Traction


How is your business performing? Are you satisfied with results? Perhaps you feel your success is being hampered by hundreds of issues, like employee bickering or too much bureaucracy. Or maybe you feel like you need to reinvent the wheel just to survive the next few months.

In his book, Traction - Get a Grip on Your Business, published in 2014, Gino Wickman outlines a step-by-step method to solving your business problems. The Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS, will help you weed out unnecessary processes in your organization and help you regain footing in your chosen market. Based on lessons learned through practice and experience, this system shows you how focusing on just six elements can help get your company back on track.


The three most powerful points I took from the book were;


  1. Only once you’ve defined your core values, can you move to your core focus by defining what your company seeks to provide

  2. Every good manager knows you’re only as strong as the people who work for you. This is why staff members are the second crucial component to organizational success

  3. Just like your vital organs power your body, core processes keep your company running smoothly. For your company to thrive, you need to identify, document and streamline them all.



What are your company values.

When we reflect on Steve Jobs’s tenure at Apple, it’s clear his work inspired many people. After all, his goal was to build a company that didn’t just create technology but improved humanity. While the goal of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) isn’t as lofty, its powers shouldn’t be underestimated.

This entrepreneurial tool is like an abbreviated business plan, seeking answers to a series of questions to get your company on track. It has six steps. The first is to define a vision for your company. Your vision will guide every other process and decision in your organization, which means that it needs to be crystal clear. It will define your organization, where it goes and how it gets there.

Beyond that, your vision needs to be understood and shared by everyone in the organization. If it isn’t, your employees won’t move or act in concert. Finding a vision begins by defining what you want to be like as an organization. To do so, have your leadership team identify two things; your core values and your core focus.

Your core values are three to seven fundamental principles by which your company is guided. For example, among the core values of American restaurant chain Zoup! Fresh Soup Company are a “can do” attitude and a passion for the company’s brand. These values determine who the company hires as well as how it handles staff, clients and business partners.

Once you’ve defined your core values, you can move to your core focus by defining what your company seeks to provide. Or, to put it another way, which needs your company wants to satisfy. Why is defining this focus important?

Let’s look at laser printer service and supply company, Image One. The company faced problems when it expanded its business into computer networking. Amid the turmoil, company executives reminded themselves of Image One’s core focus - to simplify the printing environment of its clients. So they decided to ditch the computer division and stick to their core focus. Ever since, the company has thrived, experiencing an annual average growth rate of 30 percent.

What are your targets.

Imagine, says Wickman; you’re planning an around-the-world getaway. You’re probably thinking about which cities to visit, how to pack in smaller attractions and, of course, how to get around. When developing a business plan, you need to consider similar details. Ensure that your leadership team plans carefully what will be accomplished, when it will happen and how.

To do so, brainstorm a ten-year target with your team, says Wickman. This is your company’s larger-than-life goal for where you want to be in ten years, crucial to defining your company’s overall direction. Next, suss out your three-year picture. This should describe which strategies you’ll use over the next three years to approach your ten-year target. Once you’ve done that, you can make a one-year plan that states what has to happen in the next 365 days.

And finally, you should define your quarterly rocks. These are specific, attainable and measurable milestones you can reach within the next 90 days. After you’ve planned for the future, both near and far, you can decide on a marketing strategy. The first step is to ensure efficiency in how you win loyal customers. Remember, you can’t make everyone happy. Trying to do so might just end up frustrating loyal clients. This is why you need to define a target market and adapt your strategy to it.

For instance, if you’re the owner of a small aquatics center, it’s not in your business interest to cater to both active children and stressed-out adults. The needs of the two customer bases are different, and you won’t be able to satisfy them both simultaneously. Having defined your target market, you should identify any issues that might affect your business. In the case of the aquatics center, for example, these might be rising energy costs or a similar business opening nearby. Being aware of these will help you address them ahead of time.

Employees should adhere to your values and fit their jobs appropriately.

Every good manager knows you’re only as strong as the people who work for you. This is why staff members are the second crucial component to organizational success. So how can you make sure you’re employing people who share your company’s values? Use the people analyzer, says Wickman. This chart allocates one column to each of your company’s core values and a row to each employee. To populate your chart, record which employees adhere to which core values with a plus mark for “most of the time,” a plus/minus for “sometimes” and a minus for “never.”

Once you’ve collected this data, look for employees who exhibit most of your core values most of the time and all of your core values at least some of the time. While an employee might be growth oriented – a possible core value – that person might not always adhere to another value important to your company’s success, such as fairness. Having the right people on your team is key, but you also need to make sure people are in the right roles.

The GWC (Get, Want, Capacity) chart helps you ensure all employees are doing jobs that are best suited to their skills. To use this chart, you ask three questions. Does the employee Get it – does she understand her role? Does she Want it – does she like the job? And does she have the Capacity, whether intelligence, experience or any other quality, to perform the job effectively?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you know the person isn’t right for the job. Let’s say one of your most talented engineers is in line for a promotion to an executive position. He Gets it, knowing what the position entails; he has the Capacity to be a good executive, too. But there’s a problem, as he dreads meetings – he doesn’t Want it enough, and thus wouldn’t make a good executive.

