Jack Stack, President and CEO of SRC Holdings, talks with Rich and Steve about what you can expect at The 29th Annual Great Game of Business Conference.
Episode with guest: Jack Stack
President and CEO SRC Holdings
(This episode was recorded in August of 2021.)
Key Episode Take-Aways:
1. The importance of planning for the future even when the challenges of the present are so daunting. (click to jump to this topic below) Nobody sits there and puts a 10-year plan together and then tries to figure out all the steps that you have to do it. So, I think a lot of the conference from the very beginning to the end is getting people to think about the high involvement aspect of strategic, of strategy. Okay, high-involvement planning and so I could see that fulfilling for the middle, which is gonna be a breath of fresh air because we're so entangled in terms of the present challenges.
2. Having the opportunity to learn from other great business minds and stimulate your thinking. (click to jump to this topic below) And you get living breathing, testimonials, living breathing wills, in terms of validation on what's happening inside the organization, then you get a lot of takeaways, you get a lot of nearly new ideas in terms of what people are doing, but what you're doing is you're stimulating thinking, you're stimulating around a process, okay? And that process is the Great Game of Business,
3. Updates on SRC and business insights during Jack's speech. (click to jump to this topic below) You probably didn't think we're gonna make it, but we did make it and now we've been through the valley of death. And, you know, we got ourselves out of it. How did you get out of it? You know, I think people like business, okay, so we share all the good and the bad, the ugly with everybody in the audience. So, I have as much of a good time as they hopefully a good time.
Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.
The "Change the Game" Podcast is sponsored by Prairie Capital Advisors, helping businesses think forward. For more information, visit prairiecap.com/ggob. That's prairiecap.com/ggob.
Welcome to the “Change the Game" Podcast, where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast with special guest and founder of the Great Game of Business and father of open-book management Jack Stack. In this episode, Jack, Rich, and Steve foreshadow what you can expect at the annual Great Game of Business Conference, including Jack’s secrets on how he has been able to predict and overcome the last three recessions. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.
Steve Baker 0:57
Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast where we are Changing the Game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker, and with me is Rich Armstrong, president of the Great Game of Business, and co-author of our new book Get in the Game. Hello, Rich.
Rich Armstrong 1:16
Hey, Steve, how are you?
Steve Baker 1:18
I'm excellent. We are really going to have some fun today, because we've got a very special guest. You've known him for a long time, he’s Jack Stack, our founder and CEO of SRC holdings.
Jack Stack 1:31
And that's why you'll call it special.
Steve Baker 1:33
So special, so special.
Jack Stack 1:36
Steve Baker 1:37
Yes, indeed. For our listeners, Jack's been around the SRC since before the buyout in 83. Of course, the worst buyout in American history. No offense, Jack, but that's cool. Well, he, he doesn't like me to say this, but Inc. Magazine has called him the smartest strategist in America and the father of open-book management. He is a prolific author. He's written, of course, The Great Game of Business, A Stake in the Outcome, and his latest book Change the Game: How to Save the American Dream by Closing the Gap Between the Haves and Have Nots, along with Darren Dahl Jack Stack, how are you?
Jack Stack 2:13
I'm well, thank you very much. It's nice to see you and everybody else. Nice to see anybody to be honest with you.
Steve Baker 2:22
We sure appreciate you coming on and we're coming up very, very quickly on our 29th annual conference, which is hard to believe 29 years! I wondered if you can share a little bit about, you know, the conference, what it's about and how it's changed over the years?
Jack Stack 2:40
Well, you know, the world is changing so rapidly. I mean, even when I was asked to be a keynote at this year speech, I started four months ago to write the speech. And it was incredible, the changing environments that have occurred in such relatively short period times and how you have to adapt to so many of these changes. I mean, whether it's the first element of COVID, the conclusion of COVID, the first beginning of the Delta variant, and the idea with inflation and part shortages, and then bounce back in terms of the demand. I mean, this only happened in the last four months. So, to think about all the differences between the last time we had the gathering and the games, I guess the only thing I can say is that it's kind of a breath of fresh air to kind of just go somewhere let down and find out where everybody's at a given moment, because the world is moving so quickly. And to be able to sit down and find everybody's basically in the same place. I mean, some are probably better than some are probably a little bit worse. But majority, the people that you see at the conferences, okay, are seeking solutions, they're seeking relief, you know, they're seeking peace of mind. And then that's one of the things that's never changed is that when you leave that, you know, you do leave it with a sense of satisfaction, and then the speakers are very, very sincere. And the communications are very, just very uplifting. You know, I mean, I talked to, Alan this morning in terms of what he's going to talk about, and as I said, Alan, is pretty scary when you start doing the podcast. It's kind of negative, because oh, no, no, no, I'm not leaving some positive. And, you know, that's one of the things that have been obviously consistent in terms of you guys out of all the challenges that we got, we are going through in life right now. So, how is it changed? Well, it's virtual, and it's a hybrid. How is it changed from a standpoint of everybody is on edge? This year, everybody is trying to figure out should I go? Should I not go? Should I wear a mask? Should I not wear a mask? Am I doing the right thing to my associates? I mean, it is probably different from the standpoint is that there's an awful lot of anxieties and it's just It's different than it has been in the past. But most of the people are very interested in what you know what the content is the content is exceptional, the speakers are exceptional, and you walk away with a real significant peace of mind. So, I guess it's the external environments that are totally different, but the internal communications, the internal takeovers are as good as ever.
