A Better Business For A Better Life
This article contains the discussion with Zack Swire, during the fourth episode of Marketing Trail Guide’s Podcast Season 1: Opportunities in Crisis
EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, gives leaders one simple system and universal language for running their whole business so they can get more of what they want from it and make a greater impact on the world.
Kevin: Well, let me just cut right to it. What is EOS®? How does it help business owners and entrepreneurs? And, what problems does it solve for them?
Zack: EOS® is a simple set of tools that is based on real world practical tools that have been around for a long time. There’s really no kind of new strategy or theory here. What we are doing is putting together a system of tools that work for a business to help them three areas: vision, traction, and healthy operations. And that’s what it’s based on. It is for companies as small as ten people, upwards of around 250, of course there are some companies outside of that, that it works well for, but that’s really the core for us.
Kevin: There’s six key areas. You talked about vision and traction, and there is data, right? Can you talk about the wheel and what those components are?
Zack: That’s what initially attracted me to it. I had gone out to do some executive strategy consulting with a firm in Southern California. And after 45 minutes of meeting with the guy he was asking for marketing help. I looked at him and I said, “I’m not really sure how I can help you right now. Everything is so buttoned up here. And if you just do these couple of things, you’re probably good to go”. And I was pretty impressed as he walked over with an orange binder. That orange binder is called The Leadership Team manual. It was the first time I saw it, and he said, “Zack, it’s about these six key components of our business and everything is so strong as it is, because we’ve been honing in on those six key components: vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction”. And I was sitting there thinking, how have I not heard of this thing? And I took that to heart and I thought, I’ve got to go home and read the book. This was actually just last year. I’m actually fairly new to EOS®. I’ve been in marketing and executive strategy consulting for years. But when I read Traction, Gino Wickman’s book, I immediately realized that these are areas in my past businesses where I could see weaknesses that really, if we didn’t address those, it was harder to focus on other things that we wanted to do. And when we hone in on those six key components and get them stronger, EOS® is telling you, that’s our main goal. We need to get greater traction on our business by honing in on those six key components. And we can talk more about each of those, but that’s really the heart of it: improving in each of those.
Create A Better Business For A Better Life
Kevin: As you said earlier, these are not new ideas, it’s a collection of tools. I think of it as a collection of frameworks that I use in my own business and with my clients. I’m a fractional marketing executive for companies that are running on EOS® and the reason I like to standardize around companies that are running on EOS® and niche down is to focus on just those companies as it provides a common operating system, a common language and a common set of expectations.
Zack: You just hit your note on the idea of this being a universal language for the business. We’ve got all these cool tools and apps and I love testing out new things, but it’s not a good way to operate a business. Everybody’s using different systems and processes, and we don’t have anything universal. If you watch the Marie Kondo show, where you go in and she teaches you how to clean out your closet. We need to do that with our business. We need to go in and think about any issues, do we have the right people in the right seats? Do we have control issues or lack of control? We might have issues with growth in our company or profitability. It could be loss of direction so we get stuck. These are the same issues that keep coming up. And when you think about those six key components in EOS®, it really does attack all of those areas. And every time I’ve sat down now to talk with somebody about it, they’re like, I can see that. I can see that with our team.
And ultimately, we can sit down and think, do I have a complete level of trust and openness and honesty with my team? And if I don’t, I have a big problem. How am I going to grow this organization when we don’t have that? And also, why are we doing this? What did I get into doing this business for? Especially as you get older and realize how many times you were away from your kids and family. You look back and wonder, I created a cool business and I did these cool things, but did I balance it well? Do I really help? Do I create more opportunity? Do I do a good job? And I think most business owners are sitting there not just worried about making paychecks, but they really want to have a greater impact. And they also want to try to balance it themselves. In a lot of times, I’ve found that especially on the executive team, there’s not a whole of this balance. A lot of times, these guys are taking it home every single night and I’ve been there and I’ve struggled through that. And, what I want to help them with is creating a better business for a better life and that’s where my heart has been in the last few years. How can we make sure that we’re finding that balance?
Vision Traction Organizer
Kevin: With everything you’re describing, I can see the contrast between customers that I work with that are running on EOS® and customers that aren’t. EOS® makes my job a whole lot easier and more effective. Let’s discuss the VTO a little bit, tell us why it’s such a great tool and what it does for the business.
Zack: I love that question because it really gets to the heart of one of the most core pieces of EOS®. And it’s something that you don’t need to have an implementer like me to do. You can read the book and get started today but if you want somebody to come in, there’s certainly value for that. And that’s why I love doing this. So, VTO, what does it stand for? The VTO is a Vision Traction Organizer. We have these terms so we can all speak the same language. And it becomes part of the operating system for our business and we all get to speak that same language. The VTO is basically two sheets of paper, one side and the other, or the software. One side is vision, the other side is traction. And as we say in EOS®, vision without traction is hallucination. I have started a business in the past where I had a lot of great vision but didn’t get the traction and it was totally hallucination. And on this tool, the first thing you have to do is to look at your core values and the core focus of your company, which are your vision and your mission. Then, you are going to look at your 10 year target, your long range plan, and then go backwards from there. So we’re going to set that and say, what does that look like? Why are you in this business? What are you doing at four? And then we’re going to start working backwards. And then we’re going to plan out, what is our marketing strategy? It’s about going to the heart of your three uniques. What differentiates you, nailing those down and having a guarantee that provides comfort for your customer knowing they’ll be satisfied and that you’re going to take care of them. We set that and then we go to the three year plan. What is this for your picture? We’ll sit down and do this plan and the strategy plan to get to three years out. We picture this three years out, because we want everybody on the team to be able to mentally think about exactly what this feels and looks like. Because once we do that, we all start to run the same direction. It has a lot of power behind it.
