Margins in the landscaping business continue to shrink—and it’s harder than ever to grow the top line as well. Willoway Nurseries, a leading US wholesale supplier of nursery products, understands this better than anyone. This nursery, founded in 1954, grows wholesale trees, shrubs, perennials, and seasonal color crops and ships to retailers and contractors across 26 states. With a customer base of more than 1,200 independent garden centers and landscape contractors, this company has personally seen the effects of industry-wide shrinking margins and a need for drastic change in how they operate their business.
To confront these challenges, Willoway needed a way to gain efficiencies and improve quality. They decided to open the books to communicate the realities of operating a business to their team and what it takes to be profitable.
In order to teach employees what it takes to keep the business running, Willoway established a regular Huddle rhythm with a focus on tracking results through scoreboards in all seven of their locations. The team also embraced technology like WebEx to help connect each location for all-company Huddles and to facilitate inter-company communications. (Learn more about using technology for dispersed Huddling here.)
In addition to a disciplined Huddle rhythm, Willoway has implemented several MiniGames™ that have influenced positive changes in the culture while also improving productivity.
The company typically has between 10 and 15 MiniGames running throughout the year—examples include a MiniGame focused on improving managed fill rate, and one designed to reduce the number of flat tires—and uses a scoreboard to keep teammates updated on their progress.
Results and Impact
Prior to GGOB, a small group within the company put together an annual budget based on assumptions and the mindset of managing the numbers using command and control. Now, team members have ownership in key scoreboard items—which has led to better forecasting and management of expenses. Playing The Game for four years has also had a cultural impact on Willoway, as they have evolved from operating as individual departments to a team working towards the same goal. “We have seen a lot of positive changes in attitude. People are excited and happy to come to work. People now tell us they love working here,” says president Tom Demaline.
In 2017, MiniGames helped generate $475,000 increase in sales and $42,000 savings in expenses. After winning a MiniGame, employees often choose to donate the money to a local organization instead of receiving a prize. (Read more about real practitioners' MiniGames examples in our 2018 Gathering of Games MiniGame Showcase.)
Willoway's performance and outstanding results in implementing the Great Game earned them a 2018 All-Star Award. See their All-Star video below.
“We now have a better understanding of managers’ decisions. Now we can’t just blame management for things we don’t like or understand. GGOB has put the action in our hands and has given us the ability to really make team decisions.” ~ Grace Zubko, Office Administrator
Plans for the Future
Emily Showalter, the company’s head of HR, admits that when it comes to playing the Great Game of Business, there’s always room for improvement—especially in areas like recognizing employees for their hard work and in running their High-Involvement Planning™ (HIP) process.
An area of focus that resulted from their 2018 HIP planning meeting was the need to grow the Willoway brand. “We want to build brand harmony as something that all of our employees can rally around and move in the same direction with,” says Showalter. “For this to be successful we needed to engage everyone in the company.”
The tagline the team has adopted is “Rooted to Grow”—which builds off what the company does while also conveying how they can influence and grow both their customers and the people who work for Willoway.
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