Rich Armstrong 5:2
Jack, you've, I'm sure you've attended a lot of conferences, what do you see that's unique about this conference? From maybe other entrepreneurial business conferences?
Jack Stack 5:41
Again, I really gotta tell you that, you know, one of them talking on the phone this morning, I have to say, Alan, you know, when you spoke at our last conference, I don't know how many years ago was okay, but you see some buddy that has a deliverable that you see an immediate cultural and behavioral change as a result of the message that the speaker gives. Okay, and we have really a lot of quality speakers. So, there's a lot of opportunities to really have taken home a significant impact. I don't remember a more significant impact. And Alan, okay, because you really hit the people in their 30s and 40s. Okay. And I know because several of our associates read that thing and said, oh, man, I gotta be thinking about this. Okay, I got to, you know, now that he's explained what's coming, he's challenged us to be doing something about it. That was a connection. Okay. Ours are really dynamite connection. Okay. I mean, I wouldn't highly recommend that everybody go into a fast-growing business, like funeral homes, okay. But, you know, his diversification techniques in his reality relative to his forecasting, okay, it really hit home and behavioral changes. And as you well know, it takes a long time. You know, cultural changes, really, really take a lot of time. When you do thorough Congress's nature, and just somebody hits the mark of a, somebody pulls back the arrow, and somebody just places it right in the middle. You know, that is special. I mean, if you don't walk away with one of those, and it makes a difference in a person's life. You know, that's, you know, that's worth everything. So,
Steve Baker 7:26
So well, you you've mentioned, Alan a couple of times. So, for our listeners, that's Alan Beaulieu, of ITR. Economics, he's kind of a Rockstar, economist that has a 95% accuracy rate, I think it is.
Jack Stack 7:39
Over any forecasts are 10 years. So, it's pretty intriguing.
Steve Baker 7:44
It really is, without, you know, letting the cat out of the bag. Can you tell us a little bit about I know you've been talking to Alan, can you share with people what they might expect to hear from Alan, at the conference?
Jack Stack 7:58
Well, I think that he's going to be very, very realistic in terms of the challenges and he's going to make some conclusion or what the events are going to occur. And they're going to scare you. Okay. You know, maybe not immediately, but you know, when you look at this thing, and you put all the macroeconomics together, and you talk about the labor shortages, and the increase in social overhead, and the fears of interest rates, okay, I mean, it gets down to a point of just how much social overhead can you put on the backs of people that are working before the backs of the people break, okay? And, you know, so somewhere along the line, there's an inflection, you know, now he forecast the inflection, which is pretty scary. But then he leaves you with the idea that things that we really need to do in order to be able to avoid it or to be able to put it in our business plans, or, you know, anybody that blows somebody out of their seats by grabbing him by the collar and sayings of a buck you gotta go think about the future. This is what he does. Okay? I mean, he just look at we've talked about this even I'm going to speak on it, okay, this whole idea of planning is all about thinking differently, the whole idea of execution relative to plan. It, it doesn't happen right now. Okay. I mean, everybody's trying to figure out whether to mandate mass, everybody's trying to figure out how to mandate vaccinations, okay, everybody's dealing in these present problems. And, you know,
