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Traction: Get a grip on your business

Traction: Get a grip on your business

By Sue Tellier

“This book is not another silver bullet management book or flavor-of-the-month strategy. It contains no theory.” – Gino Wickman, Author of Traction

Growth companies face distinct challenges.

Like many SBAM members, our company moved on from the scrappy start-up phase, hired employees and retained an established niche or client base. We manage financials, employees, client relationships, systems, quality issues, customer service, innovation and strategic direction.

Growing companies have competing options for how to strategize and grow well—many of which are merely costly distractions. We have consultants calling frequently and we have shelves of how-to books. Following multiple strategies is fragmented (I’ve tried it). This led our company to deeply explore sophisticated tools that can guide strategic planning and support methodical growth.

This is where Gino entered my life.

In Traction, Gino Wickman introduces small business leaders to the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). He sequentially details six key elements: Vision, People, Data, Process, Issues and Traction. In effect, EOS organizes small business leadership in a focused operating system. EOS also offers many free downloads to assist self-implementers.

Assessment
The book is written in an easy-to-follow manner and is designed to be tactical, not merely strategic. This is a differentiator of Traction. I’ve followed other strategic planning guides that were effective in developing plans yet lacked implementation tactics.

It’s more fun to assess the EOS approach than the book. What follows is a tale of two EOS implementations:

Tale #1:  NuWave Technology Partners
NuWave Technology Partners is a strong, second-stage company headquartered in Michigan (regular readers of Focus likely recognize NuWave as a frequent contributor). NuWave is a managed services provider, also offering a uniquely candid level of cybersecurity readiness and reaction expertise to small and medium-sized businesses.

NuWave CEO Chad Paalman and his leadership team opted to work with an EOS implementer. This choice gave them external accountability and experienced guidance from someone with multiple successful implementations.

NuWave’s implementer guided them on a year-long journey, following the six sequential steps and engaging their leadership team. Chad candidly and humbly shares the intense challenges and the joy of their EOS implementation, including some painful decision points regarding their shared company vision and their leadership team.

NuWave’s results match the intensity of their journey. While Chad expected EOS to disrupt internal operations as it refocused and refined their leadership, he was most impressed at how much his clients noticed the change. Client satisfaction meetings were more polished and productive, emulating the Level 10 meeting concept described in Traction.

NuWave was already successful. EOS made them better. The approach changed their company trajectory.

Tale #2: JetCo Solutions
JetCo Solutions serves as the government sales and marketing arm for sophisticated, second-stage small businesses. JetCo has 14 employees who specialize in various areas of government sales or sales support. There are capture professionals, researchers, GSA specialists, writers and proposal managers. Companies hire JetCo when they know government agencies are a potential market and they lack in-house expertise or capacity to do it themselves.

Confession: JetCo Solutions is mine, so pronouns will be “we” in this tale, which is also somewhat of a confession. Read on.

My husband and I started and own JetCo together, and we fell into a disastrous “co-leader” structure which created confusion. Each year, we created a strategic plan with measurable goals. And each year, we met our goals. Despite this apparent success, it felt disorganized. It felt like we could do BETTER.

Enter EOS. I’ve owned the book Traction for years. I read it once, liked the idea, yet didn’t implement right away. Last October, after talking with Chad, I chose EOS as our strategic planning framework, self-implementing as I acclimated to the tools. I felt confident in our path. I followed the steps, customized as needed for our situation, and felt satisfied with the plan I finalized in December.

By March, I had the familiar feeling of disorganization. Our plan was solid and our goals feasible. I had a ‘what-the-hell’ moment (actually it lasted a week). Wonderful thing about our company: we embrace failure. That’s a really great thing in this case, since our EOS implementation failure was on us, not the approach. Key issue: I followed the steps and customized as needed for our situation, but I chose which elements to consider for my business. 

Traction is a system with six individual components. I customized the People component, which took accountability and structure away from my implementation. I looked at the EOS basic accountability chart, with five key roles, and ignored it. I opted for my own chart, because it was comfortable, and our situation was unique. Sidebar: I openly mock special snowflakes who believe their situation is always unique. And yet, I fell into this trap. Ouch.

I owned the failure, and I shared it apologetically with our employees. We are starting fresh. We know EOS works. Our small business peers are there for us as we self-implement and course-correct.

Recommendation
If you are a growth company looking to focus and gain productivity, EOS is worthy of consideration. Growth is hard. Like many small business owners, I’ve tried to find the silver bullet. I’ve used multiple platforms for building single and multi-year strategic plans. The gap for me in all of them was implementation. For our company, Traction is literally about gaining traction.

For your chance to win one of two copies of Traction, visit www.sbam.org/EOS.

Sue Tellier co-owns JetCo Solutions, a government contracting sales and marketing arm for highly qualified small businesses. JetCo clients have won 448 contracts valued at almost $4 billion. Learn more at www.jetcosolutions.com.

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