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Case Study
Whistlestop… Rebirth of a Non-Profit

The History

Whistlestop was founded 65 years ago as a non-profit organization in The San Francisco Bay Area. With a staff of over 200 employees and 173 active volunteers, Whistlestop’s main mission is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to age with independence, dignity, and grace.

CEO Joe O’Hehir, had experienced success with The One Page Business Plan in three other organizations prior to joining Whistlestop. According to Joe, “I’d always had an aversion to the typical long, drawn out strategic planning processes that boards make you go through that ends up sitting unused on a shelf. I was in search of a good solution and just really fell in love with One Page Plans. They just made so much sense to me”.

The Problem

Whistlestop was hiring new managers and promoting existing employees who had not had those types of responsibilities before. They did not have a reliable way to help those new managers understand goals and performance management while maintaining focus on what was important. The client did not have a way to incorporate that into their performance evaluation process. The antiquated paper performance systems they’d been using for years had proven to be somewhat unfair and inequitable.

At the same time, managing growth was a huge challenge. The client measured success based on the number of people they served. With almost 14,000 individual clients and almost a half a million units of service annually, Whistlestop is a large, complex, nonprofit organization with a variety of programs and services. There are two very distinct portions of their organization… a transportation group located in one place, and the main program in another. There is a lot of interdependency among the management team. They wanted a way to bring them together to share the challenges and successes they’d experienced.

The Solution

According to CEO O’Hehir, “The One Page Business Plan has helped us really springboard our performance as an organization. The One Page Planning and Performance System took the subjectivity out of our review process. It is certainly a more fair and equitable system than the cumbersome paper-based methods. Having a tool like the One Page Planning and Performance System helps our employees stay on track and remain focused on what’s important.”

Ashley Baker, Whistlestop’s Chief People Officer relates… “Toni Nell, our One Page Business Plan Consultant helped guide us in quantifying those metrics that reflected the work that we needed to do. Once we got those dialed in, things rapidly began to change for the better.

Using The One Page Business Plan in our quarterly meetings, has really helped show the interdependence among our various programs and departments that you typically wouldn’t see if they were just working in their own siloed program. We’ve used the tool to really build this interdependence and integration of our disparate programs that we have within Whistlestop, which eventually aggregate up to serve these 14,000 individuals.

Since it’s a cloud-based system, that evolution has been important to us because most of our managers are younger people who want to make this process as efficient and as effective as they can. Being cloud-based made it easier to introduce it, particularly to the younger managers who are coming into organizations like ours.

Toni, our One Page consultant injected an enthusiasm and energy towards using the system with our managers. It’s been particularly helpful for our new managers coming in. We have a variety of managers at different levels of experience and she gently guided us in coaching and counseling them to get the best results in using their One Page Plans.

Toni has been great to work with. She gets to know our managers individually and has provided some great insights just from her work with them and from observations in the meeting so we can strategize about different things because she has that kind of insider knowledge and viewpoint.”


Whistlestop has experienced almost a doubling of growth since 2014. Successfully managing that growth has been much easier for them with One Page Business Plans. The client started with 12 users on their system and now, with management team growth, there are now 16 managers on the system.

The objectives managers have on their One Page Plan now make up half of their annual performance evaluation that determines their pay increases.

According to CEO Joe O’Hehir, “I would say that it’s one of the most effective management tools that I’ve used, not only managing performance, but getting people to understand and celebrate successes that they have. In a nonprofit like ours, people are fighting fires every day just getting through a day, serving all these people. However, if at the end of the month or the end of the quarter or at the end of the year, we can celebrate success by seeing that we’ve achieved these goals. The whole Team sees all the progress we’ve made, and typically as managers, they don’t get to see that progress. And without progress, it really can get them rundown. We think this tool helps people see… “Wow, we really accomplished a lot!”. It gives them more momentum to continue to go forward and achieve their goals for that following year, and following quarter. It’s an incentive tool, as well as a good management tool to really measure our success. Because in a nonprofit, we typically don’t look at that. It is such an effective way of illustrating, “wow, we got through all of that, here’s what we’ve done. Here’s how many people we’ve served.” And it helps us set the course for the brightest possible future, year after year!”

What clients are saying about the Toni Nell experience

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"Working with Toni has been a game changer for me, both professionally and personally. Her guidance through the One Page Business Plan training has been a real standout to other training programs of this nature. She generously shares relevant examples from her many years of experience which help bring to life in a practical way, how to apply the learnings. The other breath of fresh air is that she herself is out there walking the walk - so understands the challenges faced intimately because she experiences them too. That's also very unique in this kind of space.

I'd 100% recommend working with Toni to anyone who wants practical strategy mentorship without the corporate BS.

Thank you, Toni. You're an inspiring, clever and wonderful human."

Melissa Packham
Brand & marketing strategist

"Toni Nell is an expert coach and consultant in planning and execution. She is wired to help her clients get results. In fact she was the top producer and trainer working with Micheal Gerber author of eMyth Revisted for several years prior to coming to One Page a number of years ago.

I hired her as my personal business coach early on and retained her for several years and attribute much of my success and "transformation" from a business executive in a global investment firm to small business owner to her and Jim.

She hit a "home run" on our first call by immediately using the 90-day Sales Plan to help me organize a plan for building my business that not only identified my key objective and the strategies for realizing it, but most importantly outlined the the action steps, my work plan for getting it done. The second I hung up I was on a mission to complete those action steps because I knew the very next week she expected me to report on them.

I recommend Toni to anyone serious about getting results and moving their business forward."

Bill Branson

"Every inventor and entrepreneur fantasizes about finding someone that can do what they do...only better. I found that person, Toni Nell. Toni is one of the most intuitive, knowledgeable business people I have ever met. Toni goes way beyond training...she knows how to transfer knowledge to people in a manner they truly get it...and are able to use it to improve the quality and effectiveness of whatever they are trying to accomplish. She helps people become better...naturally! Working with Toni goes beyond's transformational for all involved."

Jim Horan
Creator, The One Page Business Plan Company

"I thought this might be 'business planning lite', but it turned out to be a power tool of the highest order! Every member of our Team finally has a plan that’s clear, actionable and understood throughout the foundation.

We’ll never use anything else!"

John Engle
Chief of Development, Scripps Health Foundation, La Jolla, CA

How happy I am to be working directly with Toni Nell. She is absolutely wonderful in her ability to understand me and to communicate with me in a such a way that I took action in spite of my fears.

Eric W. Elwell
President, Equity Associates Rochester, Inc.

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