Going Dutch

Chief Executive (U.S.), September 2006 | Go to article overview

Going Dutch


TURNAROUNDS

As the company's first woman and non-Dutch CEO, Nancy McKinstry was both an insider and an outsider.

For years Walters Kluwer, the $5-billion Amsterdam-based publisher of law, medical and professional books and journals, had a basic strategy: Buy a family-run publishing company, strip out a lot of costs, generate a lot of cash, and buy the next company. The 117-year-old Dutch company operates in 25 countries but derives half its revenues from North America.

Through the 1990s that strategy worked well until the industry started to consolidate in 2000. Competitors Reed Elsevier and Thomson began buying in earnest, leaving few properties left. Multiples went up; quality went down. Along the way the Internet happened, forcing everyone to invest in order to offer their products electronically. At the time, Walters Kluwer failed to recognize that it was at a crossroads and started to see a drop in net income. Facing a crisis in 2003, the company passed over a number of European executives and turned to its North American operating head, Nancy McKinstry, an American who had held various executive posts over the previous 10 years. Earlier in her career she had been a consultant with Booz Allen.

"Being the first non-Dutch CEO and being a female running a Dutch business has helped me in the sense that I've been able to make some decisions about the business that would've been harder for a European who was entrenched," says McKinstry, whose first job after graduating from the University of Rhode Island was pricing telecom services for New England Telephone. She changed the company from a holding company to an operational-centered business, allowing for better integration of the some 300 distinct businesses it had acquired. Some euro150 million in cost saving? from sharing services was stripped out and plowed into new products.

Now in its third year, McKinstry's transformation plan is showing promise. When she took over in 2003, organic growth was minus 2 percent. In 2005, it was plus 2 percent. Profit warnings tanked the share price. Over the same period it has reclaimed some ground, moving from euro8.66 to euro17.45. Still much has to be done. CE spoke with McKinstry, who moved her family, including her physician husband, to Amsterdam when she took the job three years ago. She splits her time between the two continents.

What do you see as your advantage going forward?

We have several. One, we have recognizable brands. We're number one or number two in our respective markets. Good positions to hang your hat on. Second, we're the only information provider that has a good balance between North America and Europe. As a result, we have more opportunities to globalize our business.

How much in terms of your revenues and profits comes from North America versus other markets?

About 50 percent of revenues and a bit more of our profits come from North America. Europe is a big part of the other 50 percent. Asia is a growing market for us, but it's still on such a small base that the business is roughly 50/50 North America and outside of North America.

Every company, no matter how good it is, can't be good at everything. What are you least good at and need to fix?

We have to move beyond restructuring to operational excellence. We're still learning those skills and beginning to institutionalize the efficiencies so that we can plow savings back into organic growth. We've hired a bunch of ex-GE managers. And when you talk to these folks from a GE or a Cisco, this skill seems ingrained in their DNA. This wasn't part of our culture at Wolters Kluwer. We were good at bottomline management, but not always doing it in a way that was structurally geared to driving the business.

Is SOX-related work a significant income stream for you?

We have an expression here that any change is good for us. Anytime something as fundamental as international accounting standards, SOX or change in tax codes, such as when Reagan changed the tax law back in the early 1980s, it was good for us. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Going Dutch
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.