Why I’m Bullish on 2014

Jim Bursch, Senior Vice President, Group Publisher & Editorial Director, CSP

As I sit down to write this column, I don’t need any reminder that 2013 is coming to a close. Winter has arrived in full force in Chicago and almost everywhere else in the country. And if you’re like me,  time seems to fly much faster the older we get. So to prepare for the coming year, I always like to look back and reflect on where we’ve been and what we accomplished before setting my sights on the year ahead.

First, it’s been 18 months since our new owners took the helm. A year ago, Paul Reuter took on a reduced role and, as I assumed the role of editorial director, we shared this column space. In my first column, I talked about transitioning our business after the sale of the company. As I wrote that column, the economy seemed as if it was improving and we finally had turned a corner, although there were still doubts, particularly within our industry, given the housing market and unemployment rate.

Having said that, our industry has proven pretty resilient in tough times, and CSP has never let the economy dictate how much we invest in our business to better serve you. The last year proved to be no different and was another outstanding time for CSP Business Media.

Most of us have been through some kind of merger or buyout, and the magic milestone always seems to be the one-year mark. That’s typically when the honeymoon period ends and the gloves come off. All the promises of adding staff and resources and making investments turn to downsizing or cost reductions to squeeze out more profit, and we start to wish for the good old days. As a former owner of the company and current member of this team, I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. The Woods have not delivered on what they promised—they have overdelivered. We have always prided ourselves on having a great work environment and culture that thrives on innovation to fuel our growth. In 2013, that same passion and culture has only grown.

We began the year introducing the industry’s first and only product tabloid and digital newsletter, Convenience Store Products, and it was an instant hit with operators and suppliers, filling a huge void in the marketplace. Headed up by Abbie Westra, it was one of the most impressive launches I’ve seen in my more than 30 years in publishing, exceeding our expectations by nearly 100%. We also invested in and moved into our new state-of-the-art headquarters to help accommodate our growing staff and create a great working environment.

For most companies, that would be enough investment to keep anyone busy. Yet we also embarked on a total relaunch of our award-winning digital platform of CSP and on our commercial-food side with Restaurant Business. The result is that CSP Business Media had it best year ever across all our platforms—print, digital and events. It’s a true testament to the commitment and passion of our team. We don’t rest on our laurels, and we continue to improve on how we deliver you the best and most comprehensive content in the industry. So what do we do for an encore? We have several new initiatives in 2014. With the success of Convenience Store Products, we have added staff and increased its frequency to six times a year, creating compelling themed issues for all six. Our new cspnet.com, launched in October, is now running at full speed, delivering more news and content than any other site. We also are investing significantly in our premiere foodservice event, FARE, in both speakers (including former President George W. Bush) and content. And we recently signed a three-year deal with Sysco, the industry’s leading foodservice provider, as a presenting sponsor, helping to elevate FARE to a whole new level. If you haven’t attended FARE, I encourage you to add it to your calendars.

Speaking of food, Restaurant Business unveils a brand new, bold look with its January issue after going through an extensive redesign, and its sister publication, FoodService Director, on the  noncommercial side will debut its new website.

So the bottom line is, CSP Business Media is not slowing down, and our team is excited and bullish about our business and the industries we serve. The economy and housing continue to improve, along with employment, so I’m anticipating another great year that flies by the way the last one did. Happy New Year, and here’s to a successful 2014 for all of us!