All-Star Case Studies

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

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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Sun Design

Company Background

Started nearly two decades ago in Burke, Virginia, Sun Design – which focuses exclusively on the residential home renovation market – operates under the principles of truth, charity and fun. The company began playing the Great Game of Business in 2008 under the guidance of its owners – Craig Durosko and Bob Gallagher– and the company’s Game Master, Sandy Harris. “We stumbled a bit in the beginning implementing things like MiniGames,™” she says. “But we have continued to get better at playing the Game and it has made a huge difference in our results.”

Business Challenges

Few industries felt the sting of the recession more than the residential construction business did over the past few years - a pain that Sun Design shared in. “Coming off of two very successful years in 2006 and 2007, we began 2008 with high hopes and great expectations,” says Harris. “Then, as the market began to slide and our leads began to slow, we saw a significant decrease in revenues with an overall drop of 6.9% for 2008 from the previous year.” To compensate for this drop, the company suffered through its first ever layoff.

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Destination Harley Davidson

Company Background

When Ed Wallace bought a struggling 13-employee Harley shop in 1994, he had high hopes and big plans. He had no clue, however, how successful his dealership would ultimately become. In nine short years, Destination Harley- Davidson grew ten-fold, expanding to 100,000 square feet, 180 employees and annual sales of $40 million. Along the way, it’s been lauded by regional and national business publications for its innovative merchandising, training and marketing practices. Among its Harley peers, Destination has ranked first in new buyer/customer satisfaction for the past five years in a row.

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Whole Foods Market

Company Background

Whole Foods Market, founded in 1980, is the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods, with 185 supermarkets and several distribution centers in North American and the United Kingdom. Grown largely through mergers and acquisitions, the Austin-based company (Nasdaq: WFMI) has 39,000 team members and posts annual sales of $4 billion. In 2006, Whole Foods ranked #15 on Fortune magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”. It was the company’s ninth appearance on that annual list, and its highest ranking yet.

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Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

Company Background

It was back in 1982 that Ari Weinzweig and his partner, Paul Saginaw, opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The business has grown by leaps and bounds – particularly since 1992, when the partners began to expand their enterprise by creating the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB), a collection of what is now 11 ventures that include: the deli, a bakery, a mail-order house, a caterer, a training business, a coffee company, a creamery, a restaurant, a candy maker, an event space, and most recently, a Korean restaurant. ZCob also includes a separate business called Zingerman’s Service Network that provides administrative services to its sister companies. Zingerman’s was inducted into the Great Game of Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

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New Belgium Brewing Company

Company Background

In 1991, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan launched New Belgium Brewing in the basement of their home. Today, thanks to many delightful brews and some excellent management practices, the $60-million company is the eleventh- largest brewery (and the third-largest craft brewery) in the nation. Based in Colorado, New Belgium is managed by 225 enthusiastic employee owners who brew, taste, package, market and sell about a dozen specialty beers to restaurants, taverns and other outlets throughout the western U.S.

Business Challenges

In recent years, the beer market has been relatively flat. The craft market, however, grew 9% in 2005. Other challenges include lousy weather, smoking bans and stiffer drunk driving laws. (Not that the latter is a bad thing; NBB advocates responsible drinking.) Still, the brewery has enjoyed enviable growth, posting double - and even triple-digit annual growth rates.

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1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Company Background

In 1989, university student Brian Scudamore bought a used pickup truck and started a junk-removal service. Today that service, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, is the world’s largest junk-removal franchiser, with more than 200 locations covering 48 of the top 50 metro areas in North America. The organization has scooped many national and international business awards for its fast growth, corporate culture and management practices. Recently, it twice topped Watson Wyatt’s list of the “Best Companies to Work for” in British Columbia. Vancouver-based 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has more than 1,050 junk haulers who drive 455 trucks and post annual system-wide revenue of $70 million.

Business Challenges

The primary challenge is managing hyper-growth. Hiring dozens of people while trying to maintain system efficiencies hasn’t been easy. And with the Olympics coming to Vancouver in 2010, the task of finding commercial space has been tough. Despite the hurdles, however, the company has consistently reached its targets for revenue and employee and franchisee satisfaction.

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Stellar Call Centre Solutions

Company Background

Stellar Asia Pacific and its global network of affiliates deliver contact-management and business-process solutions to some of the world’s most-admired companies. With more than 6,000 employees in 19 offices, Stellar handles 300+ million contacts and 100 million transactions every year. Its services include sales generation, customer care, tech support, surveying and the processing of payables, receivables and applications. Based in Australia, the company was founded on open-book principles in 1998.

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