The 800-CEO-READ Family

Photos & video by Kat Schleicher

Located in Milwaukee's historic Third Ward, 800-CEO-READ has been in the business of business books since 1984. We are experts on business books, each of us in our own way. Whether it's knowledge of the history and current trends in business literature, helping authors navigate book sales and the speaking circuit, how to customize books for a specific audience or client, or our intimate and hard-earned knowledge of how to physically move books around the county and around the world on a specific deadline, we offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you steer your book and your message in a constantly changing and sometimes chaotic industry.

Many of us have read more than our fair share of the books themselves—a few here literally wrote the book on the best business books of all time—and we have all spent years getting to know the intricacies, individuals, and logistics of business book publishers. But that is not all we have done or do.

800-CEO-READ takes pride in supporting cultural institutions in our local community like the Milwaukee Film Festival, Alverno College's world music festival Global Union, and independent community radio, among other things. Our employees make music, write stories, create art, take pictures, travel the world, cook great food, and pour great drinks. We value creativity of any sort, and encourage and support personal creativity and exploration in the workplace and out of it. (We believe this helps us serve our customers and solve their problems more creatively.) We value inclusiveness and character, and put a premium on our commitment to family. It is all of these things that have allowed us to build a strong working family here at 800-CEO-READ, a family that has stayed together for a very long time, and gotten to know each other and the industry very, very well. And as we continue to grow the family, we do so always holding firm to an idea our late owner A. David Schwartz left us:

The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the books on the community.

Things change. Our community has changed over the years from the people in our neighborhood to people anywhere that love business books—and the people that labor to bring them to life. But the profit we seek is still first and foremost is that social profit, to not only do business but to improve and benefit the business community. We believe that that community is built upon personal relationships, both in-house and out, and it is through those relationships—working with each other, our customers and authors, and the power of books—that we hope to make work work better.

We don't call ourselves "associates" here, we are not "team members" or "valued partners." We are family. We are friends, and we hope you'll become a friend of the company, as well.

Our People:

Carol Grossmeyer now lives in Seattle, but as 800-CEO-READ's co-owner and CEO, she is still "Sheriff" around these parts and is committed to ensuring the best book buying experience for customers and the best work experience for employees. Thanks to Skype, she never misses a beat. While virtual communication keeps her connected to the business and the people she loves, in real life, Carol loves sharing a good meal, a bottle of red, and some lively discussion about independent film and the newest fiction.

Rebecca Schwartz is 800-CEO-READ’s co-owner and Chair and has been in the book business all her life: for the first 30 years working on and off at the Milwaukee bookshop begun by her grandfather, Harry W. Schwartz, and for the last two decades sharing wonderful literature with high schoolers in English class. She knows that finding the right book at the right time, whether as a CEO or a student, is key to finding direction and inspiration. If she had her way, Toni Morrison and Mark Twain would share space on every businessperson’s shelf along with Jim Collins and Seth Godin.

Jack Covert will tell you he is a simple merchant at heart; his employees will tell you he is the heart of 800-CEO-READ. Hired by the late David Schwartz thirty years ago to sell business and computer books to the Milwaukee business community via the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Jack grew that 3-shelf business section into the specialty business book retailer he leads today. As Founder and President, Jack offers his guidance and hard-won business acumen to the overall workings of the company. When he’s not volunteering in the community or puttering around his garden, Jack can usually be found at home watching British mystery series with his wife Ann and their two cats. Contact Jack at jack (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Jon Mueller joined his ideal fantasyland, 800-CEO-READ, in 2006. Soon after, he completed an MBA degree, but merely as an act of discipline as he naturally finds himself more drawn to the less-prescriptive knowledge written by great thinkers such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Alain de Botton, Seth Godin, and Patrick Lencioni. Since then, Jon has become the company’s General Manager and spends his days helping the great people here do great things. In his spare time, Jon travels the world playing drums, an experience that teaches him things no school or book ever could. Jon would love to hear from you at jon (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.  

Sally Haldorson is 800-CEO-READ’s Communications Manager—she gets people talking both inside and outside the company—and the curator of KnowledgeBlocks. And as part of the company’s creative team, she reads, writes, edits, imagines, posts, tweets, and futzes with anything written that needs some fiddling. Which is pretty much what she does outside of work as well when she isn’t hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (a husband, a child, and a dog.) Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time was a pretty good gig too. You can contact Sally at sally (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Aaron Schleicher has been the author services specialist at 800-CEO-READ since 2004. You can usually find him hidden under a baseball cap, feet kicked up on his desk, talking with authors, publishers, and businesses. Call him to find out how 800-CEO-READ can help ambitious you get your book into the hands of readers around the globe. Outside the office you can find him crafting candles, listening to records, and making music with friends and family. You can contact Aaron at aaron (at) 800ceoread (dot) com. 

