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Launched in 1964 with a modest supply of black and white tuxedos, Jim’s Formal Wear (Trenton IL) has grown into one of the nation’s largest and most respected merchandisers of tuxedos, special-occasion finery, and accessories. Today, the company’s 500 employees, who operate 8 regional distribution centers and 16 retail stores, service nearly 4,000 dealers—mostly mom-and- pop bridal and tuxedo shops. Jim’s generates annual revenue of $35 million.
Over the years, the company has reinvented itself to accommodate fickle consumer tastes and ever-changing demographics. By 1994, Jim’s managers were already linking team productivity to bottom-line results. But president Gary Davis had a hunch that Great Game® initiatives could “take [our] shared- success concept to new heights.” The challenge became one of implementation: How do we adapt the Game to our already open, collaborative culture?
Within months, they had created a gain sharing program that paid bonuses for spikes in profit. Once monthly statement reviews were underway, their Great Game Coach got everyone jazzed up about forecasting. The rest, as they say, is history. Jim’s hourly employees began running their own departments like businesses, taking decisive action (hiring, cross-training, counseling) like seasoned CEOs. One savvy stand-out, for example, pushed to redesign Jim’s shipping boxes and dramatically reduced freight costs. Another worked with the local power company to save on utilities. “These folks determine which suppliers to purchase from...which freight carriers to use,” says Dale Hoffmann, VP of wholesale operations. “They make numerous daily operations decisions which had previously been left to management.”
Collaborative work groups thrive at Jim’s. There are continuous improvement teams for quality, safety, and forecasting. An advisory group called Adcom meets regularly to tweak company policies and procedures. The distribution centers create their own programs—recreational sports, wellness, community outreach, business-literacy—to help promote a healthy work environment.
Colorful MiniGames have been used generously to increase the accuracy of forecasts, exploit opportunities, and squeeze out weaknesses. The Extra Eye- ball Game, for instance, helped catch errors in orders and reduce replacement items. Chaos Day kicked off a comprehensive cross-training program that encouraged employees to test-drive jobs in other departments.
Today, Jim’s continues to implement creative programs than inspire (and ensure) peak performance. There are random quality audits, bonuses based on positive feedback from customers, an intensive two-day training course for team leaders called Tux Tech, and a special orientation and buddy system for new hires. Says Hoffmann: “Open-book provides everyone at Jim’s a foundation to work from and a target to shoot for.” Inspiring words from a veteran player.
- Revenue: Rose $14M to $34M, up134%. Annual volume doubled.
- Debt: Virtually debt free and fighting off publicly-held giants.
- Net income: Increased 43%.
- Financial literacy: Ongoing statement reviews and reading groups.
- Orientation: A buddy system helps new hires “learn the ropes.”
- Order accuracy: Increased from an average of 98.75% to 99.2%
- Forecasting: Teams help manage controllable line items such as labor, supplies, and freight.
- Advice: “When people take pride in their work and workplace, this feeling manifests itself in ways that don’t always show up directly on the financial statements.”
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