January 17, 2005

News & Opinion: What's in a name?

By: Jack @ 8:26 PM – Filed under: The Company

How did our company come to be named "800-CEO-READ"?
This is a question I get asked often. Well, I was talking with Todd and Tom Ehrenfeld and they had never heard the story of how we became 800-CEO-READ. Upon hearing the tale, they suggested I share it with all of you.
Twenty-one years ago, I was hired by David Schwartz, owner of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, to buy, sell, and maintain the business, technical, medical and computer books for his store. For over ten years, we grew with some successes and many failures. My real focus was to sell to the businesses in the area; so we started calling ourselves Schwartz Business Books to differentiate ourselves from the Schwartz retail bookstores but retain some local name recognition. In the early nineties, I obtained a statewide 800# and asked for the numerical equivalent to either "READ" or "BOOK". The local company gave me 800-236-7323 (READ) per my request. When we expanded the coverage to a national number, we were able to keep the number.
It was a happy coincidence when, a year or so later, one of my employees pointed out that the prefix numbers, 236, were CEO. I thought at the time that it was interesting but not terribly significant. That changed, however, when in January 1995, David Schwartz and the Schwartz Bookshops were featured on the cover of Inc. magazine. As a result of that coverage, I connected with CNN and they asked me to be on CNN Sunday Morning in June of that year. As I watched a tape of my appearance, I saw that they listed me as Jack Covert of Schwartz Business Books. At that moment, I realized that a national audience wouldnt know who that heck I was since Schwartz was a powerful local brand but didn't have much national significance at that time. It came to me in an instant: our phone number! The next day 800-CEO-READ was born.
That is our name creation story, and I certainly hope you don't think less of us now that you have learned that the CEO in our name came from the numbers 236, and not some think-tank geared to engineering the perfect name for our national coming out party.