Upcoming EventsView all events →
Michael Biggerstaff doesn’t believe in traditional job titles or roles; he makes his own.
At Nxtbook Media, a digital publishing company, employees can create their own job titles—but they have to live up to them. As the Chief Inspiration Officer of his company, he believes in embracing change, following a clear purpose, building trust and showing transparency, and growing a culture of creativity and learning. Naming something gives you power over it—and, of course, a little inspiration goes a long way.
From an early age, Biggerstaff, his mom, and younger brother, lived with his grandparents. His parents divorced and so he lived with his mother’s parents for about six years. “I didn’t see my dad for about five years,” he says. A strong work ethic kept him in his grandfather’s good graces. Eventually, around age twelve, Biggerstaff told his mother he wanted to go live with his dad. “I can’t imagine, from her perspective, what that would have been like, as a parent, to have one of your kids suddenly, out of the blue, say they want to go live with the other one,” he says, admitting that as a son, he just needed to be around his dad.
That year he moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and attended school in the Lower Dauphin District. “My first year of school, I was tormented for my southern accent,” he says. He went from being a talkative boy to completely losing his accent in a year. But he did make friends with a boy who had moved there from Georgia. Over the next few years, things got easier. He was a good student. He dated. “I had a car that I bought and paid for the insurance. I bought my own clothes.” He graduated, at the top of his class, from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology with a degree in Print and Technology.
Quickly thereafter he got a job at Science Press in Ephrata. He longed to move somewhere warm. He would look at magazines like Graphic Arts Monthly and Printing Impressions in the lunchroom at work. “They would have an ad on the back from a head hunter that would specifically find people in the printing industry for jobs. I know today that those jobs never existed,” he says. He called the number and hoped for the job in Richmond, Virginia. No luck. That job was “filled” and Biggerstaff eventually went to work as the twelfth employee at Publishers Choice in Pittsburgh. “Here’s the guy that’s trying to get to the warm weather and the whole month of January all three rivers were frozen solid. It never got above freezing any day that month,” he says with laughter.
It was a small company and he liked his boss, but he would realize, looking back, that the company started to have money problems and the dynamic changed. “I called up my headhunter, “ he says laughing and shaking his head, “and he found me a job in Fort Washington working for a company called International Computaprint Corporation (ICC).” It was owned by Reed International (now Reed Technology and Information Services). By age twenty-nine, Biggerstaff was leading a team of seventy as the vice president of the printing division.
From there he had an idea to actively sell reprints from featured magazine articles. This idea would eventually lead Biggerstaff to leave the company and start his own: Reprint Management Services (RMS). Originally located in Morgantown, Biggerstaff and his partners moved to Lancaster in 1991, because of the printing capacity in the region. The company grew from four people at the inception to about seventy at its peak in 2001. In 2002, the company acquired a North American license for some French software that would make digital pages flip. The man who sold them the technology license asked RMS to invest in his company. “We invested money in December 2002 and more in January of 2003, and by March 2003 he called to say we’re out of money and we’re going to go under,” Biggerstaff recalls. “So we ended up buying the assets of the company and we created Nxtbook Media on July 23, 2003.” For four years he and his partners held both companies until they sold RMS to a local York buyer. By 2007, Nxtbook moved into the Urban Place complex.
Today, Biggerstaff says, “Nxtbook Media is the place I always wanted to work, but could never find.” The company has won #1 Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania for four of the last seven years. Nxtbook Media boasts outstanding employee benefits, workplace extras, health-driven initiatives, and community and volunteer incentives. Seven conference rooms are named after the seven core values: collaboration, creativity, excellence, influence, integrity, passion, and service. Revenue stream diversifications include digital content management, custom software development, IT Solutions, agency work including website creation, brand audits and content creation, and culture and creativity consulting. “There are roughly 32 million Nxtbook pages and 3 million books read on a monthly basis,” Biggerstaff says. He credits the company’s success to a culture that embraces change—and names their own success.