A Midwest Magazine Empire

How a nimble leadership team is positioning media and marketing leader Meredith Corporation for another century of success bringing service journalism to the American family

Steve Cappaert knows that a modern media company requires a nimble leadership strategy.

What key factors allow Meredith Corporation to prosper?
Kevin Wagner
Director of Treasury Operations

“Meredith Corporation has consistently demonstrated strategic and financial discipline. We have a strong commitment to our shareholders, a history of prudent capital management, and a long track record of returning a meaningful portion of our free cash flow to investors.”
Karen Johnson
Director of Financial Reporting

“Meredith has had a commitment to service journalism for more than 100 years, providing women with inspiration and information to build and maintain rich and meaningful lives. Our focus on the subjects of family, home, and self-development through brands such as Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, and, most recently, Allrecipes.com, have helped Meredith build an audience of 100 million women.”

Angela Edwards
Corporate Payroll Manager

“We continue to take steps to enhance the vibrancy of our brands and expertise across media platforms in order to strengthen the messaging from our advertising and marketing clients.”
Todd Beuse
Director of Corporate Taxation

“The creativity, dedication, and drive demonstrated every day by our editorial, sales and marketing, support staff, and management team continues to be the key to our brand strength.”

Steve Cappaert gets the job done, and then some. In his current role as corporate controller for leading media and marketing company Meredith Corporation, Cappaert’s approach to business makes his role not just about finances, but also about community and team building—epitomizing Midwestern work values. On behalf of the Des Moines, Iowa-based conglomerate, Cappaert ensures its brands, such as Better Homes & Gardens, are just as well-known in American households today as they have been for the past century.

Fortifying Meredith’s potency, Cappaert’s work ethic augments all parts of his role, from external financial reporting to corporate accounting to forecasting and budgeting to shared services to payroll. As one of six officers in the company, Cappaert careens his prowess to build upon the unwritten laws of Meredith’s community involvement. Sustaining a service journalism focus on home, family, health and wellness, and self-development, Cappaert’s pragmatism cultivates a legacy.

An Illinois native, Cappaert earned his MBA from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining Meredith in June 2003, Cappaert gained experience as a leader at Deloitte, Fortune Brands, Ernst & Young, and United Stationers. His combination of experience in public accounting and industry, Cappaert says, has been instrumental in developing his work ethic and his flexible approach to managing.

Cappaert’s sense of community and journalistic focus on home and family at Meredith has created a positive work environment. “As a company, through the Meredith Foundation, we have a big commitment to the community—supporting a number of local nonprofits,” says Cappaert. “Giving back to the community is one of the things that really drives the culture at Meredith.” Taking yet another step beyond his finance role, Cappaert sits on the board of the Science Center of Iowa and the capital campaign committee for the Des Moines Playhouse.

For the past 12 years, Meredith has partnered with Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit organization that preserves affordable homeownership and revitalizes communities nationwide. Annually, more than 200 Meredith employees, including the leadership team, volunteer to complete repairs for homeowners and community organizations. “It’s also a good opportunity for employees from different areas of Meredith to work together as a team,” Cappaert says.

Employees at Meredith are also encouraged to partake in an annual team challenge that focuses on healthy living. During the challenge, teams of employees track activity minutes and weight loss. “It’s something that is good for both employees and the company,” Cappaert says. “And it helps foster the corporate culture.”

“From a company standpoint, to be a leader at Meredith, you need to be a team player,” Cappaert adds. “Looking at the leadership team, everyone is very professional, but still interactive and down-to-earth.”

Within any corporate culture it is often easy to get lost in your own silo of work; however, Meredith champions a company-wide collegial approach. This dimension is carried over outside of work, with groups of employees getting together to celebrate accomplishments. “When you have that, it helps encourage everyone to function as a team,” Cappaert says.

Meredith also lacks excess management layers, a strength that is attributed to managerial straightforwardness. And though Cappaert acknowledges that any organization is a pyramid, “It’s just how steep the pyramid is [that matters],” he says. Additionally, the Des Moines culture gives Meredith a leg up on speaking to Middle America, a unique perspective compared to East or West Coast-based media companies.

For Cappaert, the key to keeping his employees motivated “gets back to the culture,” he says. By eliminating digital nuances with face-to-face interaction, his team flourishes. Having an open-door environment is constructive and fuels open communication—a transparency that is often fogged in the corporate sector.

Meredith’s culture will also help it address opportunities and challenges ahead, including the shift to a more digital world. To be successful during a transitional period like this, Cappaert sticks to his core values of doing a good job, providing customers with good service, and being open to innovation. “Looking at Meredith as a business, we need to hold true to the basics and our values, yet be ready to embrace the technological and other changes in the marketplace,” he says.