Make use of personal scorecards.

The third key to optimizing your business for success is good data management. Many people greet this term with contempt, says Wickman, but managing data doesn’t have to be a grueling task. In fact, keeping track of information crucial to your business is simple with a couple of easy-to-use tools. You can monitor and manage employee performance with a scorecard.

Decide with your leadership team which performance factors – from five to 15 – to monitor and set a target goal for each, such as number of sales proposals given or new subscribers won. Define then who is responsible for reaching a given weekly target and, when someone doesn’t meet a goal, follow up to find out what happened.

By tracking employee performance, you’ll be able to identify any issues early on. And by quantifying performance in this fashion, you can hold people accountable clearly and objectively and also trigger healthy competition. Yet what do you do if your scorecard indicates that your team is failing to meet its targets or is facing another problem?

Here’s where the fourth key to managerial success comes in. It’s designed to help you identify important issues before they can harm your business. The name of the game is IDS, or identify, discuss and solve, sasy Wickman. Begin by listing everything that doesn’t work the way it should, making sure your staff is comfortable reporting any concerns. Then, approach the issues using the three steps stated above.

First, identify what’s going on, bearing in mind that some issues might be symptoms of bigger problems. Then discuss, giving everyone on your team the chance to voice opinions about key issues and suggest ways to handle them. And finally, solve by deciding on solutions. Often you’ll solve an issue by assigning a concrete task to a particular person. When they complete this task, the issue should ideally disappear.

Your business processes should align with your vision.

Just like your vital organs power your body, core processes keep your company running smoothly. On average, companies have seven such areas, such as marketing, human relations and operations. These processes represent the fifth component of the Entrepreneurial Operating System.

For your company to thrive, you need to identify, document and streamline them all. Here’s how. The first step is to have your leadership team list all the processes that are core to your business. Once your leadership team understands how these processes function within the company, they can begin working on ways to simplify them.

Be sure that everyone on the team agrees with the list and uses the same names to refer to the different processes. Doing so will add clarity and simplify work moving forward. Once you’ve agreed on a list, have the people in charge of each process document each important step. For instance, the head of human resources might write down the steps she takes when recruiting, orienting or terminating employees.

Next, you should review the process yourself. By taking a look at the steps team members have articulated, you’ll likely identify some that are redundant or discover areas that can be simplified, such as with technology. You might find that a department prints and files a paper copy of every company document, even though the same documents are saved and filed both in the cloud and on the company’s intranet servers. In this case, printing just creates extra work and adds cost. After you clarify redundancies, you can eliminate other unnecessary tasks, simplifying processes however you can.

From there, the remaining task is to ensure that your processes line up with your company’s core values, the values you and your leadership team defined from the start. If one of your core values is family orientation, for example, you’ll want to not sell just family-friendly products but also provide family-friendly working conditions, such as offering paid family leave. Now that your processes are under control, it’s time to learn the final step of the Entrepreneurial Operating System.

Each quarterly goal should have one owner to foster maximum accountability.

Remember the concept of “quarterly rocks” from an above? These small milestones help you realize your company’s greater goals. But for these rocks to be effective and lead you toward success, you need constantly to set new goals. To do so, meet quarterly with your leadership staff to review progress and set goals for the next quarter. Setting quarterly targets is effective, because 90 days is about as long as one person can remain focused on a single project, says Wickman.

At the meeting, have your leadership team list everything that needs to be accomplished during the next quarter. Teams should generate around ten to 20 goals on average. Since this is far too many goals to realistically reach, the second step is to discuss ideas and whittle them down to seven top priority goals, or rocks. Rocks differ from goals in general in that they’re specific, attainable and measurable. For instance, one of your rocks might be to hire a new expert for human relations.

Once you’ve chosen your top goals, make sure people are accountable for them. Assign each rock to a person on your leadership team who will be in charge of realizing it. It’s key that only one person be assigned to each rock; when multiple people are in charge, nobody feels responsible. After all your rocks have been assigned, each member of your team should set a personal rock. This can happen on a “rock sheet,” or diagram that lists company rocks and individual rocks.

You can use this list at weekly meetings to monitor progress. By making clear the responsibilities of each leader, you’ll create maximum accountability. Finally, share the company’s rocks with every person in the organization and have each department generate rocks, too. Do this by inviting everyone to a quarterly meeting where you share new rocks and report on those from the previous quarter. From here you can have departments and employees decide on one to three individual rocks in line with those of the company at large.


What I took from it.

To gain traction in the market, you need to develop a clear and coherent plan for your business. But that’s not all. It’s also essential to have the right people in the right places, track data, streamline processes and account for any potential issues in your business.

Keep meetings focused by shouting, “tangent alert!” Meetings and discussions go on too long because participants go off on tangents, or stray from the issue at hand. To prevent this, invite meeting participants to say “tangent alert!” when they notice a conversation is drifting. This will help your team stay focused and accomplish the meeting’s goals.


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