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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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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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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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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Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen

Company Background

The Macayo’s family-owned restaurant tradition began in 1946, when Woody and Victoria Johnson opened their first café in Phoenix. Today, Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen is an award-winning chain of 14 restaurants that ring up annual sales of $35 million. Its 1,200 employees have been playing The Great Game of Business since June 2008.

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Greene County, MO

Company Background

Greene County is located in Southwest Missouri with a population of some 275,174, 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.

Business Challenges

“Our business is the public's health, safety and welfare,” says Tim Smith, the County Administrator for Greene County. “But unlike a company like SRC, each of our departments has a different mission. We have struggled to find a way to bind ourselves together as we provide a whole spectrum of almost unrelated activities.” While Greene County might be home to a Who’s Who list of companies who have successfully weathered the Great Recession of 2008, the county itself, like many others across the U.S., has continued to struggle in managing its resources across its various departments. Specifi-cally, the cash balance in the county’s general fund is currently on life support. With tax increases politically unfeasible, the county has looked to the GGOB for other potential solutions.

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Advantax Group

Company Background

David LeVan founded Advantax Group, which provides corporate property tax consulting and compliance services, back in 1995 after a successful career working at Kraft Foods and Coopers & Lybrand. While the company has a 20-year track record in saving its clients time and money, it was a chance encounter with Tom Walter of Tasty Catering in Chicago in 2012 that turned LeVan on to the potential opportunities of embracing the GGOB in his business – an effort the firm kicked off in January 2013.

Business Challenges

For years, LeVan admits he struggled to find the best way to share his firm’s financial num-bers with his associates. “As an owner, you can feel the pressure of owning all the num-bers,” he says, noting that the firm’s projects were also largely run inside silos where infor-mation wasn’t readily shared. “I was intrigued by the idea that if we gave people the con-text, we could get everyone on the same page and more engaged in the business.”

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