All-Star Case Studies

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

NewStream Enterprises

Company Background

NewStream Enterprises, an SRC company that has been playing the Game since its birth in 1990, provides customized product-flow management services to manufacturing companies large and small. Its 60 employee-owners label, pack, store, control, and ship customers’ products all over the world. Today, NewStream (Springfield, MO) generates annual revenue of $37 million.

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Jim’s Formal Wear

Company Background

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.

Business Challenges

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?

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Kindermusik International

Company Background

Kindermusik International (Greensboro, NC) is an award-winning provider of innovative music-education programs for young children (up to age 7) and their parents and caregivers. Its 5,200 licensed educators in 35 countries teach music and movement classes using Kindermusik’s own age-appropriate lesson plans, books, audio CDs, instruments, games, and other activities. The 25-year-old company is managed by its 55 enthusiastic employee-owners.

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Laron Incorporated

Company Background

Laron Incorporated provides industrial project-management, construction, and repair services to power plants, utilities, global mining companies and other heavy-industrial organizations. The business, which now operates out of four locations, was originally started in 1975 as a machine shop. But when Glenn Thoroughman bought it in 1985, he renamed it in honor of the two men he bought it from: Larry and Ron. Laron was named the Great Game’s Rookie of the Year in 2005, and earned an All-Star Champion Award in 2007.

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Comfort Supply

Company Background

Nashville-based Comfort Supply, an $8-million wholesale distributor for the HVAC industry, proudly serves the building contractors of central Tennessee and beyond. The company’s 18 highly skilled business people help contractors and dealers become more profitable and successful by providing them with tools, training, marketing solutions and other value-added services that save time, energy and money.

Business Challenges

“In 2005, we were facing a serious financial situation,” recalls president and owner Clay Blevins. “Our biggest customer had just gone bankrupt, leaving us with a $300,000 bad debt. Our credit line at the bank was inflating faster than we had ever expected. If we didn’t get the company under control we could have been out of business.”

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Enercon Services, Inc.

Company Background

Founded in 1983 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Enercon Services, Inc. (ENERCON) has grown to be one of the largest firms providing environmental and engineering services in the nation. A 100% employee-owned company, ENERCON earned more than $220 million in revenue for 2012. The company has four divisions – Environmental Services, Power Generation, New Plant Services, and Federal Services – and operates out of 25 offices nationwide, plus international offices in Belgium and Abu Dhabi. Clients include: federal, state and local governments, most major electric utilities, chemical and nuclear fuel cycle facilities, oil and natural gas companies, and many Fortune 500 companies.

Business Challenges

ENERCON is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013 – and almost 20 years since it officially opened its books as part of a Great Game of Business initiative in the early 90’s. As the business has contin-ued to thrive during that time, it has grown rapidly – especially in terms of its payroll, which expand-ed from about 193 people in 1992 to more than 1,200 full and part-time associates today. The chal-lenge, the firm realized, was that there were only a handful of people who remembered why the company had opened its books in the first place and why it was so important to reconnect with those roots. “We wanted to refresh the mindset of what it means to think and act like an owner of this company,” says ENERCON president John Richardson.

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Clarke EyeCare Center

Company Background

Dr. Calvin Clarke opened Clarke EyeCare Center in Wichita Falls, Texas, back in 1973. His son, Danny, and his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth – who met each other at optometry school – then joined the practice in 1995. In 2010, the younger Clarke's bought the business - which provides optometry services, prescription glasses and contact lens - though the senior Dr. Clarke continues to see patients. The Clarke's began playing The Great Game of Business a few months after the change in ownership.

Business Challenges

While the business was doing well operationally, Clarke knew that his profits were some-what low relative to the industry and, more importantly, cash flow was not where it needed to be. “Bills would come in and checks would go out, but it was always borderline with how much money we had in the bank,” he says. Dr. Clarke also knew that his peers in the op-tometry field who were financially successful tended to be micro-managers when it came to the business side of the operation. He wasn’t interested. Rather, he hoped that playing the GGOB with his associates would bring about even better results than anything he could do on his own.

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Pizza Gallery & Grill

Company Background

It was back in 1989 that Chris Conneen, then 21 years old, started his business, Pizza Gallery & Grill (PGG) in Melbourne Beach, Fl., after he had what he calls, “an entrepreneurial seizure.” But it wasn't for another 20 years until Conneen, whose 260-seat restaurant combines gourmet food with eye-pleasing art, learned about the GGOB from fellow culinary entrepreneur Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Illinois. “Learning about and studying the GGOB in 2009, the worst economic year in our lifetime, helped us get focused on the fundamentals of business – particularly how to generate cash,” says Conneen.

Business Challenges

As he and his team began to play the Game, Conneen, like many business owners struggling through the recession, faced the challenge of paying off his long-term debts despite seeing fewer customers walk through his establishment’s doors. Other challenges facing the business included sky-high overhead fueled by a $19,000 monthly rent payment and the notion of teaching financial liter-acy to a staff of 70 who have an average age of 21. “We have always been great about giving our customers great products, service and atmosphere,” says Conneen. “We just haven’t made a lot of money doing it.”

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National Center for Employee Ownership

Company Background

Founded by Corey Rosen back in 1981, The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) is a private, nonprofit membership and research organization that serves as the leading source of accurate, unbiased information and research on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), equity compensation plans such as stock options, and ownership culture. Rosen says he started playing the GGOB back in 1984 after reading about it in an issue of Inc. magazine. “I knew right away that the GGOB was a perfect fit for the way we wanted to operate,” says Rosen, who was succeeded as the director of the NCEO by Loren Rodgers in April 2011.

Business Challenges

Rosen started the NCEO with the idea that there was a need for an organization that could create an awareness and understanding of how companies could benefit through employee ownership. Initially, his goal was to use grants to fund the growth of his new organization. But, after multiple rejections, Rosen decided that the NCEO would become self-sustaining by selling the information he was compiling through books and conferences – which created unique challenges for his not-for-profit organization. “Unlike a for-profit business, we didn’t want to set a market-clearing price as we wanted to keep prices low to make the information as accessible as possible,” says Rosen.

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Integrity Technology Solutions

Company Background

The truth is that Integrity founder Harlan Geiser first read the book, “The Great Game of Business” back in 1999, after which he picked a few concepts to implement like sharing revenues and handing out year-end bonuses. But after few successful years, those practices fell by the wayside. When the recession hit and the company lost money for the first time in its history during the first quarter of 2009, Geiser was ready for a change. After meeting with GGOB practitioner Jack O’Riley, Geiser decided it was time to revisit GGOB once again.

Business Challenges

The truth is that Integrity founder Harlan Geiser had first come across the GGOB back in 1999, from which he cherry-picked a few concepts like sharing revenues and handing out year-end bonuses. But after a few years, as the company continued to blossom, even those practices fell by the wayside. Then the recession hit and the company lost money for the first time in its history in the first quarter of 2009. That‟s when, thanks to a chance meeting GGOB practitioner named Jack O‟Riley, Geiser decided to revisit the GGOB once again.

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