The Board of Directors of the Review and Herald Publishing Association moved swiftly Sunday, April 6, to stabilize the financial health of the 165-year old publishing house at a specially-called Executive session after year-end reports showed a nearly $943,000 loss for 2013 and continued weakness in the first quarter of the current year. RHPA Board chair Delbert Baker said that the directors were responding to recommendations from management, executive and finance committees, calling for quick and efficient action to turn around the finances of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's oldest institution.
In a series of coordinated steps, Board members voted to affirm a “solvency plan,” authorizing RHPA leadership to take immediate steps to control costs and lay the foundation for stronger sales performance in the second half of 2014. The special session occurred less than three weeks ahead of the regularly scheduled meeting of the 30-member Board on April 24. That meeting will focus on broader strategic directions for the publishing house, including a potential role for the North American Division in shaping literature ministry in the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda.
Key items voted by the RHPA Board included streamlining production processes to eliminate redundancies in several departments of the publishing house; reducing the number of book titles planned for release in 2015; and trimming the editorial and production staff of some RHPA-produced journals. A reduction-in-force of 26 current employees was also authorized by the Board of Directors, with nearly half of the total being achieved through collaborative retirement agreements with eligible employees. The savings to the publishing house from the workforce reductions are anticipated to reach $1 million in 2014, and more than $1.5 million in 2015.
Review and Herald leadership also sought and received permission from the Board of directors to lease up to 60,000 square feet of the large Hagerstown, Maryland facility in order to decrease the operational footprint of the publishing house and achieve needed rental income.
Board members listened to several policy change requests formulated by the administration and the executive and finance committees, and referred those actions on to General Conference and NAD committees. RHPA administrators are hoping to build a vigorous online sales portal for products produced by the publishing house. A request was also forwarded to reduce RHPA funding of the church's retirement program to match the level required of the Church's educational institutions.
"Right-sizing the RHPA has been a difficult but necessary process," said RHPA president Mark Thomas following the Sunday afternoon meeting. "No faith-based employer ever wants to lose even one employee, but we have a greater mission to continue serving the publishing and printing needs of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Keeping that mission in focus required us to take these hard steps to secure this organization and reposition it for renewed growth."