Ruck-Shockey Associates, 25 Years - The Game is the Same but the Pieces Have Changed

Julie Jones

Monopoly®, an economics-themed board game, has been an international favorite for nearly 100 years. Imagine how global economies have changed since 1935 when Parker Brothers introduced the game for purchase. Yet, the game and concept of Monopoly® haven't changed much since 1935 -- with the goal for a single player to gain market dominance or the highest net worth among the players.

But Monopoly® has had to adapt to changing times. Game pieces have been changed during their long run, including the thimble, wheelbarrow, and boot which were retired about five years ago and replaced with the rubber ducky, penguin, and T Rex. In 2021, Community Chest cards were also changed to better reflect community, with Shop Local becoming a new favorite. While some game pieces and cards have changed, the process and outcomes have remained relevant despite the decade or century.

When Georgie and Carolyn began the business in 1997, they saw a need to change how independent operators managed their business, providing similar support that contractors provided to their clients. At the time, management companies were making inroads in healthcare food service and offering tighter systems and controls to organizations that provided departments and hospitals immediate savings.

Like Monopoly®, Carolyn and Georgie's goal has been to help clients develop the net worth or value propositions for their operations strengthening performance and organizational support for their departments. Value propositions have changed over time, as well as the means and the methods.

Carolyn Ruck and Georgie Shockey

Monopoly® Strategy

Favorite game piece: 
GS: the Scottie dog, since there was no cat (2013 the cat was voted in)!
CR: the Top Hat

The property (ies) I wanted to purchase:
CR: Boardwalk, of course. The payoff was excellent!
GS: Any of the Orange properties, statistically the most landed on properties so you can collect a lot of rent!

Did you usually win or lose?
CR: I won and lost but had fun with family and friends playing the game.
GS: I always lost to my dad since he knew about the Orange properties!
In honor of RSA's 25th anniversary, I spent time with them to gain their perspectives about operations departments' past, present, and future.

Julie:  After twenty-five years, what is the same?

Time constraints for leaders to develop systems, programs, tools, and leaders have always been there. Today's time pressures are even more significant, driven by technology and shrinking leadership layers. Everyone wants an answer yesterday. When I talk to clients, they feel "on" 24 hours per day and wonder where they can find the time to think and plan.

CR: Streamline has been a constant theme for more than twenty years. But the reasons for streamlining have changed. Twenty-five years ago, streamlining labor meant to become more efficient for cost savings. Today, streamlining labor is essential because there isn't enough labor to fill positions. For a while, streamlining was about cutting food costs, and then it was about streamlining the menu, and labor didn't matter during that time. But what I've learned is that "streamline" is cyclical. What you streamline will return but for new reasons.

Julie: What is different?
GS: We see operations with a larger span of control and more diverse services. Twenty-five years ago, most were doing the same types of services across the country. Now we see many more approaches, and availability of resources is key - Those with more resources tend to do more.  Leaders at all levels are more sophisticated in their work and backgrounds. They have more financial awareness of their operations. Twenty-five years ago, the budget was just a directional data point and not used as a decision-making tool.

CR: 25 years ago, we did assessments and developed action items. When we started, they wanted us to define what needed to change and provide recommendations. Today, we focus more on supporting people through change and implementation processes. It is more action-oriented instead of advising-oriented. The clients know more about their needs Today and want support to sort through and develop their options. Projects are also much larger and more complex Today.   

Julie: What has changed over your 25 years?
CR and GS:
 We began as a firm that was 100% based in and primarily operated only in California to now have leaders based in four states and have provided services in at least 40 states. The speed of work has grown exponentially, which has dramatically shortened the time from a request for information to delivering a project report or deliverable.

Twenty-five years ago, many straightforward operational assessments took two to three months. Today, this same assessment takes six to eight weeks. Easier access to data and information has helped shorten these timelines. Technology has also made it easier to do project work and communicate with clients. The pandemic allowed us to accelerate the use of virtual meetings to better support clients when they need us and not just when we are physically at their organization.

The faster we can get answers, provide ideas or insights, helps operators present information to their administrators while the request is still fresh in everyone's minds. Operations departments still compete with others, and a quick turnaround can help operators move their issues closer to the top.

Julie: What are the common themes you hear from administrators and the C Suite?
People and labor issues are hot topics right now. Do we have enough people and are we efficient with the people we have? But it has also expanded to include - Do we provide the proper training, treat people well, and meet organization standards for Human Resources (HR) practices?  I have also seen a shift from cost control/cost savings to finding the right price for the service we want. I have seen the change from efficiency to effectiveness for the dollars spent. Administrators are focused on creating positive patient and customer experiences, which blends efficiency and effectiveness.  

GS: Improve quality and efficiency of the operation is the most common. This has not really changed over the years. Today, we see more organizations wanting more control over patient-facing operations and want to investigate what this could be like for them.

Julie: Have these themes changed much over the years?
GS:  Today, most organizations have data and analytics experts to evaluate costs, benchmark data, and implement savings. Early on, we provided more of this support. Today, we provide context, validate, identify best solutions given their choices, and identify potential downstream effects.

CR: We also hear more about healthy eating; nutrition has become more important to administrators. But the reasons are different from organization to organization -- employee wellness, healthcare commitment, or state or local health rules as examples.

Julie: Has there been any change in the types of consulting services requests over the 25 years?
CR and GS: We receive more requests for developing strategic programs and change support, such as new services or changes in department leadership currently. Also, today's food service, environmental, or hospitality directors are savvier and request services as much as the CSuite does.

