Small business owners and entrepreneurs all have their own specific formula for operating their businesses. Over my 30 years as a business owner, I have learned that the best way to keep track of your growth and success is by implementing and adhering to standard operating procedures that cultivate consistency and track your goals on a regular cadence.
Sachse Construction follows the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a combination of straightforward concepts and practical tools that have helped thousands of entrepreneurs grow their businesses. More than 15 years ago, I was one of the first business owners to embrace and leverage the EOS system. Today, a decade and a half after implementation, our leadership team—like so many other entrepreneurial organizations in Michigan and across the country—has learned a great deal about how to make this kind of system work for our business.
Along the way, we’ve experienced complex challenges and countless opportunities, all while growing alongside an evolving operating system. We have experienced firsthand the importance of investing in people, process and culture and the value of best practices that can be applied by other small business owners looking to achieve a similar level of success.
Taking the Leap
In 2003, I attended a presentation from EOS founder Gino Wickman. At the time, he hadn’t published any of his now-popular books, and the system was still in its early developmental stages. There was something innovative about the program—and about the thought process behind it—that really stood out to me.
While I recognized the potential in the EOS system, it was Gino‘s passion and enthusiasm that ultimately convinced me. I trusted my instincts and took a leap of faith that this investment and this program would take my business to the next level. Trusting yourself enough to take those kinds of calculated risks is one of the best things you can do as a small business owner or entrepreneur. Becoming an early adopter of a program like EOS ultimately turned out to be one of the smartest business decisions we have made as a firm. The system has given us the opportunity to grow and evolve as a business, expand our service offers, invest in great people with big ideas and better serve our clients nationally and internationally.
Growth and Opportunity
One quote from Gino that has always resonated with me is to “systemize the predictable so you can humanize the exceptional.” The best operating systems enable businesses to do just that. The greatest benefit of any operating system is that it provides processes and systems that can allow your organization to scale through the ongoing process of simplification. As any operation grows, it becomes increasingly complex, and, without streamlined and consistent processes and procedures in place, things can become chaotic and inefficient very quickly.
Over the last 15 years, we’ve learned a lot about EOS and ourselves as an organization. I can distill some of those lessons down into key best practices—principles that EOS adopters, entrepreneurs and small business owners should adhere to if they want to maximize their chances of success:
1. Make the Commitment
You must be passionately committed for a business operation program to work. To reap its full benefit, program integration and adherence must be intentional and ongoing. I like to say that the EOS system is similar to a diet. There are other diets out there that are just as impactful and may yield comparable results. What makes the difference is whether you can follow the rules and whether that behavior is sustainable.
Part of what makes EOS so effective is that it’s designed to deliver on that score; it gives you a roadmap to follow and a system to ensure that you stay on the right track over time. Like a diet, however, it isn’t magic, and it isn’t easy. On the contrary—it’s hard, and it doesn’t get easier over time. An operating system is a process, a mindset and a way of life.
Unlike a diet, where all you need to worry about is yourself, your operating system is something that has be shared with and embraced by your entire team. The challenge is that every single team member needs to follow the protocol and the system needs to be refined and reinforced again and again over time.
2. Train and Maintain
Business operating systems provide you with the concepts, processes and tools you need to make it work, but you also need to have established processes for maintaining that new infrastructure. In other words, you need training for the training! This isn’t a soapbox derby where you build the car, get it started at the top of hill and rely on gravity and momentum to do the rest.
A business operating system is more like a combustion engine; it’s powerful, but it requires fuel, new parts, maintenance and ongoing care and attention.
3. Document and Simplify
Document your work and make sure that document is not just relevant, but present. Part of what makes EOS so appealing is that your entire business plan can fit on a single sheet of paper (front and back). If your plan fills a 3-ring binder, it’s functionally useless. You just put it on a shelf and forget about it. Our business plan, the Vision Traction Organizer (VTO), is posted in every single office, workstation and job site. The document is shared and discussed all the time, not just every now and then or once a year.
4. Followed by All
Have specific training protocols in place to teach your operating system to every single team member. We require everyone to read the book, What the Heck is EOS? and we provide classroom training to make sure team members learn and master the terminology. We also include all training and EOS information on our mobile app, so everyone has it on her/his phone, available at any time.
The final piece is accountability. Make sure the concepts and tools are shared. The systems should be understood and provide clarity around everyone’s roles and responsibilities.
If I could boil it all down into underlying principles, it would be these three things: Share it. Train it. Do it. If you keep those priorities in mind, you’ll be setting yourself up for sustained success—with EOS or with any business operating system of your choice.