At the Helm: Jamie Trowbridge

By Patricia Olsen

A few minutes with the CEO of Yankee Publishing, Dublin, N.H.

Generation of family ownership: Third.

2015 revenue: $22 million.

Number of employees: 85.

Years with the company: 27.

First job at this company: I worked on the maintenance staff at 14 and during the summers through high school. The first day I had to paint the stone foundation with a toxic, oil-based paint in a cellar with no ventilation. My first adult job was production manager, managing the layout and printing and distribution of the magazine.

At what age? 28, after I had worked in the newspaper and magazine industry in Seattle and Boston for five years.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Think big and act boldly. He was a big-picture guy.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: An appreciation of beauty and the importance of having fun.

Best thing about this job: We get to tell amazing stories about New England and America.

One of our greatest successes: Acquiring the Old Farmer's Almanac in 1939. My grandfather started Yankee magazine in 1935. It was a labor of love and not a very profitable venture at first. When he acquired the Almanac, it made money and carried Yankee magazine until it became profitable. We publish both today.

Best advice I ever got: Think of the business over the long term. It's a marathon. When I first took over, I sprinted a bit. I was in a hurry and made some decisions that didn't work out well.

Quote from our company's mission statement: Yankee Publishing is a successful, independent media company committed to creating outstanding products that serve our customers and enhance our communities.

On my wall: I'm surrounded by artwork, much of which my grandmother created. She was the magazine's co-founder, and her artwork graced the covers of Yankee for 30 years. She did mostly rural landscapes. My grandmother loved to ski, and many of her winter paintings either have a skier in them or the tracks a skier made.

One of my greatest accomplishments: Returning the business to profitability after the Great Recession of 2008. We were seriously impacted—we lost half of our ad revenue in a year—and it took a lot of maneuvering to recover.

Best thing about working in a family business: The long horizon allows you the comfort of making long-term decisions.

Worst thing about working in a family business: It's hard to put work aside.

My advice for other family business leaders: Put the business first and family second. The business has to be successful, so business decisions take priority, which is not an epiphany for any CEO. But I've seen family businesses go awry because they didn't put the business first.

On a day off I like to. . . ski, if it's winter. In the spring and summer I garden. My wife is a garden designer, and we have a huge garden around the house. I'm what I heard a stuffy British TV host call an undergardener. I am the help.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: We support local arts organizations like the MacDowell Colony, summer music programs and theaters.

Book I think every family business leader should read: Endurance, by Alfred Lansing, about Shackleton's disastrous voyage to Antarctica in 1914. It's really about leadership.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation's shadow when. . . I was promoted to CEO in 2000. The business was at a pivot point; we were dealing with whether to remain independent. I argued for hanging in and was told, "Now you run it."

Future succession plans: We're considering a partial Employee Stock Ownership Plan. We might even consider a full plan. There are three branches of the family in my generation, and some of our children own stock. But they've started other careers and don't appear to be interested in managing Yankee Publishing.

Words I live by: Robert B. Thomas, the founder of the Old Farmer's Almanac in 1792, wrote, "It is by our works and not our words that we would be judged."

Copyright 2016 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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Issue: 
July/August 2016

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