Because healthcare and hospitality food services practiced cost management strategies ahead of others, other types of operations areas such as Environmental Services sought out these services to close the gap. These shifts have allowed us to evolve our scope and cover more than healthcare food service and include EVS, Linen, Laundry, and Plant Operations, Patient Transport, Corporate Dining, School and College and University Foodservice.   

Behind the Scenes - 25 Years of History

Some Early Clients

Fletcher Allen Medical Center, Vermont
Alta Bates Medical Center, California

Funniest Experience

In one of our first meetings, Carolyn and I were dressed in the same colors for both our jackets and pants and we wore the same shoes. The potential client asked if there was an RSA uniform standard.

Unusual Request


In a remote location in Canada, we looked at how to create a central production facility for a very small group of hospitals with tons of logistical challenges.
The hospital was about 400 miles from the nearest larger town.  And the kitchen had the morgue refrigerator next to its refrigerator…don’t go into the wrong door!

Airline Miles Traveled

4 million airline miles to see and work with our clients, or roughly 160 trips around the earth


Favorite Service to Provide

Carolyn - Complex, challenging projects especially those we take from strategy through completion. I also like to integrate nutrition into the foodservice operations puzzle.

Georgie - Anything that has a financial or statistical component. I love to see projects get funded due to the work we do painting an impartial financial story.

Consulting Services

We have given over 10,000 free consulting hours to clients post projects or to those that just need a sounding board. 

Our consultants have over 900 years of experience in hospitality services.

Julie: How do you define success with a client?
That we have partnered with the operation/organization on sustainable practices -- we have analyzed, provided resources, and enabled learning for the team and operation to thrive and meet priorities. And of course, a recommendation from any client is always a seal of "job well done"!

CR: That we have developed a positive partnership where the operation can accomplish its goals and/or complete a successful project that meets desired outcomes.

Julie: What still excites you today?
CR: I like the variety of work and enjoy learning from a wide variety of people. I like challenges and there are many. I get to be a creative problem-solver, especially given the complexity of many projects.

GS: Every project every day! I love every changing and challenging request we get. Almost no day in 25 years has been the same, and that is something that I look forward to each day.

I also really like to research new ideas, take information from other businesses or services, and apply them to a client's project for a more enriched outcome or solution. We want to be relevant in our work, and that relevance is one of the things we want to bring to our clients daily.   

Julie: What are you most proud of in your 25 years of business? GS: That almost every client we have worked with has requested our services again over the 25 years. One of our first clients from 25 years ago requested for us to support their work on a new project. We are delighted to have that opportunity.

It's also been fun to watch operations grow and evolve over time. There is amazing work being done in the operations industries! Likewise, I have seen the careers of many clients grow after project completion. 

CR: I am proud that we have been able to work with so many clients. We have learned from our clients, and grown, adapted, and added services to support their needs. We have been able to do this while staying true to our values.

Julie: What have you learned over the twenty-five years?
CR: I have learned how to adapt my style to the volumes of different types of people I work with. My goal is to facilitate a process and create common ground. I have also learned to focus on the details and ask better questions so that our information matches current practices. I use data to validate more today than I did early in my career.   

I had many skills to learn, such as marketing and sales. But does anyone else remember using transparencies for presentations? I still have a notebook of our transparency presentations that I could share. But, wow, did PowerPoint make presentations easier.

GS: Wow, a lot. I think over the years, I have developed more patience and improved my listening skills so that I can hear the client's subtle needs and wants. Then I figure out how to translate that into solutions that are realistic and approachable to implement.

Every project and every client work at their own tempo. I've learned to recognize the tempo so that I don't move too fast or too slow. I want every client to have the attention they need, at the time they need it, so they can be successful. To do this, I have learned to shift and focus.

Julie: What insights can you share with operators based on your 25 years of experience?
  • Keep innovating and pushing boundaries for better outcomes. 
  • Don't settle for the same old same old. 
  • The leadership of your organization wants to know that they have a leader that can steer them to new ideas and make their jobs easier. 


  • Pay attention to the detail.
  • Be good to your teams -- pay attention to their needs.
  • Stay current and relevant -- look for what's new especially outside of healthcare.
  • Be patient --- Take a breath every now and then.

Julie: What do you think the future holds for operations industries?
GS: The development and adaptation of technology that can eliminate or reduce the mundane tasks of scheduling, timekeeping, ordering and assigning tasks should hopefully simplify leader’s days. 
Plus, those operations that innovate and continue to task risks will establish new best practices.  

I think the future will follow a trend like Star Trek – if you remember the early shows seemed so futuristic with flip phones (communicator) and bulky computers everywhere.  The Next Generation was more technological and had iPad looking devices for work and then, progressively, each series became more technologically advanced to AI and Robotics. 

Our challenges will be similar as we navigate technology, AI and robotics along with tried and true manual working environments.  And, as always, people will be increasingly important to integrate work and technology. We will need to make sure that we take care of them and train appropriately.

MONOPOLY CAN BE A LONG GAME. The average time to play a game is 60 to 90 minutes; the longest game ever played, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is 408 hours or 17 days. Players were allowed a short break every 4 hours. In Monopoly, you must be committed to the long game instead of short-term wins.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of small businesses fail within the first five years, and the percentage that makes 25 years is small and women-owned businesses even smaller.

Julie: As both a previous long-term client and a current consultant, thank you for your commitment and advocacy for operations industries! For our operations team at Ohio State, you were there when we needed to phone a friend for a complex problem or serve as a therapy partner, connected us to others in the industry who could be a resource, translated and told our story to countless administrators, and when needed, helped us think differently if we were too focused on a single solution.

Thanks again and cheers to you on your silver anniversary!

Happy 25th Anniversary!