
as Antioch Bookplate Company, said Morgan, who is the son of the companys
founder, Ernest Morgan, a longtime socialist and Quaker.
While his father offered
profit-sharing to Antioch Bookplate employees, Lee Morgan took his fathers
philosophy a step further after he took over the business in 1979, offering
employees the opportunity to become owners as well. Currently, 46 percent
of the company is employee-owned, and those who have been employee-owners
more than 18 years have become millionaires, Morgan said.
what my father talked about, he said.
know everything, Morgan said. They get all of our quarterly
Second, Morgan said,
sales were down for the Yellow Springs facility last year, which he described
as a terrible year for the bookstore industry due to the increased
number of superstores. This year the book industry bounced back and stores
restocked their shelves, leading to the sales growth.
This year has
been a great year for Antioch Publishing, Morgan said.
As well as gaining
from their own sales, employees also profit from the sales of those they
bring into the company. The system works well because of its financial
incentives and because many employees are mission-driven,
Morgan said, and care deeply about preserving the past and enriching
the present with the companys line of products and classes.
While Morgan credits
the divisions success to good leadership, he also notes that Creative
Memories offers an example of his favorable relationship with luck. When
The Antioch Company purchased the bankrupt St. Cloud manufacturer of photo
albums in 1985, company leaders didnt anticipate how much the product
would tap into a growing consumer need.
We had no idea
Creative Memories would take off like it has, he said.
While the company
will continue to grow, it will not do so in Yellow Springs, Morgan said.
Although Yellow Springs
has historically been pro-business, with Antioch College incubating the
small businesses that became Morris Bean & Company, Vernay Laboratories,
and YSI Incorporated, the community tends now to be anti-big-business,
Morgan believes. While city officials in St. Cloud offered the company
a package of tax incentives to encourage it to build there, Yellow Springs
officials would be less inclined to do so, he thinks.
I believe the
community here would view that sort of tax abatement as pandering,
The company has no
plans to move its Yellow Springs operation, said Morgan, who stated that
about 20 to 25 percent of its 175 employees live in town. While Antioch
Publishing has recently begun renting additional warehouse space outside
of town and will continue to need more warehouse space, the number of
jobs affected will be negligible, he said.
Currently, the Yellow
Springs facility houses both Antioch Publishing and The Antioch Companys
headquarters, while the St. Cloud operation houses the companys
international headquarters, the Creative Memories operation, and the company
While Antioch Publishing
will remain in Yellow Springs, the companys headquarters might move
after Morgan retires as CEO, he said. Now 59, he plans to retire at age
65, and hopes to turn the management of the company over to his daughter,
Asha, who now runs Creative Memories and lives in St. Cloud.
In the meantime, Lee
Morgan said he plans to continue growing The Antioch Company by creating
a portfolio of direct sales companies. The direct sales strategy
requires a complex computer system to identify the lineage
of individual sales, he said, and a more complicated infrastructure
than traditional sales. Since the company already possesses these capabilities,
it makes sense to build on whats already there, he said.
Recently, the company
added a new direct-sales business, zeBlooms, which will produce and sell
silk flowers. Other possible direct sales ideas are being considered,
more ideas than I can handle. Its fabulous, he said. Opportunity
is all over the place. Were just trying to pay attention.