Talking Business With the People You Are in Business With

It seems that every time I turn on the TV, log into Facebook or hear someone talk about what’s happening in their world, I ask myself, “What the hell is going on?”  

Uncertainty seems chronic, instability permanent, and disruption all too common. I often have to remind myself to focus on the opportunities just to avoid getting bogged down by the problems I’m hearing about. 

Okay…so we live in different times. Information moves more quickly, and it seems that sometimes we all lose sight of the fact that it usually takes longer to do something great with our lives, business life included,  than we think it should.  As a result, it seems that people are constantly on the hunt for the ever-luring “greener pastures.”  

There is one thing for sure:  for many, uncertainty will remain certain in the years to come.  

So what can anyone do about it?  How do we change the narrative from one of, “I’m not sure who to trust” to, “I’ve got your back, and let’s do this together”? How can we get politicians and their followers to understand that the right and left-wing belong to the same bird?  

How can we break down the walls between the hard-working people who provide the goods and services we all need and business owners who are caught up in the old school “command-and-control” way of running their business? 

What will it take to get the finger-pointers to start looking in the mirror to find answers on engaging these “entitled millennials”? What obligation does your organization, and you as a business leader, have to build trust and mutual respect that will exist deep in your company culture?  

We created the world the new generation lives in. How is it that it’s always “them” that are to blame? Is it any damn wonder that a high level of inclusivity and transparency are things today’s employees are unwilling to live without?  

Should employers be the only ones who get control and say over their future? Is it possible that the  “new generation” is unconsciously driving a needed revolution in how business owners treat their employees? Is it possible that the owners who also point fingers are part of the problem, one that is keeping the walls between our teams up?  

We could go on and on about the issue resulting from the retiring Baby Boomers, the kids these days – them, us, they, she, he, etc. – but it won’t help. No one is immune to what is happening if it’s not your business; it’s your brothers-in-law, your neighbors, or friends who are going through the same stuff. 

You might have heard of Open Book Management  (OBM) as what some might consider a “radical” way of running a business. Or, perhaps this is the first time, and just the mention of the idea behind the concept of sharing and teaching the company’s finances with all employees has you thinking, “Is this guy nuts?” 

Don’t shoot the messenger quite yet. The concepts behind OBM have been around a lot longer than I have, but it’s only been a few decades since it was worked into a well-rounded operating system and identified as a management discipline by the people at The Great Game of Business®.

Some consider it “radical”, some “reckless”.

I think it’s BRILLIANT.

Before we get into a lengthy debate over who’s nuts and who isn’t, I think I’ll provide some context to support my beliefs that are based on my own experiences. Please read on and make up your own – hopefully enlightened – mind before you call the head-doctors to take me away!

Opening your books is only part of it. 

Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that opening your books alone is what is meant by OBM. Now, THAT I would consider being more like the act of open book reporting and 100% “reckless.” 

Getting people involved at the creation point of your company’s financials was a learning curve for me and where I went a bit wrong over the early years of trying to cultivate The Great Game of Business® into my own business. 

The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t ready and aware of the powerful truth that comes with the concept that people support what they help create. Now, 15 years later, The Great Game of Business®  itself has come a long way in teaching the methodologies of its operating system, and I am a lot less pig-headed now than I was back then. 

The godfather of OBM, Jack Stack, says, “It’s simple, it’s just not easy!” I know now what he means by that.

Complex systems are the cause for many organizational failures. Don’t make an already simple system more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t be on the wrong side of the question that asks, “Is the system failing you or are you failing the system?”

  1. Start with the Right leadership. This is a great time to remember the first core belief of GGOB Leadership: If I don’t inform my people, someone else will. Right now, EVERYONE is informing your people, and it’s not always in a good way. Take the fear out of the organization. Work with your team to reveal the real situations you are facing and make a plan to deal with it  
  2. Dig deep and Share your Why. People get far more excited about the How when they know the Why
  3. Identify the Critical Number(s) so that your team can put the majority of their focus on addressing the most significant business threats and opportunities.
  4. Act on the Right Drivers so your entire team knows what actions will positively affect the Critical Number. It’s all about line of sight.

Commit to these and steps 4-10 in the 10-step implementation outline (stay tuned for more information in my next article) and I promise you good things are going to happen. Things like worrying less and having more time to do the things you know damn well you should be doing. Things like the mental space needed to grow your business, travel, spend time with family, or whatever else you thought owning your own business would do for you in the first place. 

Having employees who Think and Act like Owners – that’s what you want, right? 

Have you been able to get the level of engagement you really think is possible? 

Have you been able to connect the cornerstones of operating a business: being human and making profits into the running and very fabric of your organizational culture?

Matt Northey: 12-year employee and now part-owner of Creative Roots Landscaping.


“I honestly don’t think I could go work for a company that didn’t open the books and operate this way. It’s how I learned the business side of landscaping, and that kept me interested in staying.”








I am aware that it’s not commonplace to have employees who were hired to mow lawns,  install paver driveways, or any other job-specific task also learn about the company’s finances. But…why not teach them how the company makes and spends money? People like to handle money when they play games like Monopoly, and they have to do it in their real lives. Why not their job? 

I’ll be straight up here and say that having them do so took a HUGE weight off of my shoulders and has been one of the most successful changes we’ve ever made.

Here is what a client of mine who recently started implementing GGOB told me the other day after his weekly financial huddle with his employees. 

“Honestly, that they know we did not do well in January is kind of a relief. Now they know they need to save money somewhere to help out.”

De-mystify things through ”The Game.” 

