How Healthy Competition Drives Continuous Creativity And Productivity At SRC
By Jack Stack
I’m a big believer in the positive power of competition. I believe it’s a universal truth that all people like to win—and hate to lose. But as I’ve written about before, losing is also an opportunity to learn and to improve. So, why wouldn’t we try to build in some of that healthy competition into the workplace? To take some of the drudgery out of our day-to-day routines and spice things up with some competition? At a fundamental level, that’s what The Great Game of Business® is all about.
Leveling Up Our Game
Inside our company, SRC Holdings, which is a collection of ten different businesses, we’ve found a way to embrace competition in a way that also strengthens how we play Great Game™. As I mentioned in my prior post, we created a competition back in 2014 we now call “The Owners’ Cup.” And yes, we award an actual trophy—an old planter that was reclaimed from a garage and custom airbrushed to a gleaming gold—to the winning division to display with pride for a year.
The competition was an extension of an effort we began back in 2010 when a team of our associates that included Rich Armstrong and Keith Boatright helped create what we call Ownership Culture Committees, or OCCs, in each of our divisions ahead of becoming 100% ESOP. The idea behind these committees, was to establish volunteer champions inside each business—a team who would do their best to teach and sustain our employee-owned, Great Game of Business culture. Each OCC Chair serves on the SRC Holdings Ownership Culture Steering Committee (OCSC) which meets throughout the year to learn from each other and leverage resources for big events. In 2014, Krisi Schell and the OCSC members sought to leverage the competitive spirit of the companies to hold each other accountable to “up our Game” through a competition focused on the principles and practices of The Game.
It’s important to note that while SRC itself is an employee-owned company, some of our subsidiaries are actually joint-ventures where employees don’t have an equity stake in the business. So, when we talk about “ownership,” it’s much more about a mindset than it is about a stock certificate. We want all of our associates to have a true sense of what I call “psychic ownership” in the success of their business. It really comes down to personal pride and achievement.
One way to help promote that feeling of psychic ownership, while also encouraging creativity and sustainable improvements, is by having some fun through competition—which is how the Owners’ Cup was born.
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The Best Workday Of The Year
The Owners’ Cup competition, which was modeled after the Great Game All-Star awards, is held over six-months. While the scoreboard we use has been tweaked over time, it’s still rooted in the basics of Great Game. This year, each company was tracked throughout the year based on multiple components that include: Participation in GGOB training courses available through the Community site, frequency and impact of MiniGames™, monthly forecast accuracy for profit before tax (PBT), and the frequency and effectiveness of how they communicate through their huddles. There are also bonus points available when company leaders attend training sessions and when the company delivers exceptional accuracy in its PBT forecasts. The running tally of those scores adds up to 80% of each company’s score.
The final component that decides each year’s winner comes down to a panel of judges. Each company’s OCC conducts a final Owners’ Cup presentation to their peers and a panel of outside judges, which then accounts for the remaining 20% of each team’s total score.
Let me tell you something: these presentations are a thing of beauty to behold. During more “normal” times, members of our OCCs would make their presentations in person in our big meeting room. This year, due to the pandemic, most of the presentations were done virtually over Zoom. But the impact remained the same. You can’t believe the energy and excitement the presenters exude when they get the chance to brag about their accomplishments over the past year.
Their collective enthusiasm, especially about the success of their MiniGames, crackled through the air. More than once, both attendees and judges broke out into spontaneous applause to honor a team’s impressive accomplishments. As a whole, our company saw something like $2.8 million in impact from MiniGames in 2020. It’s truly remarkable to see the creativity and innovation teams embrace while trying to solve their thorny problems by changing behaviors and having some fun doing it.
This MiniGame, created by The Great Game of Business team, focused on cleaning up our CRM. The Game encouraged all employees to increase their Hubspot "touches" (times they recorded data or made an improvement in the CRM). The efforts of this MiniGame led to improved communication, improved processes, a more organized CRM, and a stronger customer journey that has resulted in an increase in closed deals.
That’s why, despite the fact that we budget an entire day for these 10 presentations (45 minutes for each presentation with some room for lunch and breaks in between), the time just seems to fly by. As Danielle Rapp, SRC’s Marketing and Communications Manager, who continues to do an incredible job orchestrating the entire competition, put it: “This is my favorite workday of the year.”
And I can’t say enough about the OCC representatives from each of the divisions who presented this year. What’s even more incredible is that three of the presenters stepped in at the last minute due to family emergencies and illnesses. Wow. All I can say is that the future of our company, as represented by all of these emerging leaders willing to stand up (virtually) in front of their peers, is bright indeed.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to our judges who willingly spend a full day of their time listening to these presentations, asking questions, and providing their feedback. This year, we had the honor of hearing feedback from three esteemed judges and champions of the Great Game; Heather Reinkemeyer, a certified internal Great Game coach from Vital Farms; Cindy Stein, the publicly elected auditor from Greene County, Missouri; and Kellie Jayne Vaughn, a Great Game champion from the Paul Mueller Company. I want to thank them all for their valuable time and insights. They gave us some tough marks—and we’ll do our best to learn from them.
I happen to think it’s quite bold for any company to invite in people from the outside to evaluate your performance. It’s kind of like having the guts to air your dirty laundry; to be audited by your peers. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and to hear areas where you could improve and get better at. But when you open yourself up, you also increase the rate at which you can learn.
That dynamic also flows both ways. It’s incredible to see how engaged our judges are for each and every presentation. They always ask insightful questions and dig hard to understand why something was done the way it was. Each of our judges also always walks away with pages of notes of new ideas they plan to bring back to their organizations with them. They’re learning the entire time as well. Again, we couldn’t be more thankful for their participation—and helping us make the increasingly difficult decision of picking a winner.
This Year’s Champion Is…
Let me cut to the chase and congratulate the 2020 winner of the Owners’ Cup: SRC of Lexington. Well done to all! This marks the second time Lexington has won the award, breaking the three-peat attempt of their sister company GRC, which has won the past two years. That means that the team at Lexington will have their name engraved on the trophy yet again along with all the other winners:
- 2014: SRC Logistics
- 2015: CNH Industrial Reman
- 2016: SRC of Lexington
- 2017: CNH Industrial Reman
- 2018: GRC
- 2019: GRC
- 2020: SRC of Lexington
Despite a difficult year for everyone, the competition brought some needed fun and excitement into the workplace, and perhaps even stoked some rivalries for those teams who are already eyeing their pursuit of the Owners’ Cup in 2021. Team Lexington better watch their rearview mirror because some teams were right on their tail. I say bring it on. This is competition at its best—and our company and its Great Game culture is becoming stronger as a result. Congratulations again to everyone for their enthusiasm and hard work.
Let's have a conversation! Leave a comment at the bottom of this page, and Jack Stack and Darren Dahl will comment back and/or answer any questions you might have.
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