1. The importance of planning for the future even when the challenges of the present are so daunting.
nobody sits there and puts a 10-year plan together and then tries to figure out all the steps that you have to do it. So, I think a lot of the conference from the very beginning to the end is getting people to think about the high involvement aspect of strategic, of strategy. Okay, high-involvement planning and so I could see that fulfilling for the middle, which is gonna be a breath of fresh air because we're so entangled in terms of the present challenges. Now we got Afghanistan, we really got to worry about Okay, and we've got inflation that we got to worry about, and we also got the fall coming in and trying to figure out whether there's going to be sure, we think in short term, alright. So, one of the keys to this thing, okay is to be able to try to figure out why don't wait, what prevents people from planning? You know, and to give them I think, clarity through the eyes of an economist, okay, that has an accuracy rate that he has. And we've used them for 20 years, okay. I mean, I used them the other day when I got his June report, and it told me that we expect to see a turn down in agricultural and construction business, right. And I went to our people in construction and Ag, and I said, you guys, you know, I got this really smart guy it's telling me that there's gonna be a drought out there and there's gonna be, yeah, there's gonna be high prices, okay, but there's gonna be a slowdown. Are you seeing it and they go like oh it must be something else, they go oh I’m not seeing this seeing it man, we got an Order Bar, though you kill line, you know, we got all this notices? Two days ago, one of my associates comes in with head hanging down, saying, dude, we got to drop our sales forecast. Because there's a downturn in ageing, there's gonna be a downturn in construction for a while. So, you know, I think if you can absorb everything that's going to have this conference is that you may eliminate unexpected surprises, if you believe in forecasting and you believe in planning. Okay.
Rich Armstrong 11:33
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And the conference also gives us a chance to kind of highlight some of the amazing practitioners we have through the All-Star Awards, and why we're not ready to announce with the 20-21 winners are just yet, but as a judge, could you talk just a little bit about what your thoughts are about the all-star team in general, this year,
Jack Stack 11:57
You know, blows me away is and we're forced the only pick a couple out of so many. I mean, I know it sounds funny, when you sit there and say all you guys are winners, and all you guys deserve to be number one. And I am the biggest proponent of a contest, in a game, there is in the world okay, I can't I cannot wake up in the morning without betting against my toothbrush, okay? And to be able now to see all these people, you know, and your heart goes out, and then is to figure it out, man, do I really have to figure one in the social sector, that's a big one rookie in the social sector, I get these people are solid, these people get it. And I think this is something that really has tremendous potential in terms of the multiple effect. You know, once people read them, they realize it affects all different industries, okay, it isn't only for manufacturing. You know, it also, you know, for me, you know, when I found out that one of the companies and got a liquor store, you know, and they did really, really well playing the Great Game of Business, nobody could be more inspired with a story of that nature. Okay. So, it's also fun to listen to the various organizations, okay, someone's got a ski resort, okay, someone's running a laundromat. Okay, that serves beer. You know, maybe there's a common theme in this, I don't really know. But they're just great stories, okay. And we just don't get to read great stories all the time. You know, you watch the news, you watch the news, the first 29 minutes in the news is catastrophic events, and one minute is devoted to good news. it's consistent in all the media that we receive. So, to be able to have something like this all start with and believe me, the people that apply to this thing are outstanding leaders, okay. And you can tell that also, they've engaged all their people in terms of the presentation, the case study, so you don't get a case study from the perspective of PRH.
2. Having the opportunity to learn from other great business minds and stimulate your thinking.
And you get living breathing, testimonials, living breathing wills, in terms of validation on what's happening inside the organization, then you get a lot of takeaways, you get a lot of nearly new ideas in terms of what people are doing, but what you're doing is you're stimulating thinking, you're stimulating around a process, okay? And that process is the Great Game of Business, okay. And that's a process that you can use, not only in building an institution, but it's a process that you can use in terms of solving a problem or adapting to a changing environment. I mean, we used it immediately upon march of 2020, when we had the first Inklings that COVID was going to be catastrophic, and we'd fell right into, let's get the rules out there. Let's do our own math. Let's keep the score cards, because we're in consistency with the rules that are coming in. But if we could get our own data, we can rely on our own data. And in the end, is that hopefully we'll have the positive results or make the right decision. It's I don't think everybody understands that this is an agricultural process to many, many other things other than leaving an organization or building a community, you know, it's kind of its, it's a pattern. I talked about it in the speech, okay, it's about developed, you know, the how the golfer develops the muscle memories. I mean, they go out there and they shoot the shots continually, continually. So, their muscles can't do any other way. But the perfect way. That's what this system really is about that. We've seen it so many times. And what you'll see it at the conference, that the link between all the organizations, okay, as they get it, get it all right. And it does change people's lives. So, it's kind of exciting time.
Steve Baker 15:46
That is cool. Well, it's gonna be exciting to see all the all-stars and all the great takeaways from them. But you know, a lot of people, they come to hear from you, Jack, and everybody's excited, know what you're going to be talking about? What are you most excited about? What are you going to be talking about?
