Home' Local Media Today : December 2015 Contents December 2015 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | 13
heck in with any media com-
pany today and the buzz is
all about culture. Down come
the walls, up goes the value’s plaque, in
comes a Ping-Pong table. Happy hour
with the boss and gourmet lunches are
de rigueur. In the culture quest, manag-
ers continue to search for innovative
ways to spur engagement among their
employees. Executives are doling out
the perks like hot dog vendors tossing
hot dogs at the ballpark.
Is that all there is to it?
Alan Murray, an author and edi-
tor for Forbes, wrote, “...changing an
entrenched culture is the toughest task you
will face. To do so, you must win the hearts
and minds of the people you work with,
and that takes both cunning and persua-
However, being somewhat crafty, and
coaxing employees into loving their jobs,
is a misguided effort if managers just focus
on methods and ignore reasons.
Turnover to turnaround
Many years ago, I owned a chain of
retail stores in Richmond, Va. Like many
retail businesses, it relied heavily on part-
timers. And, like many local businesses
strangled by the national chains, the mar-
gins were slim.
While they were a remarkable bunch of
employees, it was difficult to get many of
them to understand what made the busi-
ness tick and how to push the needle. I was
trying to achieve financial targets dictated
by top-down com-
mand and control
instead of bottom-
was how could I bet-
ter understand the
reasons behind mo-
to strive for change?
While struggling with how to pull
everyone into the game I came across a
book titled “Open-Book Management”
by John Case. Open-book management is
described as “helping companies compete
in today's mercurial marketplace by getting
everybody on the payroll thinking and act-
ing like a businessperson, an owner, rather
than like a traditional hired hand.” The
book took aim at the problems I had been
pondering and confronting.
Financials and task forces
Open-book management gets everyone
thinking about the success of the business.
You teach all employees how to read finan-
cials and how to gather problem solving
information that imparts responsiveness to
customers and the flexibility necessary to
compete for long-term profitability.
Yet, taking a company from a “normal”
business to an “open” one by sharing
financial statements with employees is not
According to a research report,
“Open-book management – optimizing
human capital,” by Raj Aggarwal and Betty
Simpkins, the true success of open-book
management is when companies ”allow
numbers to come bottom-up (as opposed
to traditional top-down management).”
After reading “Open-Book Manage-
ment,” and a companion book, “The Great
Game of Business,” by John Stack, I decided
to put it to the test. I opened the books at
the business completely to both full-timers
and part-timers and taught everyone how
to read and interpret the financials.
One of the premises of the book is the
importance of implementing self-manag-
ing work teams. Again,
these (mostly tempo-
rary) teams would help
teach ownership by
leveraging a bottom-up
It didn’t take long
for the first test. Spiral-
ing health insurance
costs were putting an abnormal stress on
the business. Every employee could now
see how insurance affected the numbers by
reading the financials.
We put together a volunteer committee
to find a new health insurance plan. This
committee decided on what was important
in a healthcare package (maternity was im-
portant) and then shopped it around. I did
not attend their meetings – but they could
come to me for advice. They narrowed it
down to two companies and had them
come in and pitch us. Together we made
the final decision. Having fulfilled its task
the committee was then disbanded.
The team’s decision had worked. We
found a more flexible plan that met the
employees needs while putting the brakes
Next up came a committee tasked
with putting together both a bonus
and a profit-sharing plan (part-timers
included). It provided the employees
a stake in the outcome of the business.
This really ignited ownership of the
numbers and the company.
Skin in the game culture
It appeared that we found the
right elements of motivation through
this course of organizational change.
It seems simple enough, hand out
bonuses and everyone will love their
jobs. Nevertheless, there was more to it
than that. It was about creating partners in
the business. It was a culture built on skin
in the game.
In two years, we had only two part-tim-
er turnovers out of 35 employees (and that
was because they moved away to college).
We held monthly all-employee meetings
and every quarter we’d review the finan-
cials together. By the second year revenue
had increased dramatically (over 20 per-
cent) while maintaining a strong margin.
In his book, Case made sense of open-
book management with three main points:
n The company should share finances as
well as critical data with all employees
n Employees are challenged to move the
numbers in a direction that improves the
n Employees share in company prosperity
To sum it up - know the numbers, know
what they represent and incentivize. It’s a
culture unto itself.
It was about creating
partners in the business.
Sales & Marketing
How to create an
open (book) culture
Engage. Inform. Integrate.
Flexible, cost-effective commercial printing options plus,
high-end UV printing technology produces more vivid and
vibrant results and is more eco-friendly than heatset.
The Northwest Leaf • Seattle Weekly • Port Townsend Leader
Honda USA • MARKETING • The Daily Herald
Local Media Today • Stihl USA • Seattle Gay News • La Raza NW
Tacoma Weekly • Phuong Dong Times
Partner with one of the state’s largest,
11323 Commando Road W., Unit Main, Everett, WA 98204
Call today for a press tour!
Links Archive November 2015 January 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page