How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Company’s Future

Willoway Nurseries TeamWilloway Nurseries has always looked for new and innovative ways to improve efficiencies and better our products and services. At our operation, we faced the challenge of creating a new business culture that would work with the diverse education and language barriers for more than 400 employees. Our president, Tom Demaline, was looking for a way to improve communication, attract new employees, engage staff in making decisions, and take the company to the next level.

Demaline came across a new philosophy of operating, called The Great Game of Business, that Jack Stack developed more than 30 years ago to help companies implement open-book management practices. In the early 1980s, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC), a division of International Harvester, was near bankrupt when Stack took over and turned it around. He didn’t know how to manage a company, but he did know about the principles of athletic competition and democracy: keeping score, having fun, playing fair, providing choice, and having a voice. With these principles, he created his own style of management — open-book management.

Why Open-Book Management?

Many companies are looking for ways to keep everyone engaged in making their businesses successful. The open-book management concept gives everyone a better understanding of how business works, and everyone gets a stake in the game. It is called a game to make it fun. It gives staff the chance to be creative and encourages involvement and engagement in making improvements. Simply put, the process gives them a stake or ownership in the outcome.

Getting Started

Change needs to begin at the top, and you have to create a new culture of working openly as a team, or the process will not work. To start the game, everyone will need some business education to learn the rules of the game and the technical terms and processes. Staff receives training on basic things like how to understand input costs and profits, and how to read and comprehend a profit and loss statement. These tools provide the basis to make decisions or to offer better solutions for the future. Our ultimate goal at Willoway was to create a business of business-people who think, act, and feel like owners. This concept creates a culture of continuous improvement.

Creating a Vision

Many organizations confuse mission and vision. A mission is about who you are. Missions rarely change. Visions should be dynamic and consist of a drive of constant learning and innovation. Willoway gathered to have a high involvement planning meeting to start the process of creating a vision of what the company would look like in the future. We put sheets of paper on the walls and took down the key points that addressed the concerns of the crowd, and then created the vision and business plan in long- and short-term increments to move forward. The vision gives everyone a common goal to work toward and creates a stake in the game with measurable goals.

Measuring Progress

Every company has a critical number that will make it successful. We selected the profit before tax number, or PBT. This is the bottom line of the profit and loss statement. It is the start of the process to measure your progress and make decisions moving forward to work toward your vision. If it is not worth measuring, it is not worth doing. This also gives everyone a way to measure success, accountability, and ownership of his or her part of the profit and loss statement.

The goal is a focused, common mission that everyone can work to accomplish and that is easily communicated to track progress toward making the company more successful and profitable. This also allows employees to discover and understand exactly where these numbers are coming from and how their daily efforts drive those numbers.

Company Planning Meeting at Willoway NurseriesCommunication and Engagement

The next step is to improve communication and engagement through meetings called huddles. These brief daily or weekly department meetings are held to talk about daily progress, make adjustments, and get ideas from the group. This is called the wisdom of the crowd. We ask how can we make continuous improvement on day-to-day activities. Everyone has a chance to make improvements quickly and not wait until the figures are in and it is too late to make adjustments.

During our company huddles, we feel that it is important that employees have a voice and report their own numbers, which allows them to celebrate their successes and learn from their failures with the rest of the company.

We have developed scoreboards throughout the nursery to share weekly progress on the profit and loss statement and show how each person can make a difference in making improvements. We also meet company wide with a broadcast meeting of more than 400 employees in eight locations to talk about that progress. Through this process, employees develop accountability for their part of the game, receive recognition for a job well done, and get the wisdom of the crowd for ideas on how to make a change.

The Stake in the Game

The Great Game of Business is about keeping the company healthy and profitable, and providing the staff with a future for satisfying long-term employment. To increase the stake, the owners offer one more chance for recognition of success that is based on the critical number (PBT or profit before taxes). The company has agreed to share a percentage of the profit from the bottom line with each employee. This keeps everyone engaged and trying to make improvements to give them a stake in the outcome and the future of the company.

Willoway Mini Game RewardsThe Journey Continues

The game is a journey, and it is never really over. At Willoway Nurseries, the staff has improved communications and works together toward the common goal of our critical number and our vision for the future. We are all engaged in providing the best possible products and services for our customers.

What are Mini Games?

Mini games help you make changes or improvements on the fly. Keeping with the game-like concept, you develop a goal, communicate that goal, and then earn a prize for achieving the goal. Goals need to be short, measurable, and sustainable. They should address the overall goal of achieving the critical number. For example, we play a mini game at Willoway Nurseries measuring the percentage of plants sold versus plants shipped. If we hit the target in a two-week period, then we earn a reward, such as a company breakfast on Friday after our company huddle.

A group of representatives from every department selects the prizes to give everyone a chance to have a voice and a stake in the outcome of the mini game. The reward selections can vary, and they have evolved to selecting prizes like supporting charities and community involvement.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

April 24, 2018

Mucci Farms Completes First Phase of its New Ohio Tomato Greenhouse

The new facility, the company’s first expansion outside of Canada, encompasses 24 acres, with harvest set to begin in May.

Read More

April 24, 2018

Bloom Campaign by Seed Your Future Will Address “Plant Blindness” Among U.S. Youth

BLOOM! connects young people to the power of plants to build a pipeline of future talent for the industry behind them: horticulture.

Read More

April 23, 2018

Griffin Hosting Cannabis Growers Workshop in May

The half-day program in Colorado will focus on several aspects of crop fertility and nutrition delivery strategies.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 31, 2018

Online Education Empowers Employees to Succeed

See how UF/IFAS online certificate courses helped employees at Costa Farms get ahead with their jobs.

Read More

January 25, 2018

Why It’s Critical to Understand Your Real Costs o…

It’s time to stop guessing and start calculating when it comes to finding out what your real cost of production is, and pricing products accordingly.\

Read More

January 23, 2018

Learn How the New Tax Law Will Affect Your Greenhouse B…

AmericanHort will co-host a free “Comprehending the New Tax Law: webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with K-Coe Isom, a national tax consulting leader.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin…

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More

January 9, 2018

What You Need to Know About the New Tax Bill

The United Fresh Produce Association, which represents the needs and interests of fruit and vegetable growers, recently updated its members on how the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act might affect their businesses. Many of the insights provided by United Fresh also apply to greenhouse growers and nurseries.

Read More
Doug Cole, Owner of D.S. Cole Growers

January 4, 2018

D.S. Cole Growers Blazes Its Own Path to Growth

Known for its commitment to sustainability and innovation, this grower is one of the pioneering trailblazers changing the way horticulture does business.

Read More

December 31, 2017

Ag Exemption for New Trucking Regulation Still Under Re…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s trucking electronic logging device mandate, which took effect on December 18, includes an Hours of Service exemption that may or may not apply to greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More