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Evolution Bookshelf: The Great Game of Business


It was over 10 years ago that, for the first time, I read The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham. The book made such an impression that I traveled to Springfield, Missouri, to spend a few days with Mr. Stack and his team at Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. (“SRC”).

During the trip, we drank Miller Lite (Mr. Stack’s drink of choice), talked about fishing (I learned about an Alabama Rig), walked and observed the business operating model of open-book management, which they call The Great Game of Business. Simply, the team at SRC believes in the gift of explaining personal and company financials to all of their employees.

It is not until people understand financial statements that they can actually help the company (and themselves) reach their goals. This gift not only helps everyone at SRC reach their business goals, but it also helps people understand their own personal financials – how to plan, how to buy a house, how to start a company and much more. Not a bad gift, right? I loved this idea! I truly believe informed people make better employees, better decisions and believe in the process. Now the embarrassing part, although at Evolution we have our 5 Pillar Process, the first of which is financials and the second involves creating a plan, we have not gone nearly far enough.

Fast forward to about a month ago, I got a call from David Dyer at SRC. He suggested that I attend the annual Gathering of the Games Conference to get a refresher on what they were up to and to talk small business investing. I consider the opportunity to talk business operating systems with people as experienced and dedicated as SRC and the attendees of the conference a “dream trip.”  I told him I’d love to attend, ordered a copy of 20th Year Anniversary Edition of The Great Game of Business and listened to it in two days. In re-listening to the book, I began kicking myself on our lack of development on many topics, including: bonuses, management equity, options and transparency, just to name a few.

On September 6-8 I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend the Gathering of the Games Conference. One can’t help but be overwhelmed by the accomplishments of some of The Great Game Players – in very standard, everyday industries. You don’t have to create the next iPhone or next generation driverless car, you can build a tremendously successful company that rebuilds engines, installs and maintains sprinkler systems or simply put, anything else you are passionate about. It’s all in the process (oh, and don’t forget that it is extremely hard, detailed work, that will take you many years of dedication, and trial and error…but for the right team of people, it is worth it). If you jump in with both feet, follow the process, check your ego, and believe in your people, you’ll get there!

The success of the companies playing The Great Game is staggering. Using the open-book model, Mr. Stack has helped SRC Holdings Corporation start, acquire and own more than 60 businesses and has created thousands of jobs since 1983. Along the way, SRC’s stock value has increased 360,000%!

Who could have imagined that investing in an engine remanufacturing company would outperform the S&P and Berkshire Hathaway? Create millionaires out of factory workers? And in addition to the 60+ additional companies under SRC Holdings, an undisclosed number of companies have been started or acquired by SRC employees influenced by the gift of understanding how financials work.

If you think you have what it takes, read the book! Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming…I always think “where do I start?” but it’s well worth it. And if the books resonate with you as much as it has me, schedule time to visit SRC and talk with a Great Game certified coach. At Evolution, I believe there is a perfect combination between the Entrepreneurial Operating System (“EOS”) and The Great Game, especially the Great Game teaching Pillars I and II (Financials and Plan) and EOS teaching Pillars III, IV and V (People, Transparency and Accountability).

As always, I would love to hear from you after reading the book. Did it influence you as much as it has me?

Posted by: Brendan Anderson A co-founder and managing partner at Evolution, Brendan has spent the past 20 years as an investor and manager of businesses ranging from manufacturing to financial services. @Brendan_Andersn

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