John Aden is bringing decades of experience with Fortune-500 companies to the Christian publishing industry as he steps into his new role as president and publisher of David C Cook.
Founded in Elgin, Ill. in 1875, David C Cook publishes Christian books and curriculum in over 150 languages, with annual output totaling between 30-40 books per year. The company also focuses on worship resources through its Integrity Music division. Aden started on Sept. 20 after relocating from Bentonville, Ark. to David C Cook's headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.. He replaces longtime CEO Cris Doornbos, who retired in the spring.
“I have done billions of dollars worth of business, all in preparation for what’s ahead at David C Cook,” Aden says. “I step into the role humbly, looking to bring the best of what I’ve learned throughout my career to an environment of real opportunity for generating rich content, finding ways to amplify that, and helping people grow closer to God.”
Prior to joining David C Cook, Aden worked as a senior executive at Walmart from 2007-2015 in areas including international sales and merchandising. Aden’s career also includes serving as president of retailer, distributor, and manufacturing company Mac Tools from 2000 to 2007. Before that, Aden worked in operations, marketing, sales, and brand management roles at Frito-Lay.
“I left Walmart to pursue some things I am passionate about, and I wasn’t actively looking at the Christian publishing arena, but I felt strongly that it is time for people like me to use their skills to serve the church,” he says. “I want to learn as much as I can about what is unique about the publishing industry, and use what I know has been successful throughout my career—there are the same business principles across industries that experienced people can leverage and create momentum with.”
Aden also felt drawn to David C Cook’s heritage, including its founder publishing Sunday school materials for children displaced in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire. But he immediately recognizes a “pyramid problem” in publishing, where only big-name authors reach the top.
“Authors have become the brands, and the bigger the author gets the bigger the brand,” Aden says, adding that he believes the world is filled with creators of life-changing and inspired content. “There is a unique opportunity here that I haven’t totally discerned yet, to create brands and platforms that lift up great content, rather than just great names.”
In this vein, the first rule of business, according to Aden, is growth, and he is seeing new opportunities for innovation and strategic partnerships every day. Looking ahead, Aden is open to adjusting David C Cook’s title output as he sees fit. “I don’t know if 40 is too high or too low,” he says. “But thousands of people have inspiring, truth-oriented, disciple-building material that needs to be heard.”
Today, David C Cook is looking for content creators—writers and musicians—who are ready to serve the church. “The common denominator in everything we do will always be the commitment to church and to the Truth,” Aden adds. “We are ready to go.”