All-Star Case Studies

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

Van Belle Nursery

Company Background

Van Belle Nursery is a commercial supplier of trees, plants, and shrubs based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. The company, which was founded in 1973, ships to a variety of retailers in western Canada as well as in the northern U.S.

Business Challenges

One of the biggest challenges that the nursery faces is finding a way to build a cohesive com-pany culture for its 100 associates, most of whom are immigrants from companies like Mexico, Iraq, Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, and India, and even a few from Canada.

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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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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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Chuck Latham Associates

Company Background

Chuck Latham Associates (CLA) is a leading broker in the specialty retail areas of pet care, equine products and sporting goods. Its capable team (120 full-time and up to 1,000 part-time associates) helps client's exceed their distribution goals by providing sales, marketing and retail services and expertise. The $19-million company, based in Colorado, has been playing The Game since 2007.

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The Booksource

Company Background

The Booksource got its start 1974 when Sandy Jaffe bought a company called Paperback Supply, a local book wholesaler in St. Louis, MO. Jaffe subsequently made many changes to the business, expanding through several acquisitions and changing its name in 1987. Today, the business operates four divisions, including two binderies, and is one of the leading providers of books to school districts across the country. Some of the biggest changes came after the company began playing the Great Game of Business three years ago under the guidance of Gary Jaffe, the company’s COO, and Kim Hart, PHR, Vice President of Human Resources.

Business Challenges

While the Jaffes operated Booksource with an open culture, they recognized that they needed a more structured approach to engaging their employees – many of whom do not have college edu-cations – and teaching them financial awareness about concepts like budgeting and cash position. “We were doing some open book things like putting up company-wide scoreboards, but that was just sharing the results of what had already happened,” says Gary Jaffe. “We needed to start forecasting so that we could see what would happen next.”

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Mears Floral Products, Inc

Company Background

Mears Floral Products, Inc. (MFP) is a wholesale distributor of fresh flowers and greens, plants, interiors products, and floral supplies such as: glassware, baskets, silks, ribbon, dried materials, foam, preservatives, Christmas decor, and more. Founded more than 60 years ago, MFP, which is based in Springfield, MO, and has 28 employees, serves retailers in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma with its fleet of refrigerated trucks.

Business Challenges

MFP has struggled not only in the wake of the recession, but also with the passing of their president, Dave Mears, who was also the past president of WFSSA (Wholesale Florist Association) and regarded as one of the industry’s best. The company has seen a steady decrease in sales and profits every year since 2006. “We have made a lot of improve-ments since then, which was enough to keep our doors open,” said Vice President Kelly Parsons, “but it just wasn’t enough to be profitable.”

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