Cervin Media may have gone from cottage industry to corporate entity over 23 years, but in Anne-Marie Cervin’s hands it retains the feel of family with a very flat hierarchy and a supportive work atmosphere.
The company started off with two part-timers working from the Cervin home; now it has 20 staff in their Auckland offices. The beginnings were in producing Auckland Council directories, and today they produce eight annual directories, including NZ Medical Specialists and Hospitals, NZ Primary Health & Community Services, one on tertiary study options for school leavers and Excellence NZ, a directory of primary, secondary and tertiary education.
For Australia they do Medical Specialists Australia annually – with separate editions for each state. There is one quarterly publication, New Zealand Principal. Each has a mix of advertising and editorial content.
The print runs for the directories are all big numbers – Courses and Careers, the school leavers’ guide, requires a print run of 30,000 each year.
While there is gravitation to electronic media, with Cervin Media websites for health (www.healthpages.co.nz) and education (www.educationpages.co.nz), Anne-Marie says that doctors really like the print book. “They can use it in their hands while talking to patients and show them the information – if it were computer based, they would have to turn their backs to patients to get material off the screen.”
So far, so much like regular publishing. Cervin Media takes great care in the selection of cover art for their publications but they take that a step further than most: they often buy the canvas of an existing artwork for the offices and with that the rights to use the art for covers. One of Pamela Wolfe’s flower paintings makes an appealing cover for the latest edition of the NZ Medical Specialists and Hospitals Directory.
But here is the big difference from other publishing houses: all their publications are distributed free to the end user, because their directories are advertising supported.
Rob Skeen (pictured right), a former Yellow Pages marketing manager, is now head of sales and marketing for Cervin Media, the biggest team within the company and one which works over both the local and Australian markets. The other company teams are IT, finance, operations and creative/graphics. They have also recently hired a web designer.
Directories have a big responsibility to get every fact, every detail, every spelling correct. Cervin keeps strong databases and audits and updates them constantly. Anne-Marie: “We just can’t make mistakes.” Directories also have to be good looking and their information easy to find.
When book trade identity Mary Egan (pictured above, centre) joined Cervin Media last year as operations manager, there was some déjà vu invoked. Mary and Anne-Marie have been close friends since they met as young married women with families. When Mary was a pioneer in computer typesetting, Anne-Marie was putting out her first trade directories and they often worked together… literally on kitchen tables!
Cervin Media today has spacious, well-situated offices in Freeman’s Bay. However, the atmosphere is as relaxed as a home office… Mary’s large black labradoodle Lucca greets everyone enthusiastically each day.
Anne-Marie has assembled what she calls a “dream team” that can work hard and also have fun. In return, she has people who are professional, hard working and are happy to contribute skills and ideas. Learning and development is an important part of working at the company.
As a result, Anne-Marie has been able to cut down to three full-time days a week. Maurice Cervin, her husband, was a director active in the company for many years, but semi-retired six years ago. He remains company board chairman, and since art is his passion, sources the artworks that become cover designs for the directories.
In 2010, Anne-Marie and Mary both undertook the SME Owner Manager programme run by the Icehouse in partnership with The University of Auckland Business School which is aimed at fostering business growth. The course ran over five months, and was a “substantial commitment” for Anne-Marie and Mary. Anne-Marie found it a real refresher, having time to step away from the day to day and be inspired by an amazing line-up of speakers and facilitators. “I found it re-energising, after 20 plus years, and the saturation of new knowledge continues to provide focus to the development of the business. It also gave me a wider network to plug into,” she says.
Her new shorter work week allows Anne-Marie to spend more time with family and the five grandchildren. She is also a passionate birdwatcher, and has travelled to Ireland, Nova Scotia and Vietnam in search of bird species.
That’s probably why there is a recent addition to the Cervin Media logo – a wide eyed owl.