We have found endless benefits. Here are 5 reasons doing so has proven to be incredibly effective:

  1. People Support What They Help Create.
    It’s been said that if you want to have people engaged at the point of implementation you are going to have to involve them at the point of creation. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you were willing to go to work day after day, told what to do, and be left in the dark about how what you were doing mattered. Your people are capable of helping you run your business…not just do the work!
  2. Better Results.
    Although I can’t boast about having grown BIG, taking advantage of every great opportunity that came our way, or that we couldn’t have gotten better results to date, I can confidently say that we are doing a good job using OBM in our business. It is not a perfect process…but neither is how you achieve excellence doing your work. What’s important is how we take what we have learned and move on to the next play. Whether that play was in sales, gross margin, net profit, cash flow, product quality, service delivery satisfaction, the lessons, and results we get all point back to how we operate.
  3. It’s in line with our values.
    What drives our organizational culture is our behaviors. We all know the age-old adages like “practice what you preach,” “do unto others…..” and so on. The last thing we want to say to each other is that we operate in an inclusive and transparent way and then, in turn, not do so ourselves.
    People are not stupid, and when they get the slightest feeling that you are hiding something from them, you will, in short order, construct a wall that was easier to put up than it will be to take down. The words “the culture of any organization will only be as good as the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate” have never rung truer than they do in today’s work environment.
  4. It creates alignment and, therefore, buy-in.
    When you combine education with positive leadership beliefs, good things happen.
  5. It teaches everyone to think like an owner.
    “It teaches us the cause and effect of where our money is going,”
    “I like that it gets the owners, the managers and the employees all on the same page,”
    “It helps me understand what I have to do to affect the company in a positive way”

These are only a few of the many things my employees told me years ago when asked what they like about OBM. (See the video link below.) 

I can only attribute it to the fact that when I am talking about the business, I am doing it with the people I am actually in business with, and not behind closed doors. 

We are speaking the same language – the actual language of business, the financials – and not just the language of our trade. By the way, we do landscaping and talk a lot about that as well. 

Do you hear these kinds of comments from your 22-year-old employees weekly?  

Ready, Aim, Fire! Sometimes you just have to get on the field and play! 

 Once you conclude that you are unlikely to get different results without trying something new, and that OBM and all it encompasses is something you are committed to doing, it might boil down to what degree you use it. It’s comforting to know that you are not alone as you embark on the journey and that we are all on the continuum. At one end, some start by only disclosing whether or not the company did well or not last month.  Further along, they are inviting all the employees to an annual High Involvement Planning Meeting

Then, when you are at the point where you realize it’s not for you – or that you don’t want the energy-sucking burden of keeping it all to yourself and trying to make the needed changes to drive better results anymore – you will either go back to your old ways, search for something else or fully embrace all the principals of The Great Game of Business®.  

If your decision is the latter of the two, the rest isn’t that hard at all. The most significant part was getting your buy-in. From there, I’d suggest that you learn “The Game” you are about to embark on from someone who has successfully played it. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t lace up your skates, grab a stick and jump on the ice before, after, or between some of the hours you are already doing what you do. There is nothing quite like the learning you get from doing it yourself. 

Personally, having done it that way myself, I would say that you can’t overstate the value in having someone take you through it to avoid reinventing the wheel. Any way you go about getting started, one thing rings true:


Fun Exercise

There are lots of ways to start opening your books that range from formal to informal. Here is a fun and quick exercise for introducing the concept of Opening your Books and Teaching Numbers that we use over and over again. 

It’s called the Dollar Exercise. It’s simple and it teaches people the basics of your Income Statement, how hard it is to make money, and the power of cost reduction –  something that every employee affects each and every day. 

There is a bit more to it than this image shows but hopefully you will get the gist of how simple it can be. Contact Me to get your PDF copy to try out. 

Are you ready to Open your Books and Teach the Numbers?

As pioneered by The Great Game of Business®, Open Book Management is the only management operating system out there I know of that drives the knowledge of the financials through education and involvement to the front line employees. 

Not Traction (EOS), Scaling up, 3Hag, E’Myth Mastery, or the countless others out there.  

To me, that is the missing link. That is what makes the connection between being human and making profits. That is what got the people I want on my team to stay and what has taught me and my employees how our actions affect the financial – and cultural – outcomes we are getting day-in and day-out. 

As a result, I have lived more of my life outside of work.

For several years now, I have been able to step away from pretty much all assigned day-to-day operations, spend 3-5 months a year in Mexico, and give some deserving employees the opportunity for equity in the company they helped me build.  All the while with little-to-no worrying about front-line decisions they are making.  This may or may not be your dream, but I think you get me telling you that isn’t the point. 

The point, of course, is having the freedom from the burdens that typically come along with your business running you.

Now, my employees understand how their actions affect the financial and cultural outcomes and success from all we do day-to-day, and so do I. 

About Me

Since starting my landscaping business in 1994, I have been fascinated by business. From working on the shovel, business visioning, and everything in between, my goal is to help other owners realize the profits and freedom that come from working ON their business rather than IN their business by sharing my experiences through personalized coaching services.  

Looking back on my journey, I credit our commitment to the fundamentals of The Great Game of Business and Open Book Management for our success as a business. Freely sharing financial and operational information with my employees helped them do their jobs better, got them caring about great service, and perhaps best of all, allowed my business to run without me. I love that our team has made the connection between being human and making profits

Need Someone To Talk To?

What’s your biggest pain point? Let’s connect to discuss how having me coach you through implementing Open Book Management can change your business and your life for the better. 

To schedule a time to chat with me, visit