SRC Insight | SBJ's Jack Stack interview inspires Ellen Rohr

On August 15, 2017, Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson interviewed SRC Holdings Corporation CEO Jack Stack live at SBJ's 12 People You Need to Know. During the interview, Jack discussed open-book management, the Great Game of Business, and the changing workforce. 

Attending the breakfast interview was Ellen Rohr, author and business consultant, who has been intrigued with Jack's business practices for years. An excerpt of her commentary from Springfield Business Journal can be found below:

Opinion: How to Create a Business of Businesspeople

The Jack Stack Interview

By: Ellen Rohr

I became a fan in the 1990s when I devoured a copy of Jack’s groundbreaking book, “The Great Game of Business.” I had been practicing open-book management. I just didn’t know that it was a thing and that it had a name. Jack, and that book, set me on a sound path of financial transparency and management that has served me – and millions of others – very well. 

So, I jumped at the chance to hear him speak. Jack is a humble guy and would probably cringe at being called a celebrity. He is a businessman. His down-to-earth approach to building companies reveals his brilliance and his humanity. I was inspired personally and moved to share some of his wisdom with you. Here is what I gleaned from the interview with SBJ Editorial Director Eric Olson.

• Don’t look for skilled people – build people. Jack doesn’t complain about a labor shortage. Instead, at SRC, they look for creative, helpful ways to let people know the company is a positive force in their communities. They offer fun bring-kids-to-work events to turn children on to cool careers like engineering and forklift operations. They magnetize good people and train them.

• Create businesspeople, not just technicians or skilled laborers. In addition to the skills team members need to do their jobs successfully, SRC requires that all employees learn business skills. They teach everyone how to read and use financial reports, and they share real financial data.

• Offer lifelong career opportunities. Back in the day, employees would stay at one job until retirement. The common belief these days is that those days are over. However, Jack has not given up on the idea that you can create lifelong careers. He suggests you can help people develop better work/life balance if they can settle into a career and commit to a company. Life is less stressful if you are not always looking for a new job.

• You can build a company to last. Jack shared that he and his employee/owners intend for SRC to last for at least 100 years. Over the years, there have been more than 60 companies under the SRC umbrella, all of which are employee-owned in some way.

Jack and team continually and strategically assess the economy and business trends. They are financially conservative and take the long look. They determine which companies they will grow and which to divest. They maintain the cash reserves they need to fund the employee/owners who plan to retire and transition their stock to cash.

However, they don’t have plans to sell the mother ship. SRC is designed to last 100-plus years even though some individual entities will not. The empire continues, while the holdings may change. 

• Create a business of businesspeople. Jack stays focused on the ultimate goal at SRC: To create a “business of businesspeople” who think, act and feel like owners. At SRC, they operate with systems and procedures and play a great game. So, Jack allows the people on his team to do their jobs. He says the SRC conglomerate of businesses is a result of encouraging team members to become businesspeople. Once you do, they come up with ways to save money and make money, and before you know it, you are expanding. 

Inspired? Me, too. It’s all about the people, people!

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.