Liz Wilder, President at Anthony Wilder Design/Build gives a heartfelt talk on inspiring others to build their dreams and weathering the storm during a recession by using every single measure to save every single job.
Episode with guest: Liz Wilder
President at Anthony Wilder Design/Build
(This episode was recorded in September of 2018.)
Key Episode Take-Aways:
1. Developing a culture where your employees feel empowered to do more and to be more. (click to jump to this topic below) But it is one of the things that drives me. So, we wanted a culture where our employees were empowered to do more and to be more. And we wanted one more thing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Anthony and I will not live forever. And we want our company to continue on long after we're gone. And we want a business that will continue to contribute to our community and something that will be part of our legacy.
2. Using Great Game practices and principles to survive tough times. (click to jump to this topic below) We pulled together as a team and survived the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. It wasn't easy. But we did it. And just as we had hoped and believed we are stronger for it. Anthony and I believe that our company may not be here today, if we had not started playing The Game. On that day in 2006. We used our scoreboard to track our profits. And by April of 2011, we had paid back every penny of the reduced salary plus 5% interest.
Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.
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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 into this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast. In this episode, we pull out a keynote speech from our Great Game of Business Conference, Liz Wilder of Anthony Wilder Design/Build gives a heartfelt talk on inspiring others to build their dreams and weathering the storm during a recession by using every single measure to save every single job. We hope you enjoy this keynote as much as we do..
Liz Wilder 1:26
I love this quote. Share your knowledge, it's a way to achieve immortality. I love the quote because it reminds me of how fortunate each of us are that Jack has chosen and continues to choose to share his knowledge with all of us. And so today, I want to share our story and the knowledge we've gained by playing The Game. Inspiring everyone to build their dreams. That's what we do at Anthony Wilder design build. We partner with our clients to First imagine and then design and then build the home of their dreams. The years 2006 and Anthony Wilder Design/Build is on top of the world. Our revenues are up, our referrals are up. We're adding staff, we have a two-year backlog. And so, what did we do? More of the same, right. Because that was amazing. But no, it's not what we did. It's I kept coming back to our vision statement of inspiring everyone to build their dreams. We were inspiring our clients to build their dreams. But what about our dreams? Was this the business of my dreams? Could my staff say this is the job of their dreams? Were we truly dream builders, for everyone? By a show of hands, and I can't see everybody, this might not work so well. But by a show of hands, I have a fear of failing and a fear of letting good people go despite the war on talent. So, by show of hands, are there other business owners that share that fear? Oh, it looks like I'm in the minority.
1. Developing a culture where your employees feel empowered to do more and to be more.
But it is one of the things that drives me. So, we wanted a culture where our employees were empowered to do more and to be more. And we wanted one more thing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Anthony and I will not live forever. And we want our company to continue on long after we're gone. And we want a business that will continue to contribute to our community and something that will be part of our legacy. So, in 2006, we read the book, the Great Game of Business. And after reading the book and hearing Jack speak, we hired a coach and we started playing The Game. We knew that the goals that were outlined in the book were goals that we wanted to achieve, and we were willing to take some risk to achieve them. Inspiring everyone to build their dreams is not only our vision statement, but it's part of my personal mission. When I empower others, it inspires me. So that's the risk we took when things were going so well. We implemented the Great Game of Business. So now you ask, did the risk pay off? And I can tell you that the results were extraordinary and magical, and they are to this day. We taught everyone in the business, how to read our financials, how we make money and how they contribute to the bottom line. Since starting The Game, we have increased our staff by 50%. And our revenues have more than doubled. And those numbers would be impressive under any circumstances. But it's important to note that we achieve that success while surviving the worst recession of our lifetime. So, in 2007, we started, we were playing The Game, and it was working. And our future was bright. And there were substantial bonuses for everyone. But then, just one year later, in August of 2008, we noticed that our sales had dropped off significantly. And because we were playing The Game, our team also took notice. So, we announced the spending freeze, and we used The Game and our scoreboard to identify where we could save money. There were no more new office supplies, there were no more new tools. We cancelled