I’ve been operating my business on EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) for just about three years. It’s pretty common that I advocate for other entrepreneurs to look into the methodology by starting with the book Traction or Get a Grip. I actually read Get a Grip first – which I’m glad I did since it walks through a story with an EOS Implementer working with a business. Had I not started there and read Traction instead first, I might not have hired an Implementer.
Over the last couple of years I have been asked a lot of questions about EOS.
Why do they call it an “operating system”?
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I didn’t go to business school. I love to build products and services and solve problems. I have a lot of experience running a business. What I found for years was that I spent an incredible amount of my time working out some basic things around meetings, structure, planning, and people. I felt like I was reinventing the wheel. And I was.
Imagine that you wanted to write an amazing blog post, but before you got into your favorite writing application that you needed to first build an operating system for your computer. That would sound pretty crazy. But entrepreneurs do it every day. We get a product or service to market, get some traction, and then start building a business around it. I found myself spending more time working out the business than serving my customers.
So I installed an operating system.
EOS doesn’t really make your product or service great. Just like it doesn’t really matter if you are on Windows or Mac for most of us. The system just provides the blank canvas for you to work within.
Can I go it alone or do I need to hire an Implementer?
An Implementer is a trained EOS consultant that helps you apply the “operating system” to your business. We use Bobi Siembieda. If you have the funds – use an Implementer.
If you are just starting out and you don’t have the budget, try to find another entrepreneur – or a self-implementer group like Traction Groups – that are on EOS so you can learn from them. There are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles that can stand in your way and become major barriers to you getting the most out of the system.
When we first hired Bobi, she said that we’d work together for about 18-months and then we could go it alone. We’re way past that. Having a facilitator and trained EOS expert to help me get the most out of my quarterly and annual offsite sessions has proven a high ROI. I get to be fully present in thinking about the issues, ideas, and vision for my business. I’m not worried about running my agenda.
I’ve also been known to politic a bit. Bobi is great at reeling me in.
How much does an EOS Implementer cost?
I won’t publish Bobi’s prices since it’s not my business. But, EOS told me the range is between $3,000 and $10,000 per daily offsite session. We have three “quarterlies” that are each one day and then an “annual” that is two days. We also do our sessions offsite – so you might also incur some meeting room costs and catering.
I think all-in it costs us around $20k-ish per year. It is money well spent.
What does an EOS Implementer do?
Think of them as your guide to getting your business operating on EOS effectively. They will also be your facilitator for your offsite meetings. Bobi runs our agenda, keeps us on point, helps us gain new vantage points when needed, and offers advice and perspective from her experience.
I’m not sure what other Implementers do, but in between meetings, Bobi makes herself available to our leadership team for impromptu calls. I have been known to shoot an EOS “SOS” of sorts on occasion to Bobi when in crisis. She considers this part of our quarterly investment in her and does not nickel and dime us for this time. This availability has helped me get unstuck in a big way.
I’ve also used Bobi as an adviser to big decisions in the business. This could be around personnel changes or even an emergency pivot mid-quarter. Over the last couple of years she has gotten to know our business from the inside – the most intimate details about our financials, people, goals, vision, etc. Having an adviser with this perspective that is outside of the business is priceless. Sometimes it’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.
What kind of obstacles did you have early on?
I think like anything, even though there is clear and concise instructions, they are open to interpretation. EOS is a lot to learn – and you are running a business simultaneously – so it can feel like you are taking a step back. I’m going to break down a few of the components to answer this question better:
- L10 Meetings
These weekly sessions are the heartbeat of EOS. One of the things that we stumbled with was how to prioritize issues. We would have eight or nine issues on the whiteboard, and then we would “prioritize” them and we’d spend 15-minutes arguing about how to rank them. Our mistake was that we were ranking the whole list. The trick here is to just rank the top-three issues. A simple “1, 2, 3” next to the top issues and then you work those. When you finish the third, you re-rank the top three and start over.We also implemented a guideline of two types of issues that get precedence over others – any issue related to a “Company Rock” trumps all others and get’s first priority; any issue related to an “Individual Rock” then gets the next priority. After that it goes based on any urgent/important issues or things that people feel are pressing. You want to spend as much time IDS’ing issues, so prioritization should be done in seconds – not minutes. Get through it so you can dig in.
