The truck backed up to the front door, driving over the newly seeded lawn and taking out the irrigation system for nearby flowerbeds. The driver stepped out of the truck. “Hey lady, where do you want this?”

Cynthia Ruchti

The interior designer, clipboard in hand, moved a landscape paver stone to get close enough to see what the truck bed held. “What’s this?” she asked. “Your quartz countertop,” he replied. The workman pulled out an invoice and waved it toward her. She shook her head. “This isn’t my order.”

The landscaper approached. “What did you do? My new lawn! Did you think to ask before backing over it?” He examined the rutted path from the street to the house. “And my paver stone? Who moved that?” The designer turned to him. “Well, I did. I needed to get closer to—”

While that messenger was still speaking, another arrived. “The plumber said he can’t install the tub because of where the electrician put the outlet in the first floor bathroom. And the electrician is miffed because the carpenters dry-walled the laundry room before he got the wiring in place. And who threw that old wood into the Dumpster? We were preserving it to make the legacy dining room table. It’s priceless. And—”

This is what it’s like when individual parties involved in a home remodel don’t have a general contractor guiding their activity—and they don’t talk to each other. They don’t intend to make one another’s jobs more difficult. They don’t intend to go down a path that creates trouble for someone else. Their perception is that they’re working on the same project, but the result is less than ideal from an esthetic standpoint, inefficient, and relationally damaging. And no one asked, “Are we on the same page?”

PULLING TOGETHER

In publishing and retail, CBA is asking the same question. And the organization is intentionally generating discussion to make sure the industry’s electricians know what the plumbers are doing, and the delivery drivers are aware of the landscaper’s needs, and the designers care about how their decisions affect everyone’s workload and success.

As hard as we’re currently striving to stay abreast of each others’ concerns, authors and publishers, distributors and retailers, marketing experts and frontliners can make more work for one another or miss vital opportunities if they aren’t reading from the same blueprint.

UNDERSTANDING ONE ANOTHER

Are we on the same page? Are we listening to one another, communicating how our area of expertise dovetails with and is affected by the other specialists in the industry? Can we do an even better job of it?

“The more we understand about each other’s challenges, the more connected we’ll be and united in our efforts to communicate God’s,” says author Colleen Coble, CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. “That’s one reason why ACFW is committed to finding new ways to sit at the same table with those who  serve in other areas of the industry— librarians, retailers, publishers, editors, marketing experts.”

Her thoughts echo those of CBA at the corporate level. “We bring glory to God by being aligned, accepting, and united in our mission,” says CBA president Curtis Riskey. “When the body works together, many advances are made. And when the body is fractured, the Gospel might still advance—but the work is slower and much more difficult.”

As a participant in the industry in a variety of roles, I’ve found that when members of our industry come to the table, it’s not like an awkward, dysfunctional family reunion where we’re looking for the least uncomfortable meal conversation spot. We’re invested in each other, and in the overarching goal of contributing what we do best for the cause of Christ. That’s what brings us to the table in the first place. Our sub-goals may be in conflict with what’s in the best interests of another party—pricing, distribution timelines, marketing demands, but when we focus on what we share in common—providing God-honoring and faith-building products—and listen to each other’s needs, we function more like a well-managed team answering to our divine general contractor rather than rogue individualists who trample each other’s projects-in-progress.

COLLABORATING TOGETHER

“Sharing ideas, achievements, and challenges is one of the best strategies for success,” says Worthy Publishing and Ellie Claire Marketing Director Cat Hoort. “Growing in and celebrating with community helps us excels through other areas of our life—throughout our life. The same should be true about collaboration in our work and ministry.”

Agent Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Management adds, “Gathering all aspects of the industry together at one place—whether virtual, in print, or in person—is integral to solving problems and developing strategies for growth. We all care about Christian publishing, distribution, and sales. We each represent a part of the whole. By putting our heads together, we get a richer picture of the challenges and exciting opportunities ahead.”

Are we on the same page? It’s a question we’ll continue to ask, and find new ways of answering, as we venture into the future, guided by our general contractor, viewing every role as vital to the whole, and staying alert for each other’s unique “landscaping and drywall” challenges.

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