171 – Everybody matters

Posted by  Anecdote International —December 13, 2022
Filed in Anecdotes, Podcast

Caring about the growth of your people is more likely to lead you to success than treating them like resources. Listen to hear how Bob Chapman transformed his family business so that its revenue grew from $18 million to over $2 billion.

Welcome to the second last episode of Anecdotally Speaking for 2022! Keep an eye out for our holiday special next week before we take a short break!

This week, Shawn shares a story he heard over Christmas drinks (thank you, Garry Ryan!), which prompted him to pick up Bob Chapman’s book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family. It illustrates how an idea can emerge over time and how caring about the growth of your people is more likely to lead you to success than treating them like resources.

For your story bank

Tags: caring, culture, growth, leadership, success

This story starts at 01:31

Bob Chapman is an American man from Iowa. In his mid-20s, he went to business school and then joined a large consulting company, where he did well. Eventually, his father invited him to join the family manufacturing business, Barry-Wehmiller, which made the machinery that washed bottles for big beer-making companies.

His father planned for him to take over the business one day, so Bob built up his responsibilities over a few years, and by the time he turned 30, he was running the business.

In 1975, his father died following a heart attack. At the time, Barry-Wehmiller wasn’t doing too well. They weren’t making much profit and had debt.

Bob used all his knowledge to push the business from $18 million in revenue to $78 million. He got them out of debt and thought everything was going wonderfully.

But the business grew so fast that it outgrew the industry. Bob was warned it would likely contract at some point, and it did. It got to a point where he didn’t think he could make his payroll.

He scraped through the period and decided to build Barry-Wehmiller through acquisition. And because they didn’t have much money, he had to go after the most poorly-run businesses.

He visited one of the businesses they acquired during March Madness. He sat in the cafeteria, where no one knew who he was, and observed the employees having lots of fun talking about basketball.

But as it grew closer to start time, he saw the fun drain away. He thought, ‘Why can’t we have fun in business?’

He suggested the managers put a game in place to encourage selling. They objected, but they did it, and revenue jumped 20% in about a quarter. He started thinking they had been looking at their people the wrong way.

He later went to his niece’s wedding and found himself thinking about the care the bride and groom’s families had for the new family unit they had formed. He decided he needed to care about his employees the same way.

With his new approach, seeing people as the reason for the business, Barry-Wehmiller has grown to generate a revenue of over $2 billion and amassed some 11,000 employees. They have acquired more than 70 other businesses.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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