Learn from the "Best of the Best" - the Great Game™ All-Stars
Location: Langley, British Columbia
2021 Revenues: $8.8 million
Profit Before Tax & Culture Scorecard
Coach: Kevin Walter
Caliber is a multi-family residential and mixed-use commercial construction management and general contracting firm that works with real estate developers in the Greater Vancouver, Canada, area to “Crush It, Own It, and Love It” on large scale projects, ensuring they stay on time, on budget, and on schedule. Their purpose at Caliber is “Building People and Processes”; they “just happen to do Construction.”
Owner Justin Bontkes started Caliber in the aftermath of the global 2009 real estate crash caused by the subprime mortgage crisis. “I lost my job working for a developer-builder and no one was hiring,” he says. “So, I had to create my own job.” Bontkes successfully grew and expanded his business over the next decade as the market began to boom again. Starting back in 2019, Bontkes began looking for a way to create a more equitable bonus program that would also get everyone focused on winning together as a team. “Our leadership team was making too many decisions and I wanted a way to involve the broader Caliber team in coming up with answers,” he says.“I believe the people at Caliber are what makes Caliber special, and I believe that having a gain share program that rewards and incentivizes people who are A players is the only way to run a business.”
After learning about The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) from their business coach Trevor Throness, Bontkes and the leadership team made the trip to Springfield, MO, to attend a workshop and see The Game in person. After struggling a bit to self-implement in a service-based business, they made the commitment to hire coach Kevin Walter and launched GGOB late 2020.
Playing GGOB has strengthened and protected Caliber’s already strong culture. It’s also encouraged a strong interest in Caliber’s business activities and the line-of-site impact on the financial statements. “There has been improved alignment between functional areas and responsible owners of the different departments and facets of our company,” says Bontkes. “Managers feel more accountable and informed on the financial state of the company and all employees know if we are winning or losing. Most importantly, there are more conversations amongst employees about how to execute work at a higher rate of efficiency and with more accuracy.” As a result, the company has seen skyrocketing performance in efficiency and profitability—which has earned the team top GainShare bonuses.
“Caliber’s culture is strong across all of our sites. No matter who you are, you are accepted and welcomed like you’re just a part of their everyday crew. Able to talk about problems that they’ve just found, and ways to avoid these extra costs. Management is able to chat with you on ideas on how to work around things. Everybody steps up to be an A Player.”
~ Nick Cherniak, Carpenter
Pain Points and Opportunities
It’s been a rollercoaster ride the past few years for the Caliber team. First it was working through COVID lockdowns and more recently it’s been dealing with labor shortages and inflation. Project liabilities in the construction industry have been especially problematic as developers with sold-out projects have now run into rapidly escalating costs. For example, a project that was priced at $55 million in 2021 might now cost $65 million.
“Volatility is the name of the game, “says Zack Staples, CFO. “It’s uncertainty all over the market. It’s remarkable how quickly and drastically your assumptions can change. That’s forced us as a team to increase the frequency of forecasting and communication so we can better respond to our risk environment. Our decision-making has improved as a result.”
“GGOB has added an extra layer of engagement for my job, peers, and the project. I now care more about the little things that add up.”
~ Kathy Labinsky, Site Safety Officer
Caliber has used MiniGames to create line of site for their associates into how they can drive construction schedules. But they’ve played a MiniGame they called “Beach Bod” to help teach the team about how a healthy lifestyle, which normally isn’t associated with the construction industry, can directly impact productivity by increasing energy, focus levels, and improved moods. The game encouraged associates to eat healthier, exercise, and drink more water to lose weight. The incentive was a team getaway weekend with “biggest loser” earning an extra vacation day as a reward.
The Caliber team recognizes that there’s always room to improve somewhere. And a priority for 2022 and beyond is to reinvest in their GGOB onboarding and training process. “We have scaled up so quickly over the past four years that our newer associates haven’t had the same opportunities as those of us who were involved in the beginning did,” says Staples. “We need to find ways to pass on the torch and continue to build energy around playing The Game.” Caliber is also focused on ensuring that its culture remains sticky when it comes to retaining the A players that have joined the team. To help measure that, they’ve created a culture scoreboard where they track five measures monthly, such as work-life balance, to see if they’re trending in the right direction. “If we hit our profit targets but people are suffering,” says Bontkes, “that doesn’t send the right message. We can’t overlook the importance of the people inside the business.”
“GGOB has allowed all employees to develop their knowledge of how the business runs and how to set goals.”
For nearly 40 years, The Great Game of Business™ has helped organizations reach their highest potential and value.
Tapping into the universal human need to win, GGOB educates your people in the rules of business, rallies them around a common goal, empowers them to see and improve the score, and engages them by giving them a stake in the outcome.