Learn from the "Best of the Best" - the Great Game All-Stars
Wall-tech has been providing exterior painting, interior painting, metal stud framing, drywall, taping, finishing, EIFS, stucco, plaster, sandblasting, firestopping and fireproofing services since 1984. After CEO Pete Braun led a buyout of his company from its other shareholders in 2013, he saw the opportunity to create a more employee-focused culture for his business.
Pete Braun originally started working at Wall-tech 20 years ago as a project manager. More recently, as a reward for his hard work, he was given the opportunity to become one of the shareholders in the business along with the charge to help grow the business, which had revenues of about $4 million at the time. “People thought I was crazy,” says Braun.
From the start, Braun wanted to find a way to engage his employees and to instill more of an ownership mentality in them. But he had trouble getting the two other majority shareholders in the business to agree to create any kind of employee-based ownership structure. Ironically, it was the Great Recession that gave him his opportunity. With sales down, the other shareholders wanted to close the business – until Braun stepped up and offered to buy it himself. And even before the ink was dry on the paperwork, he had already hired a team from the GGOB to come in and help his team beginning playing The Game.
In the wake of the buyout, and poor financial results caused by the financial downturn, Braun wanted to find a way that would enable all of his project managers, foremen and other key field personnel to understand the financial aspects of the company – something that was unheard of in the construction industry, especially with a union workforce.
Braun had long been interested in the concept of employee-owned and run businesses. And it was through a reading list recommended by the National Center for Employee Ownership that he learned about the Great Game of Business in 2013. Soon after, with the help of coaches like Patrick Carpenter and Kevin Walter, the company began by holding company-wide huddles both in the office and out in the field to keep everyone fully informed on the company’s numbers. They also rolled out a series of MiniGames, a bonus program, and a Stock Appreciation Rights Plan to create a Stake in the Outcome for everyone in the company.
One of the challenges that Wall-tech faces is that it has a cyclical workforce of more than 150 employees who work on multiple projects throughout three different states. The commercial construction market typically has more mobile workers that go from company to company depending on where the work is at that moment. This created difficulties in getting all those folks in alignment with the company’s objectives.
An additional challenge is that most companies in the industry reward foremen and managers and not frontline workers. But that’s where, with the help of the GGOB, Wall-tech has begun to stand apart in its industry. The company makes it a point to tell new employees during their onboarding process about their commitment to an open culture and bonus plan. “We also explain to them that our field foremen use daily huddles to discuss the day’s work plan instead of just barking out orders without any regard for their input and feedback,” says Michael Olson, Walltech’s CFO.
After Wall-tech implemented its bonus program, word spread like wildfire and employees from other companies were soon calling Wall-tech’s foremen to let them know they wanted to come work for the company. “Many union employees involved with GGOB efforts are spending additional time over and above their normal work week to help implement our MiniGames and scoreboards,” says Olson. “This is not normal behavior in the union world.”
While Wall-tech has made a ton of progress in its first year, Braun knows they still have a plenty of work to repair the kind of “use and abuse” relationship that has long permeated the construction world. “We have a long way to go to help create trust and an ownership mentality,” he says. “But it’s amazing to look back and see how much we have already grown as a company in the past year.”
- With the help of The Game, Wall-tech has significantly increased its profitability, in which net income grew from $294,504 in March 2013 to $466,993 in March 2014.
- In March 2015, that number grew to an impressive $1,123,825. As a result, the company has been able to pay out quarterly bonuses from the very first quarter they began playing the Game.