Jack Stack 16:03
You know what I really enjoyed the pressure that you put on me. I really think real, that's what I'm excited about the house is nice. Oh, yeah, people are really excited to see you where they're really excited to hear for you. And it's kind of, it's certainly kind of saying You better not screw up. I mean, you know, I mean, it's hard enough for me to go to sleep after three o'clock in the morning to be able to kind of pressure out. Okay. But again, I, I think we are all blessed to be an average company. Okay, we are mid America. And you know, we're so much alike, and with so many other organizations, okay. We're the average, okay. And what's fascinating is to be in that particular sector, to really enjoy the fruits of your labor and the things that you do and the ability to share them with everybody else. All we're doing is we're sharing experiences. I mean, what people really want to hear. Okay, it's why we were here for 38 years. Okay. Yeah. I think it's ironic that the audience is the first thing they want to hear is, well, where did we leave off? Yeah, sometimes it's really interesting to really think about the fact that the audience is really pushing the living lab. Okay? Because they really want to see, you know, how this thing can continually evolve and how it doesn't become routine, and it doesn't come become boring, how can something last this particular long, and then, you know, have the ability to be able to throw off the rewards that it throws off to the owners, the shareholders and the stakeholders of the company. Okay, I just didn't like to hear, you know, the ins and out the true intricacies of the business. You know, it's like, we just, we open up our books to our people and then we open up our doors to our people, okay, now everybody looks at our doors, not drawers, they look at our doors. And they really want to see what's happening and suddenly fascinating how in the past, they always wanted to see how that our 10-year plan goals over 09, and we went to all the gatherings, and they keep saying, well, we'd like to hear where do you stand relative to your award shows? Where do your, you know, where do you stand in terms of the war on talent? All right. I mean, I need to go back to all the 29 oh there’s only. I think we missed the 9/11 crisis, you know, which was a catastrophic event. And but I think they liked to hear all you, you were bold enough to go out there and put a five-year plan together again, did you make it or not, you know, and so, basically, what we do is we kind of start out at the end of the presentation saying, Yeah, we made it.
3. Updates on SRC and business insights during Jack's speech.
You probably didn't think we're gonna make it, but we did make it and now we've been through the valley of death. And, you know, we got ourselves out of it. How did you get out of it? You know, I think people like business, okay, so we share all the good and the bad, the ugly with everybody in the audience. So, I have as much of a good time as they hopefully have a good time. Okay, so it's a two-way street. I get a lot out of them, and they get maybe a lot of bullshit out of me, I don't know.
Steve Baker 19:16
Well, I love that got some good takeaways, I always like to, you know, make some notes. And, you know, you started out by talking about there is a lot of anxiety about out there and we're so entangled with the present. This really hit me. everybody's thinking short term, no one's putting together these, you know, high involvement strategic plans are not thinking further out like we need to, and there's so much that we need to be paying attention to, like ZBrush social overhead, how much can we actually absorb before we break the system, or the backs that people are paying for it? You also said something I think everybody can handle and I'm paraphrasing but you said behavioral and cultural change. take a long time. If you have back access to content that accelerates that, grab it. And you might even come away from this conference, eliminating unexpected surprises. Those are all big takeaways for me. And then when you talked about the All Stars, it was, it was kind of touching to hear you say it was hard to select the ones that were going to be the, you know, the top winners, there were so many great companies, but also so many great takeaways from them. So, we're very excited to hear what the message is. And you know, what plans that Jack Stack has, and we'll hear from Alan Beaulieu. And then I my favorite takeaway from the whole thing was, I you just said, I get as much out of it as I think people do, you know, you get so much out of the conference. So, I really appreciate that.
Jack Stack 20:43
Yeah, I feel bad that I can't get to every one of the breakouts. I mean, I tried to jump into one after another after another and I, you know.
Steve Baker 20:50
Ah ha. So, Jack, this year as you get to go to all of the breakout sessions, because everyone who attends gets access to all the breakouts for 45 days after the conference. And that was a softball right there. Thank you for that. market this thing? Well, listen, it's not too late to be part of the fun and learning at the 29th annual Great Game of Business conference. It's September 8 through 10th 2021 in Dallas, Texas, and also online. If you can make it to Dallas, we'd love to see at the Hilton, Anatole, if not, we have so much networking and learning opportunities on our digital experience. You just won't believe it. You can learn more and register at openbookconference,com. Rich Armstrong, Jack Stack. Thanks for being on the show. We'll see you in Dallas.
Jack Stack 21:41
And the conference is masked.
Steve Baker 21:44
The conference is masked. That's right. Dallas County has a mask mandate. And we will be there masked up. We're making America beautiful
Jack Stack 21:53
Ounce of prevention.
Steve Baker 21:55
That's right. You don't want to see my face. You want to see it covered. You’d like to see me in a burqa.
Jack Stack 22:00
I've got no comments. No comment.
Steve Baker 22:06
Jack, it's always fun. Thank you. So much
Jack Stack 22:08
Alright, you guys have a good one and I'll see you at the conference.
Rich Armstrong 22:11
Yeah, thank you, Jack.
Jack Stack 22:12
Okay, thank you.
Steve Baker 22:13
All right. Let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges, and of course your victories because that is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time.
The "Change the Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit greatgame.com.
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