Evergreen Cooperatives is a family of worker-owned cooperatives that includes the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and Green City Growers. It was launched in 2008 by a working group of Cleveland-based institutions—including the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the municipal government. The goal of the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, also known as the “Cleveland Model”, according to the Cleveland Foundation’s President/CEO and Evergreen Board Chairman, Ronn Richard is: “equitable wealth creation at scale.”
Giving ownership of the business was a critical first step in changing the lives of Evergreen’s employees—many of whom were formerly incarcerated. The challenge was that many of those employees didn’t fully understand or appreciate how their organization made money and generated cash.
Embrace the principles of The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) with their help of their coach, Anne-Claire Broughton, starting in 2019 by teaching employees financial and business literacy skills as well as how to think and act like owners of the business.
All three of the cooperative’s businesses—two laundry locations and the greenhouse—have had some ups and downs financially in their first year of playing GGOB. But more importantly, the cultural changes taking place will have long-term positive results—including dramatically lower turnover. “Employees are beginning to understand the impact that their actions and behaviors have on the numbers,” says Wynette Bryant, the Manager of Culture and Wealth Building. “Behaviors and attitudes have taken a 180-degree turn. Employees are more engaged. They are not only showing that they understand, but also proving it with their involvement. We see the results of collaboration and communication. We see that we are all working for a common goal. Everyone wants to win!”
“The Great Game of Business is fun, challenging, and informational. It helps you as a team to strategize for improvement to succeeding your goals for improvement.”
~ Shrondra Hawkins, Receptionist ECLC
Spotlight on the Pandemic
With such a large staff, there was ample concern for the safety of the employee-owners at Evergreen. Fortunately, while a few tested positive for the virus, 99% of the staff remained symptom free. Preventing layoffs was also a high priority for Evergreen, which led them to shift personnel around their facilities and to cut back on some hours until they secured their PPP loan. Green City Growers, whose primary customers were restaurants, also struggled with a drop in demand for high-margin products like basil. But the team was able to focus on protecting its cash and pivot some of its production to other lower-margin products like lettuce to try and weather the crisis. As Bryant, who is now a certified internal GGOB coach, says, “We’re not just growing lettuce there; we’re growing jobs.”
“I believe The Great Game of Business has been essential in building teamwork that is important for us to serve our customers. Employees are learning how important it is to help our company become a leader in the industry as well as the community.”
~ Dan Kesterson, Production Manager
Each of Evergreen’s facilities have launched successful MiniGames in the past year. One example from their Glenville laundry facility was called “Turn Up the Heat.” Its goal was to increase productivity—as measured by pounds per person per hour (PPOH). The team created a scoreboard in the shape of a thermometer to track their progress. In the end, the team pushed their PPOH from 97 in April 2019 all the way to 107 by July 2019—which earned them prizes that included a lunchbox, a “Turn Up the Heat” t-shirt, and a cookout.
When the pandemic allows, Evergreen plans to continue to work with Broughton in leveling up their Game by implementing department-level scoreboards while also launching new MiniGames. “We also have developed a plan to rotate more employees through owning line items on the top-level financial scoreboard,” says Bryant.
“We all have roles to play so we work as a team. I have also invested in a small business and I applied the ‘cash is king’ slogan into my everyday financial practices.”
~ Ramone Williams, Production worker