Michael Jantz went to work under the auspices of 800-CEO-READ, an institution about which he knew little, in mid-2012. Michael now oversees “special projects,” a task that corrals any number of imaginable alterations and re-imaginings of the umpteen books 800-CEO-READ so gracefully sells day after day. But never content with the appellations of the common workplace, Michael also now enjoys exploring other avenues of 800-CEO-READ’s enterprise, including reading, writing, design, and lively conversations with those writers whose books the company sells. It is a happy time for Michael, whose love of books and good company has found 800-CEO-READ's office and philosophy to be like nutrient-rich compost to his hungry, burrowing roots. You can catch some of that happiness by writing Michael at michael (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Meg Bacik was first hired in the accounting department back when 800-CEO-READ was still known as Schwartz Business Books. Quickly realizing she had more interest in helping people than adding up numbers, she moved over to customer service and has sat next to her Roy-friend ever since, shipping books around the world and acting as 800-CEO-READ’s enthusiast-in-chief. She would like to mention that she had the best time, out of all the kids in her 7th grade class, in the mile run, beating Laura H., to everyone’s surprise. Since accomplishing this goal, she has retired from racing. Now, when she’s not flying the friendly skies, she can be found riding her bike around Milwaukee in search of the perfect margarita. Contact Meg at meg (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Roy Normington has just embarked upon his 20th year at 800-CEO-READ and decided to commemorate the event with a new diary entry. “Dear Diary: This is really something!! You wouldn't believe it, but I actually started out working the register and helping customers with books…in person. Who does that anymore? Eventually I moved behind the scenes (which Jack says is the best place to keep me—wonder what he means by that, Diary?) working with large accounts, video training resources, invoicing, and sales. Basically my job is to take orders, big or small, and make customers happy, and guess what? It's still the best place to work! That’s all for now, Dear Diary, because I’ve got to get back to work.” You can contact Roy at work at roy (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Todd Lazarski has been the Shipper/Receiver at 800-CEO-READ since 2007. If you've purchased a book with us since then, he has personally packaged your order with care, and sent it your way. When he's not counting boxes, printing labels, moving pallets or making the UPS guy sweat, he is pursuing a freelance writing career (read him unfiltered at toddlazarski.com), honing his Ping Pong skills, searching for the best bite of food Milwaukee has to offer, or giving himself blisters with his ol' guitar. You can contact Todd at toddl (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Zach Karpinski is our programmer, which, in a small company like ours, means he is in charge of the computers, our software, and pretty much our entire online presence. Books like Rework and Getting Real by 37 Signals and The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda influence his work. Outside of the office Zach applies his exacting standards to pursuing photography, cooking (meat) and even some table tennis (ok, maybe a lot of table tennis.) Zach lives with his wife Kristin and two daughters in Shorewood. You can contact Zach at zach (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Shawn Quinn is the first person in our office every day, turning on the lights and rousing the accounting machine to life, at some god-awful early hour of the morning. He was one of our earliest employees too, starting out in customer service when the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops were anchored downtown at the historic Iron Block building. For the past 10 years, he has been our numbers guy, serving on the frontline of the company’s growth, while still believing the core goal of the business is putting a book in the customer’s hands. When he isn’t reading or rewatching MadMen episodes, Shawn can be found in the kitchen making a mean pot of chili. Shawn and his wife Nancy are the parents of a 12-year-old daughter who (big surprise) loves to read, and a dog with very bad luck. You can reach Shawn at shawn (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Mel Koenig came to work at 800-CEO-READ in 1999 to help keep track of the money pile and put her excellent event planning skills to work coordinating author appearances. Her name, Melanie, is derived from the Greek μελανία (melania), "blackness" and that from μέλας (melas), meaning "dark," which may explain why she prefers to tell people she was born on a dark and stormy night in the red barn at the end of the artists’ pier in Rockport MA. Migrating to Milwaukee via Schenectady and Akron, she lives in Shorewood, WI, and ‘rules’ a house full of misfits, which includes husband, children, a good number of their friends, and innumerable of pets. You can contact Mel at mel (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. But even though he's stayed on, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis website, the company's annual review of business books and marketing pieces, and our in-house design and advertising, as well as writing and editing reviews, doing photography and illustration, and managing the mumbling to himself he does in his corner by the window. He lives with his wife and daughter (with a son on the way) in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side. You can reach him anytime at dylan (at) 800ceoread (dot) com.