Any founder (or early employee) knows the constant tension we wrestle between working on the business versus in the business. As if it was a perfect slope of gradual improvement over the past 15 years of running Foojee, I've slowly become better at recognizing these two thinking modes and creating boundaries of where I spend my time.
The difficult part of this is that I love working in the business. That's why I started it, and to this day working with clients, or optimizing one of our security tools gives me energy. And equal energy comes from building this puzzle-of-a-business. But learning where you should be spending your time is an important lesson, and it's different for each founder.
I tend to seek out mentors, read articles, books, ask peers for advice. Maybe it's because I'm the third of six children, but I've always sought advice from those who've walked the path before me. For whatever reason though, when it came to having an operational manual for Foojee, I was reluctant to subscribe to any common framework.
- "Surely we're doing fine if we're still in business."
- "Why would I want to run a business like some textbook company from the 90s?"
This was my thinking. I prefer to seek inspiration from new books on leadership like Turn the Ship Around!, anti-business books like REWORK, or revolutionary strategies like Blue Ocean Strategy. (All of which I highly recommend!)
But the idea of using a blueprint to run the company kind of goes against everything about me. That sounds boring! We're a smart team, we've got great SOPs, clients love us, why would I want more strucutre? (Listen, I've got plenty of rebuttals to structure.) It wasn't until our dear friend and client Ashley basically forced me to read Rocket Fuel when I learned a paradoxical lesson: My leadership style is precisely the reason why Foojee needs to run on a boring-figured-out blueprint. Turns out, it's actually not boring at all. And a well oiled operation is more exhilerating than you can imagine. To not have to reinvent this wheel of business is like having three perfectly prepared meals a day, perfectly proportioned, perfectly suited to your tastebuds. Meeting agendas are already scripted out for us, an employee reviews framework is done, quarterly goals are ironed out, KPIs are created, and I could go on. And it gives us, the founders, space to follow our ideas, research trends, and serve our team with energy. 2 years into our implementation of the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS), and I can say it was the missing piece of our company that I've been looking for all along.
Learn from my failure
It wasn't an instant hit though. I read the Rocket Fuel audiobook first, and while I was still halfway into it, I asked my operations leader to read it so we could discuss. Without going into all the details now, I chose two key people in the company to help me implement it, and I announced the new EOS framework a month later. After six months of trying, our work in the business got ahead of us and EOS was relegated to just another Lucas idea that never panned out.
It wasn't until I came across a client who had implemented EOS several times in previous companies that I decided to bring him in as a "coach" of sorts to help implement it. I've implemented plenty of things myself over the years (we have to as founders, right?) but after failing once, I knew it was time to seek help. I'll never forget how our coach Pete described our attempt at EOS, "It's like you're trying to perform a surgery with the textbook on top of the body."
It's true, we were trying to implement EOS while also trying to learn this new way of running a business, which was basically a lost cause before we even started. Let me list a few things that Pete did within weeks to give you an idea of what we improved on the 2nd attempt. Each of these could be its own post.
Things that helped us launch EOS the right way. (Abridged version)
- 3 leaders is too few. Need a minimum of 5 on the leadership team to have a chance. (Visionary, Integrator, Dir of Finance, Dir of Ops, Dir of Sales.) He was right. But... how would we have directors without any extra money? -->
- Hire leaders within. Create a simple profit sharing bonus for the leadership team. Salaries will grow as the business performs, but for now, they get a cut of the profits. My goal was to make the calculation fit in one simple table, and to not have to "manage" the calculations regularly. We just reference it once a year.
- Ask leaders to apply for the job. Once accepted, they must read Traction before the first meeting.
- Don't go full EOS right away. The first quarter of implementing EOS needs to be thought of as training wheels. Just 1 quarterly goal for each leader, and 1 KPI/scorecard for each leader. The goal of the first quarter is to build habits of this new structure.
- The second quarter is when you can lean in and add 2-3 quarterly goals and more scorecards.
- If it's not clear yet, having a coach, whether an officially licensed EOS Implementor or not, is critical. My client who told me about this 2 years ago said the same thing, and I ignored it. Please, do your future self a huge favor and hire an EOS implementor.
Does it really work though?
Since implementing EOS for 2 quarters, we've now had our longest monthly profit streak since 2018. It's insane. We have an incredible group of leaders who are self motivated, and were eager to have a chance at improving the company. Even team members who aren't on the leadership team have given us private feedback that the changes have been awesome. They're feeling the procedural changes, the accountability, and the improvements without even being in the weekly leadership meetings. They're seeing the business change for the better.
If you have doubts, good, you're on the right track. I'd recommend the same place I started. Rocket Fuel is an easy audio book that introduces the main concepts for the founder, and maybe a #2 person on your team. Traction is the how-to book that I would absolutely require everyone on the leadership team to read before the first quarterly meeting.
If you have questions or maybe want to share a quick note how EOS is going for you (and in the IT space?) I'd genuinely love to hear from you. EOS is a blast. It's made the business a ton of fun because each of the leaders are in a role that is exciting to them, and the whole team feeds off that energy. Do it! You won't regret it.