our contracts with our consultants, and we even eliminated the cleaning company, and all pitched in to clean the office on Friday afternoons. By September, it was clear that we were headed for disaster. It was bad. Sales had dwindled to almost nothing. By October of 2008, the housing market had collapsed in our industry was in a full-blown panic. No one was building any new homes. No one was renovating their existing homes. There was just so much uncertainty that no one was spending money on anything, and everybody was hunkering down. Unfortunately, our ship was sinking. And it was clear that if we would be underwater, if we didn't take some drastic measures, Anthony and I met with our management team. And we work together through this painful challenge. These decisions were impossible. Trying to decide who to lay off felt like trying to decide which finger to cut off. Nothing was making any sense, and there weren't any good choices. No one questioned that drastic measures had to be taken. Because everyone could see the whole story on our scoreboard in our weekly huddle. I just could not accept laying anyone off. I was determined to find an alternative. And when I'm determined, I can find a way. So, after a lot of agonizing, we made the controversial decision. To implement companywide salary reductions. We decided we would cut deep, and we hope that it would just be one time. All staff would take a 20% cut in pay, management would take a 30% cut and pay. And Anthony and I would take a 50% cut in pay. That plan would only buy us three months. My stomach was in knots for days and hours leading up to that staff announcement. Anthony and I were so concerned about how people would take the news. How would they feed their families? We had people we had employees who were in the process of buying homes and sending kids to college. And we had a carpenter with seven children. I was heartbroken to deliver this news. We call this special meeting and the day of the announcement, I wanted things to be as normal as possible. I had to put my game face on, but inside I was falling apart. I still get emotional when I have to talk about this. But I knew it was time. And I knew that I needed to tell everyone what we had decided. I took a deep breath. And I told them we are taking every single measure to save every single job. And then I felt the tears. I'm not a crier. But in that moment, I couldn't stop the tears. So, I turned around and I faced the wall, and the room was silent. The tears weren't going away. All eyes were on me. And I knew I had to tell everybody what we had decided. So, I turned back around, and I face the entire company. And I said, as I cried, in order to survive this financial crisis, and keep our team intact, we will all have to take significant pay cuts. If we survive this, we will pay back every penny. And Anthony and I will do everything in our power to prevent layoffs. And we will fight this and survive it together. The room was silent. I was dying inside. And then from the back of the room. I heard Liz 20% is nothing. I looked up and it was Rian. The Carpenter was seven children. Rian went on to say, so many of my friends have lost their jobs, and they don't know how they're going to put food on the table for their families. And I just learned I get to keep my job. And just like that, the energy in the room shifted. It was an extraordinary response. After the meeting, I even had other employees come in offer to give up more of their salary for someone that they felt could not afford the cut.9
2. Using Great Game practices and principles to survive tough times.
We pulled together as a team and survived the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. It wasn't easy. But we did it. And just as we had hoped and believed we are stronger for it. Anthony and I believe that our company may not be here today, if we had not started playing The Game. On that day in 2006. We used our scoreboard to track our profits. And by April of 2011, we had paid back every penny of the reduced salary plus 5% interest. And we had restored salaries to their normal levels. Thank you. Part of Anthony's and my dream was to have Anthony Wilder design build owned by those who helped build it. And in 2016, we were thrilled to welcome 23 new employee owners through a stock purchase program that we made available to our entire team. Now they too are living the dream. We are so thankful that we took the risk and started playing The Game. We are grateful to Jack and his team for sharing their knowledge, and always being willing to be there for us. It's been a long road. But it's been a great journey. It's human nature to want to be part of something relevant. We each make choices every day that affect our businesses and our lives. And these choices, make up our life stories. This has been our life story and I want to thank you for allowing me to share it with you. If our story has inspired, you. I want to leave you with one last thought. Take the risk. Be brave, be bold, be open minded, know what motivates you and get the help you need to achieve it. Because in doing so, you will make your lives and your businesses extraordinary.
Steve Baker 13:53
Well, let's keep the conversation going guys send us your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges, your victories, your questions, and remember, you're not alone. This is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us. We will see you next time.
The "Change The Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit greatgame.com