A Book That Changed Our Business

If you’re like me, you’re constantly working on and seeking ways to improve your business. That doesn’t have to mean you own a business, but rather that you treat your team like a business that you are building. 

In its most simple form, a business is a series of decisions made daily. How a business reaches those decisions is what separates the good from the great. I believe the best companies are those that are constantly improving the process and timeliness of how they make decisions, which in turn, creates consistency.

Decisions come in all shapes and sizes:

Decisions about your team:

  • o  How to reward productive work?
  • o  How is your org chart/communication chart set up?
  • o  Are people in the right place / right seat? Do they want it, get it, and have the capacity to do it?
  • o  What do employees career paths look like?
  • o  What can you do to help strengthen the company culture?
  • o  How do you encourage creativity and teamwork?

Decisions about customers.

Decisions on how to achieve profitability.

Decisions about vendors, stakeholders, and partners.

Decisions about values.

Decisions about your product.

Decisions about systems and processes within the organization

Decisions on company goals. Not just long-term, but what about 90-day goals, one-year goals, three-year goals, 10-year goals?

Decisions on why the hell your team should want to work for your business?

Decisions about the metrics of your business that matter – and how do you track them?

Decisions on what technology to use and what to get rid of.

Decisions on how to tackle issues that the company is having. 

Decisions on how to create a better competitive advantage.

Decisions on when to say NO. 

The list goes on…..

Now – for the real challenge – how do you make all these decisions on a daily basis when your firm is in a hyper-growth state, and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day or people on the team? How do you know that the decisions you made a year ago are applicable to today? A year can often change a lot of things – for better or worse. How do you make all these decisions while still staying focused?

It is not easy – in fact, it can get very overwhelming. If you’re like me – you’ve sat at your desk before, looking at the ceiling, saying, “What the hell is going on in this business? I think I know – but where can I turn to so that I can fact check? How do I know my team knows what we are all really doing here and where we are headed in the future? And if even if they kind of do, how do I know they will always be up to speed, year to year? How do I know my people like their job and can do their job?”

If you think you are alone – think again. It’s the beautiful world of entrepreneurship, running a business, or running a team – IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE!

About a year ago, I was introduced to the book Traction, by Gino Wickman. I am an avid reader of business books and material – a lot of it is great, some not so great. There are a lot of books that tell you how someone “made it” (i.e., Step 1. Drop out of college and buy a hoodie, Step 2. Code while all of your friends are at the bar, Step 3. Launch and get a shit load of funding, Step 4. Scale, gain customers and learn from your mistakes, Step 5. Sell). 

Traction is not that book. Traction is a set of tools and immediate action items you can learn in order to change the way your business operates, which if successful, will help with Steps 3 -5 above (no guarantees on Steps 1 & 2!). This is what I needed to take Fort Capital to the next level, and it has been an absolute game changer. Unlike a lot of business books, this book provides a very easy to understand, practical approach to business that allows you to begin implementing processes into your business immediately that will help you “get a grip on your business”. Traction teaches “The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)”. 

Traction breaks any business down into six key components: Vision, People, Data, Process, Issues, and Traction. It gives you tools on how to manage and think about each component. Traction has helped us see our business with a lot more clarity and has left us more empowered to make more consistent and focused decisions.

I won’t rewrite the book, but I’ll give some context on the six key components:

Vision – If you can clarify your vision, you can make better decisions about people, processes, finances, strategies, and customers. Traction is teaching us how to create a Vision/Traction Organizer (VTO) that helps to clearly show our Core Values, Core Focus, 10-year Target, Marketing Strategy, three-year goals, one year plan, 90 days goals, and all the issues that could hinder us from getting there.

People – We are learning better practices on hiring and making sure that the right people are in the right seat. We are learning how to understand if people get it, want it, and have the ability to do it. Lastly, we are learning how to make sure to spread accountability throughout the company.

Data – We are learning how to formulate and manage data so that we can have a pulse on our business and be proactive rather than reactive. It is teaching us to define which metrics need to be consistently tracked. This had a huge impact on us. It is easy to have a feeling you’re doing well or poorly, but the proof is in the numbers. The numbers will pinpoint exactly how well and how poorly. As the saying goes: “The numbers don’t lie”. 

Issues – The book says, “Your ability to succeed is in direct proportion to your ability to solve your problems.” We are not only learning how to make decisions more quickly; more importantly, we are learning how to solve problems more quickly. What drains most people’s energy isn’t having a lot of work to do, it’s having a lot of unresolved issues. We are learning how to quickly Identify, Discuss, and Solve problems (IDS).

Process – This is often the most neglected and overlooked component by entrepreneurs and leaders. Knowing your core processes, writing them down, and effectively communicating them across the company creates consistency. Consistency is a key trait that all great companies share.

Traction – The first five components help create traction. An organization with traction is accountable, communicates well, and is focused and organized. We’ve learned the importance of weekly leadership meetings, also known as Level 10 meetings, which are 90-minute meetings that are organized/structured so that a pulse of the business is measured weekly. In these meetings, I’m learning how to work on the business and not in the business. 

I truly believe this book can help businesses of all sizes. I have met companies with four to 400 people that operate off the EOS system. This is not a book that you can read once, put it up, and expect results. This is a BIG commitment. In fact, the book even recommends (but doesn’t require) hiring an EOS professional to consult your business in the early stages of rolling out EOS. We did not hire a consultant. Our company committed in January of 2017, and we are still learning how to consistently implement best practices. Traction sits on my desk, and I refer to it at least once a week. I’ve probably read it cover to cover at least three times. Like everything in life that you want to be great at, it takes practice. I am in no way professing that we have perfected the book, but I do know we are becoming more consistent and focused each quarter. 

I am forever grateful for being introduced to this book and encourage anyone seeking more consistency and clarity in their business to join in.

-CJPJ