All-Star Case Studies

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

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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

Mid America Metals

Company Background

Mid America Metals is a 29-year-old firm based in Forsyth, Missouri, that provides metal, stone, wood, and glass refinishing and restoration services to primarily Class A office buildings across the U.S.

Great Game Solutions

Mid America had always been a company with strong family values because so many of the Donat family worked there. It all started 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 metalworkers, to start their own business.

Read More

Texas Air Composites

Company Background

Texas Air Composites, Inc. is an award-winning “overhaul” facility that repairs the sheet-metal, composite, and welded structures of airplanes for commercial and regional air carriers. Its clients include Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, Comair, SkyWest, Air Wisconsin, America West, Frontier Air, Cathay Pacific, Mesa Airlines, and WestJet. The five-year-old company has 72 employees (largely in sales, operations, engineering, purchasing, information technology, quality, and administration) and generates annual sales of $10 million.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More