A half dozen business-to-business media brands formerly known as the Furniture Today Group are being reinvigorated under their new owner, Matthew Slaine, who acquired the business from Sandow less than three months ago.
With a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business, Slaine’s career led him from investment banking at Deutsche Bank to asset management at Goldman Sachs. After a number of years, he realized that institutional banking wasn’t ultimately going to fulfill his entrepreneurial spirit and he began looking for investment opportunities.
A business associate suggested that Adam Sandow may be interested in divesting the Furniture Today Group, which he had acquired in March 2010, and included Furniture Today, Casual Living, Gifts and Decorative Accessories, Home Accents Today, Home Textiles Today, and Kids Today. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial and publishing-focused family, the idea piqued Slaine’s interest and he requested a meeting.
Slaine and Sandow met for breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel and closed the deal just over a month later on June 30.
“Aside from the fact that the company was incredibly well managed through difficult years, what really impressed me was that it had a great group of people throughout the organization,” said Slaine. “They are not only passionate about the products and services they create but they really care about the industry and they have amazing and trusting relationships with our clients.”
The second selling point for Slaine was that the business had been heretofore underinvested. This meant that with the right strategy combined with additional capital, the company could grow considerably.
The third appeal was the fact that the publications provided an economic value for the industry. In his due diligence, Slaine found that when asked the question: “Do you rely on the publication?” the answer was always a resounding, “Yes,” and often, “I can’t run my business without it.”
Once the acquisition was complete, Slaine’s first order of business was to change the Group name. He held a contest and employees were invited to submit ideas. Over 100 names were thrown in the hat, and the director of web operations Chris Schultz won with Progressive Business Media.
“We wanted to recognize the fact that each of the brands is equally important. To group it under Furniture Today minimized the importance of Home Accents Today, Home Textiles Today and the others,” Slaine said.
His second order of business was to meet with each employee one-on-one, get to know them better, and thank them for their help during the transition.
“I want to infuse an entrepreneurial mindset and to encourage employees to take risks,” said Slaine. “I want everyone to feel like they are part of the growth and success of this company. Everyone benefits by being a bigger, better company. They feel more secure in their jobs, they’re happier, and they’ll have more opportunities to be challenged and grow. I’d really like to make this a great place to work. The business was declining under Reed Elsevier, it was saved by Sandow, and now it will aggressively grow as Progressive Business Media. This is the next piece of the puzzle.”
Slaine wants Progressive Business Media to be thought of not as a group of magazines, but a group of brands with valuable content. The sales side will function as a marketing services agency that offers more than just display advertising but custom publishing, events and business strategy.
In the seven weeks he’s owned the brands, Slaine has attended half a dozen trade shows and met with hundreds of industry professionals. One of the themes he’s heard in his conversations is a desire for content-filled events. Most furniture businesses are family-owned and operated so a big topic is succession planning. Slaine plans to create events addressing the next generation: financing, leadership, managing regulatory issues and logistics. Other long-term initiatives include website relaunches and proprietary research to deliver sector-specific industry data.
Slaine plans to keep all 90 employees and continue to hire new staff. He has already hired a director of finance, a human relations manager, a conference and events director, and an audience marketing and development specialist. He will continue hiring editors and sales reps for the New York and newly expanded Greensboro offices.