Oh the frustration! Scorecarding has probably been one of the most painful areas of EOS for us. Over the last three years, we have tracked so many numbers that are worthless indicators of our core business. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on developers and analytics platforms to get numbers out of our business to give us a glimpse of what is going on. After almost three years, we finally have a really good, concise business scorecard that tells us key numbers that indicate the health of the business – from both a leading and lagging indicator. Bobi always said “less is better” to keep us from going too number crazy. But it didn’t matter. We threw a lot of “wouldn’t it be nice to know” type numbers on our scorecard for a while.I recommend using the Getting What You Want exercise here and do your best to pick a couple of numbers that are true indicators of what you are trying to achieve in your business. Just because you are interested in learning a number in your business, doesn’t mean you need to put it on your scorecard.The last thing I’ll say here is that we struggled with the difference in a scorecard metric and an individual daily measurable. Some people in the business won’t have scorecard numbers measured on a weekly basis. For those folks, a daily measurable is great. One of my VA that handles collections has a daily measurable for “dollars collected.”
- Accountability Chart
Our organization ballooned out after we first implemented EOS. I think our chart had something like 30-seats. We countered that with an over-simplification down to about six seats and finally settled on a really good structure of 17 seats. One of the pitfalls I found was when you had an “unaccounted for seat” in the organization. Meaning, someone on your team is accountable for a regular task or responsibility and it is not on your accountability chart. And then in other cases, we turned individual role accountabilities into entire seats.I also found that we put individual roles and responsibilities into a seat that were aspirational. Just like Jim Collins said there are core values and aspirational values – you want to be careful to avoid giving someone accountabilities that don’t really exist in your business but sound like a good idea when you are structuring your chart. An accountability chart really isn’t a creative exercise. You should do your best to capture what is actually happening in your business today – as-is – without making up tasks or responsibilities that don’t really exist.
These are the quarterly “informal” reviews of team members. Be careful not to turn these into a formal review. The purpose of a 555 is an informal check-in. This should be done over lunch or breakfast in a casual environment outside of the office. Otherwise you’ll find yourself resisting 555’s if you make them more like formal reviews since it will feel like a lot of work.
Ohhh you heavy, heavy loads. Rocks are quarterly priorities that you choose to push your business to the next level during your off-sites. Sometimes I feel like the Cookie Monster when it comes to rocks. Perhaps I drink too much coffee during our planning sessions. Early on I think it’s natural to think that you want to get everything done in a quarter. What I’ve come to realize is three months isn’t a very long time.What you want to avoid when it comes to rocks is choosing too many, not getting them done, and then getting into your next quarterly with either half finished rocks or being totally burned out from overworking yourself. One or two individual rocks for a quarter go a long way. One or two company rocks go even farther.A really important thing to understand is how relative the quality of a rock is getting done and how much you take on. Rocks ARE NOT todo’s. They aren’t something to check off a list. For example, if my rock is to “launch a new website” but I take on two other rocks along with that one. There is a giant continuum when it comes to the quality and effectiveness of the output for a thing like “launch a new website” based on how much other stuff I have going on. If that was my only priority for a quarter, I would probably put a lot more effort and thought into it versus trying to rebuild my website while balancing two other big priorities at the same time. This trade-off is important to think about when you are planning your rocks.If you overcommit and end up completing a rock, but you didn’t really get it done to set yourself up for long term success, what you’ll find is it impacts your rocks and todo’s downstream. For instance, if you cut corners on your new website and it doesn’t end up producing new leads and customers for your business, then you might find yourself trying to take on rocks in the future to solve these problems.I stole my mantra for Rocks from Essentialism – “less but better.”
Why is EOS causing problems in my business?
I have found myself trying to blame EOS several times over the course of using the system. Especially when we would uncover a purpose, trajectory, or issue that caused me a lot of stress. I think it’s easy when you uncover a big stinking problem with an EOS tool to think the resulting stress or frustration from that issue is the fault of EOS.
We have uncovered a lot of problems with our weekly meetings and quarterly offsites. We’ve aimed for big goals in our annuals. We’ve made a LOT of decisions and not all of these have turned out great for us or without causing someone grief.
