All-Star Case Studies

Learn from the "Best of the Best" - the Great Game All-Stars

Willoway Nurseries

Company Background

Willoway Nurseries is a wholesale grower of trees, shrubs, perennials and seasonal color crops that ships to retailers and contractors in 26 states. The company was searching for a way to operate leaner and to get its workforce, employees in the field and in the back-office, on the same page.

Founded by Les and Marilyn Demaline in 1954, the second generation oversees current operations. The third generation has also taken an interest in the business - granddaughter, Emily Showalter, oversees the HR department and grandson, Eric Demaline, is a foreman in operations. During the past 61 years, the company has transitioned from landscaping to a wholesale nursery, growing more than 2,000 varieties of plant material on 1,000 acres. Willoway is currently the largest wholesale grower of nursery products in Ohio, with a customer base of more than 1,200 independent garden centers and landscape contractors in the Midwest and East Coast.

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Jenner Sales Corp.

Jenner Ag, the Case IH Agriculture Application Equipment Distributor for the states of Illinois and Indiana, has been serving its customers for 56 years and counting.

Rapid Financial Results; Lasting Cultural Change

Before the team at Jenner Ag began playing the Great Game of Business, they were doing well – growing at about 5% per year. But thanks to Great Game practices, the company kicked its annual growth rate up a notch to 10%. The company was also very profitable, which was shared with employees through an aggressive bonus plan. 

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Kiolbassa Provision Company

Company Background

The Kiolbassa Provision Company is a 65-year-old family-owned manufacturer of handcrafted sausage based in San Antonio, Texas. Originally started as more of a pork and beef processor, the company shifted into making sausage fulltime under the guidance of president Michael Kiolbassa, whose grandfather started the company. The company’s sausages is now sold in all 50 states and in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

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West Paw Design

Company Background

West Paw Design is a world-class manufacturer of high-quality pet toys, beds, and apparel based in Bozeman, Montana. Founded in 1996, 100% of West Paw Design's products are manufactured in the U.S. using nontoxic, organic, or recyclable materials and are sold largely through independent retailers.

Business Challenges

Manufacturing in the U.S. creates lots of challenges for West Paw, especially when it comes to battling the lower prices offered by its competitors who typically make or source their product from overseas. While the business had been largely successful over the long run, it began to lose money in 2012 – a crisis that triggered the firm’s founder, Spencer Williams, to turn to the GGOB for answers.

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Greene County Missouri

Company Background

Greene County is a county located in Southwest Missouri with a population of more than 275,000, making it the fourth most populous county in Missouri. Its county seat is Springfield – home of SRC and The Great Game of Business. Due to the success of companies like SRC, Bass Pro Shops and O’Reilly Auto Parts, Greene County ranks in the top five counties nationwide based on economic strength and viability.

The administrators of Greene County, Missouri, had long admired the business practices of one of its homegrown companies, SRC Holdings. While running a public-sector organization is very different than running a for-profit business, county administrators believed they could benefit by implementing some of the GGOB’s best practices.

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Mid America Metals

Company Background

Mid America Metals got its start when Donat, who had earned his chops in business working at a large auto dealership in Chicago, teamed up with his two brothers, who were both metal refinishers, to start their own business. “We started out of the back seat of our car,” says Donat, about his business which performs services like removing a scratch from an elevator
door, honing and polishing a lobby floor, or restoring a building’s wooden accents. When Donat bought out his family members five years ago, he wanted to build a common core or culture for the company despite the geographic differences that separated his associates. He turned to the GGOB for help and 2014 was the first year where the entire company was engaged in financial literacy training, huddling, and forecasting.

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SRC Electrical

Company Background

SRC Electrical, which re-manufactures starters, alternators, and generators for the agricultural and construction industries, has been playing the GGOB since its start as a joint venture with Case New Holland back in 1991. Over time, and especially after the company became entirely owned by SRC in 2009, SRC Electrical has become one of open-book management’s most prominent evangelists. Today, it serves as a showcase for visitors interested in learning how to play the GGOB from the best of the very best.

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Be Found Online

Company Background

BFO (Be Found Online) is a Chicago-based digital marketing agency that delivers organic media, paid media, local search, and digital analytics solutions to medium-sized and enterprise-level businesses. The company discovered the Great Game of Business based on its interest in the so-called “gamification” of business.

BFO’s roots date back to 2009 when its two founders, Dan Golden, now president, and Steve Krull, CEO, left their big agency careers to create a more nimble and vibrant working environment. As Krull puts it: “We maintain a culture of passionate, fun people who cultivate enduring client relationships based on accountability, inspired by creativity, and driven by analytics.”

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AEP SWEPCO – Pirkey

Company Background

American Electric Powers’ (AEP) Pirkey Power Plant in Hallsville, Texas, has been providing low-cost power to its customers since 1985. The plant is part of a division of AEP called Southwestern Electric Power (SWEPCO), which is composed of eleven plants over a three-state region that includes parts of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Business Challenges 

Operating in a heavily regulated industry creates different challenges for a plant like Pirkey, says Drew Seidel, the plant’s manager, especially when it comes to thinking about revenue, which is something outside the plant’s control. What Seidel and his team can focus on, however, is controlling costs. “We have more things to take care of than we have money to take of them with,” says Seidel, who has been with AEP for more than 20 years. “And the leaner we run and the more waste we eliminate, the more things we can do.”

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O’Connells OBM

Company Background

O’Connells OBM is a progressive chartered accounting firm based in Brisbane, Australia, that specializes in providing its clients with proactive tax and business advisory services. The OBM in the firm’s name is short for open-book management, which the company first em-braced some 15 years ago.

Business Challenges

The O’Connells’ team has long been a fan of not just open-book management, but also the GGOB – all of which dates back to a trip by Jack Stack to Australia in 2001. Inspired by what they heard, they immediately implemented several components of the Game such as play-ing MiniGames and set about creating an ESOP plan which now owns 24% of the business. While the firm noticed immediate success in the following years, things began to turn sour in 2010 when it experienced a decline in revenue for the first time in a little over 30 years of doing business – and 2011 looked even more ominous. “All of a sudden things felt very much out of control,” says Adam Dierselhuis, O’Connells’ director.

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