Get Things Done
Kevin: And this VTO is reviewed in the EOS® system weekly. Let’s talk about meeting pulse. Having gone through EOS® and working with customers that are used to look forward to meetings and feel like at the end of it so much got done, I understand that meeting time is critical. So, let’s discuss meeting pulse, how VTO quarterly rocks, as well as scorecard and all of the other components in the Level 10 meeting format.
Zack: When you flip that VTO over and you go to the traction side, that’s where we do get down to our one year goals. We also list out our rocks and talk about our issues. The goals and the heart of that is what we call a Level 10 meeting. And it’s a different structure for running your meetings. It has a particular agenda. What we do is we have a very tight structure on the meeting where when you go into the start of it, we start with a segue, five minutes of just what’s going on. And then we come in and we do things like the Scorecard, we don’t talk about them. We just say, are we on track? Are we off track? And then we talk about things like our to-do’s. Are we done? Are we not done? We talk about our rocks, which are 90 day priorities and your rocks are set as a team. And if it’s off track, what we do is we simply say drop it down to the issues list. And the issue part of the Level 10 meeting is where we spend most of our time. We have an issues list and we dive into the meat and the heart of the meeting but first we prioritize. We focus on the most important things when we get to the IDS part of the meeting, which is Identify, Discuss and Solve. And it sounds easy, but it’s not. We train teams and we work through the EOS® process to actually get things done, get them checked off and come up with solutions. And then most importantly, we take detailed notes, we assign to-do’s and make them smart right there in the meeting. We don’t move on until that’s done.
The meeting pulse is set up differently for every company. They might be 60 minutes or 30 minutes. You can adjust the agenda. Sometimes we don’t need as long, but we still have a reporting time where we talk about our measurables and we want everyone in the organization to have a measurable. It gives everybody a purpose and a voice.
Kevin: How about we discuss the Accountability Chart, the Scorecard and get into some of the marketing measurables.
Zack: Let’s talk Accountability Chart or as many companies and most would call it an Org Chart. And since we’ve got our own language we call it Accountability Chart, the reason it’s called an Accountability Chart is that we want it focused on accountability and we want it focused on the roles first, not the people. Most of the time when we start with an Org Chart, we think about our people, we kind of plug in seats… but what we do with EOS®, when we kick this off, before we can get to setting measurables and making sure people are accountable, we have to check first: do we have the right people in the right seats? So, we do an exercise with the team to check that we’d done well, the accountability chart, and we set it up by role first.
And we think about what structure this organization needs, not what people we want to put in what seat that’s a big challenge. You think about the function in the organization and we have a people analyzer tool in EOS®. And basically, we’re analyzing everybody in the organization, according to your core values. We got to get the accountability chart set. We have to make sure there is clarity on their seat. And it doesn’t have to be this big, long page. What are the five key things you need from that role in the organization? And once we’ve done that, then we tie it back to having measurables for everybody in the organization. And in your Level 10 meeting,
you’re going to have in your scorecard 5 to 15 measurables for the company, but you’re also going to have that for the departments. And what we want to do is have the leadership team have more of a general picture of the whole company. It’ll give you a complete picture on your business.
Issues and Opportunities
Kevin: Throughout the course of this conversation, we’ve managed to avoid COVID entirely. But a lot of organizations are dealing with layoffs and furloughs. In other words, reduction in the AC chart. I’ve seen material come out from EOS® related to a reverse AC chart, to plan for what it would look like to pair down staff. And we’re forced to make tough decisions right now and everybody’s dealing with that. What should I do with finance? What should I do with people? What should I do with marketing and marketing spend? Should I pull back? Should I hunker down?
Zack: I’ve worked with clients in both sides, some who are actually doing even better right now because people are buying more of their products because they’re home. And I’ve worked with others who, you know, have had to look at layoffs or PPP loans. But if we see an obstacle based on COVID-19, COVID-19 is providing both issues and opportunities for companies. And it’s not the same business as before. But having your business solid in knowing what your numbers are and knowing how to step into that, you don’t just step into it, not knowing, but through EOS® or having that clarity on your business. It makes it a lot easier to make those decisions.
Kevin: What are you seeing in terms of adaptation right now? Where are you seeing businesses pivot and how is EOS® contributing to their ability to do that?
Zack: It’s easier to pivot with EOS®, when everything is running clean and smooth you have the time and attention to focus on these things because you’re clearer on your priorities. Your team is clear on them and you get better at delegating. The reason we put this operating system in place is because we want to help other people with the right tools to get where they want to be. And then when you do, you can do some pretty awesome things because your mind’s going to be free enough to be able to move towards some of those things that you can do. And what’s happened with COVID-19 right now is that we’ve all been able to step over that line in the sand because we had to.