A few years ago, my boss and Brandpoint founder, Ted Yoch, bought me a book. It was a business book, and it certainly wasn’t the first he’s asked me to read over the years. It was a book called Traction, and it outlined the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS.
I tend to approach books on optimizing your business with a little skepticism.
There are countless business and productivity books, many offering new packaging and buzz words for old principles. Some are valuable. Many are not.
Traction was different. After the Brandpoint leadership team finished it, we realized that there was something here we could work with. Not because it offered tips and tricks, but because it gave us an actionable system and framework for making our business better.
I’m going to discuss, through my experience with EOS at Brandpoint, the benefits of using an actual operating system like EOS to aid you in creating structure and running your business.
Lots of tools
During any given work day, Brandpoint employees log into Slack, Skype for Business, Freckle, BrandpointHUB, MasterTracker, Asana, Salesforce, Pardot and more to complete our work, monitor productivity, track leads, close sales and manage projects. I’m sure your organization’s list looks similar, perhaps even longer.
These tools are all worthy investments for us because they help us do our jobs better. They can also help us identify and solve individual issues and perhaps even departmental ones, too. But do they make our business better?
As we began to dig deeper into EOS, we realized we had a unique tool to create focus, simplification and improve the way our business functioned. Here’s where we saw the biggest wins:
Though it may seem trivial, implementing an operating system like EOS has helped us have meetings that people actually look forward to attending.
Real Business estimates that the average worker spends two years of his or her professional life in meetings, averaging over one whole business day per week either preparing for or sitting in meetings. Yuck.
The operating system implementation required us to think very critically about the structure, content and duration of our meetings. It helped us realize that our current way of running meetings, for lack of a better word, sucked.
Per the system, our leadership team now has a 90 minute meeting the same day every week that follows a set protocol. The bulk of the meeting is spent identifying, discussing, and most importantly, solving the issues that are barriers to achieving our goals.
This meeting structure trickles down to each of our departments, so that each one follows the same structure and focuses on solving issues relevant to their respective team. Our employees spend less time in meetings and more time serving our clients. We have clarity and focus, and we’re solving core issues every week.
EOS also has us on a cadence of quarterly and annual planning meetings that are all day affairs. Here, we take a step back from our business and put on a wider lens to make concrete plans with measurable goals for the year. Then each quarter our goals support the achievement of our annual plan.
“Everybody has a number.”
As a data guy and numbers junkie, this is one of my favorite principles of our operating system — something that was missing before.
The concept encourages an organization to assign a concrete number to each person’s expectations. It could be a sales number; it could be the time it should take to generate a topic or craft a blog.
Some may think this reduces employees to a singular, one-dimensional value. But I disagree. While it does remove subjectivity from assessment (another important tenet of EOS), giving each team member a number allows him or her to easily understand our expectations, their place in the broader company goals, and the independence to own it and work for it.
But it’s not just account project managers or writers or sales people that have numbers. Everybody does. I have a number. Our managing editor has a number. Our CTO has a number. This sort of organizational accountability has been one of this system’s greatest gifts.
When we first started thinking about this operating system idea seriously, we worked with our implementer to audit where Brandpoint currently stood. And, although there weren’t too many glaring transgressions, we quickly realized that the biggest value in using an operating system was the ability understand where we needed to focus. EOS looks at 6 core aspects of your business:
- Vision– Is it crystal clear and shared by all?
- Data – Do you operate from a scorecard and have the right measurables?
- Process – Are your core processes documented and followed by all?
- People – Do you have the right people in the right seats?
- Issues – Are your maintaining an issues list and effectively solving key issues?
- Traction – Are you able to set and achieve your “Rocks” (goals)
In the context of this process, we identified that we had a gap in our accountability chart. We have a team of writers, editors, account project managers, graphic designers and digital strategists working to create high-quality content for our clients. However, because we did not have an Ops Director in place at the time, processes were messier than they needed to be and undue stress was placed on our operations team. The audit helped us realize that there was a significant opportunity for us to improve how we fulfill and deliver content and streamline all the mechanics that go along with it.
That’s just one example of a major organizational change EOS has helped us through. And because the system creates simplicity and clarity, we have a tremendous amount of confidence that we’re making the right changes for our employees and our organization.
The importance of buy-in
Implementing a new system, process or philosophy is tough to do without the right attitude. As we’ve worked to fully implement EOS, I can’t overstate how important it has been to have buy-in from everyone in the company. It can be a messy, emotional process to take an honest look at your business through these tools and make tough decisions.
Our managers, in particular, are critical resources for our employees and hold tremendous influence on our work culture. When it comes to managing processes, adhering to proper structure and holding everyone accountable, their buy-in is crucial.
Hire an implementer
It may seem unnecessary, but it’s not. We tried to self-implement EOS, and we failed. We needed an impartial implementer without the burden of our history to help us look at our business through fresh eyes and challenge us to make hard decisions. A successful implementation of any business operating system requires complete and total objectivity, the kind that’s almost impossible for those living in the business day-to-day to give. It wasn’t until we went through the process with our implementer that we started to see the structural changes and results that we all wanted. Once you’re up and running, your implementer will typically come in to facilitate your quarterly and annual meetings.
Don’t let the name fool you. The Entrepreneurial Operating System is not just for entrepreneurs. Yes, it can provide vital growth, guidance and structure for entrepreneurs and start-ups. But, in our case, it can be just as useful (if not more) for a small or medium sized-business hoping to become agile enough to grow faster, make some bigger changes and improve from the foundation-up.
Of course, there are about as many ways to run your business as there are books about how to run your business. Aside from EOS, there are other operating systems and methods that can help you run a more efficient, more balanced business. It may take some digging and experimentation but I can guarantee that when you find the right one, it’ll be well worth it.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.