Ed Brash started a business only to discover that the market he knew was not the market he wanted. A veteran of Time-Life, Brash knew mail-order books. When he founded Redefinition, in 1986, he took the predictable path. "We published our own mail-order baseball series, a lot like Time-Life," he says.
Brash's heart told him to try something new. Still, changing course is tough. So he organized strategy sessions in which he and his employees met with suppliers, customers, a former Time-Life colleague, and a sympathetic consultant who, for a reduced fee, acted as a facilitator.
Their focus: What kind of books are we good at? Can we sell to trade publishers? The first meeting ended in disagreement -- some staffers wanted to stick with mail-order baseball. But in later meetings, squabbles gave way to a concerted focus on new ideas. One -- an easily portable how-to gardening book, bound like a paint-sample book with a single rivet -- Brash believed would be successful in retail displays. With the exception of an employee who later resigned, everyone was behind him.
Last year Chronicle Books published Redefinition's series of eight Do It books about gardening, home repair, and other topics. Crate & Barrel and numerous bookstores and gift stores carry the series, which won two design awards and was mentioned in U.S. News & World Report. The transition progresses, and Brash has an edge in the how-to niche. "I like the business better," he reported as 1994 sales at his Alexandria, Va., company neared $800,000.