You’ve read our classics, such as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son; and many of you know our current list, featuring books by Cornel West, Lani Guinier, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—books that speak to the condition of the world, and add to our understanding of urgent social issues. Whether it’s the environment or race, cultural or class dynamics, we publish all our books with a purpose. Now you can meet the people who work at Beacon Press in our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books.” Each month, we’ll introduce to you a member of our staff and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at our office.
For the month of August, we introduce you to our chief financial officer, Clifford Manko!
What drew you to publishing, Cliff? How did you find your way to Beacon?
I have always had a passion for politics and social issues, so publishing was a natural segue. I was a history major in college, and considered a career in academia. The MBA came a few years after college. I was working my way up the ladder as a CPA at a large accounting firm when an opportunity arose at Houghton Mifflin, which was a client, for a position in corporate finance. I was intrigued at the prospect of working at a publisher involved in educational and trade publishing and interacting with creative people—going back to my liberal arts roots. In fact, I remember that I was asked more questions about my history major than my business background during the interview process. My instincts were right, and I spent many years at Houghton Mifflin and later Cengage Learning, both in the educational publishing space. I knew of Beacon Press and its great reputation through my years at Houghton Mifflin. It has been very exciting to work at a mission-based publisher focused on issues which I care deeply about.
What are some of the challenges of being a CFO? What do you find most rewarding?
As CFO, I am responsible for management reporting and financial analytics to support our operations. Good financial analysis and planning is dependent on collaborating with colleagues who have product and customer expertise. This dialogue is needed so that the right questions are raised and data organized in a way so that meaningful decisions can be made. In publishing, that means that finance spends a lot of time with sales, marketing, and editorial. I spend a lot of time with these groups reviewing trends and data needed for planning. Those interactions are the most rewarding part of my job. A constant challenge is getting needed data—sometimes the limitations are with systems, sometimes the marketplace.
What current/upcoming projects are you excited about?
On the operations side, I am enthusiastically involved with Beacon’s implementation of the Biblio publishing platform. Like many publishers, both large and small, Beacon currently runs on multiple home grown databases and applications. Biblio will allow Beacon to move these databases and applications under one roof, and give all departments needed transparency. On the product side, I am very supportive of our large investment in download audio. The market for download audio is a major growth opportunity for Beacon.
What skills have you taken from previous jobs to help you do your work at Beacon?
The need to have regular check-ins with staff and management. Even at a small firm like Beacon, it can be a challenge to keep current on status meetings—we are all always busy—but it is so important.
What other departments does your department interact with? And how?
When it comes to budgets and financial reporting, I deal with all managers. When it comes to data and analytics, I work most closely with sales and editorial. I work with the sales group to identify sales trends by format/market/title to make forecasts and flag inventory issues. The editorial team needs data on title performance on both the top and bottom line, and for modeling contracts with authors.
Favorite thing about Boston?
My favorite is the Boston Public Library. I love the architecture and exhibits and reading rooms and its location. I used to eat my lunch in the courtyard when I worked in Back Bay. A real treat.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading a non-fiction thriller involving Russia, high finance, and espionage by Bill Browder, Red Notice.
Hobbies outside of work?
I like to be outside as much as possible when not at work. I was a serious bicyclist for many years, including several rides from Boston to Provincetown, and still bike cross country.
Favorite type of music?
I listen to classical music in the morning and classic British rock to relax. My wife surprised me for my birthday in June for tickets to hear Quadrophenia perform in NYC.
What’s your commute like? What do you do to pass the time on your way into the office?
I walk most days to work from North Station and then back, about 1.5 miles each way. I have different walking routes and do my best thinking during those walks. It has been fun to see how the Greenway has developed and all the activity in the Greenway in the nice weather. Walking during a snowfall is fun too.
About Clifford Manko
Clifford Manko joined Beacon Press in 2016 as CFO. Prior to Beacon, Cliff was SVP Finance at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and VP Finance at Cengage Learning. He began his finance career at Ernst & Young, where he was a CPA and audit manager. Cliff is graduate of Cornell and NYU Business School.