Founded in 1998, 417 Magazine is a second-generation, family-owned regional magazine that focuses on telling its nearly 400,000 monthly audience members the stories they need to know from all around southwest Missouri. The company has also evolved to produce custom publications for corporations, communities, and charities.
When Logan Aguirre purchased the business from her parents in September 2020, she wanted to find a way to embrace transparency and create line of sight for her employees so everyone could see how they could make an impact. While the company had always shared profits with employees, Aguirre wanted to find a way to share profits in a way where everyone understood why they had earned a fair share.
Aguirre says she had learned about Jack Stack and The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) when she relocated to Springfield. As President of 417 Magazine, she decided it was the perfect financial operating system to take the company and its team to the next level. They began implementing GGOB in 2019 with the help of their coach, Katie Davis.
One of the biggest impacts from playing The Game has been in the awareness and focus on expenses and margins rather than only focusing on revenue. “Before implementing The Game, we saw our revenue grow but our profit shrink,” says Aguirre. “That was a troubling trend and it showed us that we didn’t have a system to help us evaluate revenue opportunities and price them to hit a target profit margin. We took on any revenue opportunity that came our way.” Now, thanks to opening their books and teaching everyone inside the business how they make money, the 417 team has been making better, more profitable decisions in growing their business. “GGOB has helped us focus on efficiency without sacrificing quality,” says Aguirre. In fact, they celebrated a record-breaking first quarter of 2022 for profitability—the GOAT, or greatest of all time—by bringing in 8-day-old baby goats to the office.
“GGOB has allowed us to come together as a whole to congratulate wins, suffer loses together never individually, understand financially where the company is and to mentally be more engaged in my work. The culture of the company has been improved by creating a work environment that is honest, forgiving, and creates a space for trust in all of the employees. We work together as a team. Having an insight of where the company is at financially improves my motives to produce better work and perform at my highest.”
~ Katie Batliner, Advertising Designer
Pain Points and Opportunities
When the 417 team began mapping out their budget for 2022, they saw that inflation was about to bite them as their printer raised prices. That forced the team to look at raising their own prices on ads by 3%, which matched their biggest hike ever. But as they did the math, they recognized that the 3% increase wouldn’t be enough—they needed to raise ad rates by 6%. “Before GGOB this would have been a really difficult thing for our sales team to support,” says Aguirre. “They would have given a lot of push back. But thanks to transparency and the financial literacy training, our team understood why this was necessary and supported taking it to market.” In the end, Aguirre says the ad price hike didn’t hurt renewals with their advertisers and revenues are up 10% in 2022.
“I love that everyone feels like they have a stake in the success of the company, and that we can ask any questions we have about the financials because nothing is off limits.”
~ Katie Pollock Estes, Editorial Director
To get the team involved in evaluating their communication tactics and coming up with new ideas to act upon in hitting their Critical Number of increasing meaningful engagement, the team launched a MiniGame they called “Make our Brand POP.” Team members earned various points based on their actions: one point for updating an email signature, for example, or five points for meeting with their “pop squad.” The goal was to earn 417 points over three months. “The end result was that we increased engagement with our brand while working together with different team members to make our readers and clients feel like family,” says Aguirre.
Goals for the coming year involve getting the team to look more strategically at the business and to lean on their coach Katie Davis in going deeper with High-Involvement Planning™. But Aguirre is also aware of how tough the past few years have been on the mental health of her team. To address that, 417 set its Critical Number for 2022 as a challenge for the team to take 100% of their paid time off during the year. “The discussion started at our leadership offsite where we talked about how everyone was overwhelmed and didn’t always feel like they could step away because of workload,” says Aguirre. That’s a vicious cycle, and we were all feeling it. Now we have something we can all cheer for.”
“I feel like it's brought the heart back into our company. From our annual ‘spirit stick’ trophies to kudos or high-fives in the huddles we now have a way to celebrate and recognize a job well done. No matter how big or small.”
~ Megan Johnson, VP of Operations