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Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

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All entrepreneurs and business leaders face similar frustrations: personnel conflict, profit woes, and inadequate growth. Decisions never seem to get made, or once made, fail to be properly implemented. But there is a solution. It's not complicated or theoretical.

  • Vision without traction is merely hallucination.
  • How would you rate the accountability throughout your organization on a scale of 1 to 10? Most new clients that start The EOS Process rate their accountability somewhere around 4. Gaining traction requires two disciplines. First, everyone in the organization should have Rocks, which are clear 90-day priorities designed to keep them focused on what is most important. The second discipline requires implementing what is called a Meeting Pulse at all levels in the organization, which will keep everyone focused, aligned, and in communication.
  • The next leap of faith you have to take is this: As goes the leadership team, so goes the company. Your leadership team must present a united front to the rest of your organization. In a nuclear family, when the child doesn’t like the answer from Mom, he or she might go to Dad. In your company, there can be only one answer, and your leadership team needs to parent everyone to greatness.
  • In fact, most companies need to start with a focus on internal growth before they can even think about external growth. The paradox is that they will actually grow faster externally in the long run if they are focused internally from the outset.
  • On its official website, the U.S. Small Business Administration purports that “roughly 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years.” In a study published by the Monthly Labor Review in 2005, economist Amy E. Knaup states that 56 percent of businesses die within the first four years. And in his book The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber paints an even scarier picture, saying that 80 percent of businesses fail in their first five years and 80 percent of those remaining will fail somewhere between years six through ten.
  • As leaders, you’ll need to stop working in the business 100 percent of the time, and as Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited, puts it, work on the business every so often instead. This discipline will get you to where you want to go faster.
  • Hard experience taught me the value of this belief. After one particularly unsuccessful engagement, I reflected back on why The EOS Process did not work. It came down to a simple truth: The members of the leadership team weren’t growth-oriented, either internally or externally, nor were they willing to be vulnerable or open-minded. We accomplished very little because it was a constant battle to make decisions and discuss difficult issues.
  • In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni credits a friend who built an organization from a start-up to a billion dollars in revenue with the following observation: “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”
  • The first tool in EOS is the Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO). Not only is the V/TO designed to get your vision out of your head and onto paper, it will help you answer these eight questions. It’s meant to help you create a clear picture of where the company is going and how it will get there. Most importantly, it does so simply, by boiling your vision down to only two pages. An example of a V/TO appears on the next page, and an electronic version of the V/TO can be downloaded free at
  • Much has already been written on the power of identifying core values and instilling them in an organization. In the course of writing Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras spent six years researching organizations that have endured through recessions and depressions for decades. One of their key findings was that in every case, these companies defined their core values in the very early stages and built a culture of people around them.
  • The following is the exact process all EOS clients follow for discovering their core values. First, schedule time with your leadership team. I recommend a minimum of two hours, preferably away from the office, as strategic thinking is always best done off-premises. In that meeting, you proceed as follows: STEP 1 Have each member list three people who, if you could clone them, would lead you to market domination. These three names should preferably come from inside the organization. Once each person has his or her three, post all of the names on a whiteboard for everyone to see. STEP 2 Go over the names and list the characteristics that those people embody. What are the qualities they exemplify? What do they do that puts them on the list? Start with a long list so that you can see all the possibilities. To help your thought process, here is a list of real-world core values: • Unequivocal excellence • Continually strives for perfection • Wins • Does the right thing • Compassion • Honesty and integrity • Hungry for achievement • Is enthusiastic, energetic, tenacious, and competitive • Encourages individual ability and creativity • Maintains accountability • Services the customer above all else • Works hard • Is never satisfied • Is interested in continuous self-improvement • Helps first • Exhibits professionalism • Encourages individual initiative • Growth-oriented • Treats everyone with respect • Provides opportunity based on merit; no one is entitled to anything • Has creativity, dreams, and imagination • Has personal integrity • Isn’t cynical • Exhibits modesty and humility alongside confidence • Practices fanatical attention to consistency and detail • Is committed • Understands the value of reputation • Is fun • Is fair • Encourages teamwork STEP 3 Your organization’s core values are somewhere in that long list you’ve just created. Now, narrow it down. In your first edit, circle which ones are truly important, draw a line through the ones that are not, and combine those that are similar. Remember, the rule of thumb is between three and seven; after the first round, you should have the list down to somewhere between five and 15. STEP 4 Here is where you’re going to make some tough decisions. Through group discussion and debate, decide which values really belong and are truly core. Remember, your goal is to get your list down to between three and seven. Here are some examples of EOS clients’ real-world core values: McKinley • Can do • Gumby™ • Service • Results • Adroit Schechter Wealth Strategies • Clients’ needs first—always • A complete “WOW” experience • A special place to be • Cutting-edge knowledge—we are the experts Zoup! Fresh Soup Company • Action-oriented • “Can Do” attitude • No jerks • Open and honest • Passion for… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.

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