Bob Adams has run many small businesses in a variety of industries. His biggest success to date was Adams Media Corporation, a book publisher he launched while still in business school with a single book and just $1,500. He eventually built the company into one of the largest independent book publishers in the US, releasing close to 200 titles annually, before selling it to F&W Publications. Subjects covered by Adams Media included business, careers, pop psychology, and many others.
Adams succeeded by turning the traditional industry business model upside down. The general practice in the industry was to wait for an author to submit a proposal for a book, and then bid a guaranteed advance against royalties to get the author to publish the book with your firm. Instead, Adams emphasized in-house series book publishing. In this model, his editors carefully researched the most sellable topics, then tracked down an industry expert to write on that topic for one flat fee, with no royalties.
Following this model, Adams drove his profit margins to three times the industry average. His penchant for the importance of being incredibly cheap also helped to drive his success! He even published a book series called Mr. Cheap’s guides! In his former offices, the duct tape holding the carpet together was sometimes more prominent than the carpet itself, and some offices weren’t even air-conditioned. He had a warehouse with a freight elevator so ancient that it was raised and lowered by pulling on old ropes. But even that was a step up from the dingy basement apartments he started in – living, working and storing books all in the same place.
By almost any measure, Adams Media was a smashing success, but some other Adams businesses had much more mixed results. CareerCity.com, for example. One of the early job listing websites, CareerCity was buried by better financed competitors, including some that were spending double their annual sales in marketing, including splurging on super bowl ads. Nonetheless, Adams is quick to take responsibility for Career City’s lackluster results: “Without a clearly differentiated strategy, this business had no chance.” He eventually sold it to True Careers, a division of Sallie Mae.
Adams also built the Careers Group, which released semi-annual recruitment magazines serving top business, engineering and liberal arts schools in the US, after acquiring Careers and the MBA from Harvard Business School. He eventually sold it to Stanley Kaplan, a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.
He grew JobBank newspaper, a free distribution job-listing publication, to a peak circulation of 175,000, eventually shuttering it after the job market collapsed in an economic downturn.
In connection with JobBank newspaper, he launched, along with a partner, Premier Job Fairs.
He also started a multimedia software business focused on job searching and business products, and launched a software business that included a business plan software package.
Other Bob Adams business ventures have included:
*Employment agency, founded along with his sister
*Classified advertising newspaper founded with a partner
*Street map business
*Tourist map business
*Used boat brokerage
*Boat building business
*House painting business
*Bicycle rental service
Adams is currently working on BusinessTown.com and related businesses.
He has also served on the investment committee of Watermill Group, a private equity company.
Adams is active in a number of business organizations, including The Young President’s Organization/World’s President’s Organization (YPO/WPO) and the Harvard Business School Association of Boston.
He has been actively involved with The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
In addition to his Harvard Business School MBA, Adams holds a BA in History and in Political Science from Carleton College, and is a graduate of Phillip’s Exeter Academy.
He also manages his own investment portfolio, not always following the consensus on Wall Street. For example, in late 2007, anticipating economic trouble, Adams went from 100% invested in equities to 100% in cash, completely sidestepping the 2008 market crash.
Adams has often been featured in the media as a job search and small business expert, including on television shows such as NBC’s Today, The 700 Club and Oprah! His Streetwise Business Tips segment appeared on First Business, previously the national business news program produced by The United States Chamber of Commerce.
Adams has authored the following books:
Everything Job Interview Book
Everything Leadership Book
Everything Time Management Book
The Official Hacker’s Rules of Tennis
Streetwise Business Forms
Streetwise Business Mistakes
Streetwise Business Tips
Streetwise Complete Business Plan
Streetwise Small Business Start-Up
Ten Second Business Forms
Adams has co-authored the following books:
Complete Resume and Job Search Book for College Students
Fast Read Time Management
Streetwise Customer-Focused Selling
Streetwise Hiring Top Performers
Streetwise Independent Consulting
Streetwise Managing People
Adams was senior editor of the following books:
Adams Cover Letter Almanac
Adams Job Interview Almanac
Adams Jobs Almanac
Adams Resume Almanac
Boston Day Care Directory
Job Bank Series (career guides to many regions of the US)
National Job Bank