Here is an example of heartache that have happened during the course of EOS activities:
- Eliminating jobs ie. layoffs
- Changing directions and dropping products or services
- Realizing someone wasn’t performing and firing them
- Realizing someone wasn’t a culture fit and firing them or they quit
- Arguing about the direction and purpose with my business partner
- Taking on new responsibility that was outside of my comfort zone
- Engaging in frustrating disagreements with team members
- Being disappointed about missing a goal or objective
- Over-committing to too many priorities or Rocks
The best analogy that I can provide about EOS causing problems is to compare it again to a computer operating system and the quality of what you produce on said operating system. Sure there are times that Windows doesn’t bend to my will, but usually that’s because of me, not it. And the quality of my work or output really is independent of a modern day operating system.
There have been times where I thought I would be better off without discovery key issues in my business or aiming for big goals – but that’s just ridiculous. I’d rather get into the dirt – no matter how dirty – and build an amazing business. EOS is probably not causing your problems. It’s just bringing them to light – and that’s a good thing.
How long does it take to get to 100% in all of the key areas?
Perfection is unattainable according to Bobi. And how you judge yourself in your key EOS areas is kind of up to you. Very subjective. You’re 60% on data might be my 90%. I was told that it takes about three years before you feel like it’s fully implemented. Might sound like a long time, but it flies by…
I think I will still be discovering and learning about how to leverage EOS as our business operating system for many more years to come. There’s so much growth opportunity when it comes to being a better entrepreneur. I feel like the second I get to a 90% confidence – I’ll also understand a specific area even better and realize how much more I have to learn. I think they call that the expert dilemma or something – where you don’t really know what you don’t know until you become an expert at something and then you’re like “I know nothing!”
I felt measured breakthroughs for EOS at six months, a year, and eighteen months. A bit after two years I felt like I took a big step backwards. As I approach year three, I’m feeling a new level of optimism in our six key areas.
Is my company too small to adopt EOS?
While the organization says that EOS is a great platform for companies ranging from $2mm annually to $50mm – it can be transformational for smaller businesses too. We were less than $1m when we adopted it and are now close to $2m.
I have seen entrepreneurs adopt the framework with $100k in annual revenues and even $50k. I think there are fundamental ideas within EOS that can be powerful for a business at any size:
- Create a simple vision and business plan that can fit on one to two sheets of paper
- Keep a regular standing meeting where you meet with your team and work on core issues
- Track a few numbers on a weekly basis to get a read on the health of your business
- Take one day per quarter and two days per year to step completely out of your business and “work on the business”
- Continuously work to improve your business’s Vision, Data, Process, People, Issues and to gain Traction.
One disadvantage of being a small business with limited revenue is that it will be tough to hire an Implementer.
Can I mix EOS with other business management systems?
The folks at EOS advocate that you keep to a single system to run your business. It’s better this way to reduce confusion or conflict of how you operate. That being said, you might find that specific departments or teams adopt things like “agile” to manage projects or quality assurance teams might take concepts from Six Sigma – that’s ok. What EOS wants you to avoid is mixing and matching how you approach your overall company operating system.
I’ve gotten pushback from people on this a bit. I tend to run pretty orthodox EOS and work to avoid bringing in other systems. But recently I found a conflict because I started using the Who method to improve our hiring processes and they use a “Scorecard” as a way to outline a job position and desired outcomes. Just this language being the same as our business scorecard from EOS caused a lot of confusion in our meetings when it came to todo’s around hiring new team members.
That’s it for now!
If you have questions about EOS, let me know by leaving a comment below. Happy to add to this guide over time.
I started EOS last month, and am loving it so far. My biz is definitely on the small side, but I still see the benefits. It was helpful to read your lessons learned, since you’re much further down the path of implementation.
I am an EOS Implementer and this is the best article I have found anywhere discussing the pros and cons of the system. Thanks for sharing and being a great ambassador for EOS / Traction.
I have been implementing EOS as a corporate development lead within my current company. Love it. However, I’m considering the EOS boot camp training to become a consultant. Do you have any insight or advice for me?
Hey Elizabeth! Great to hear you’re implementing EOS at your company. I have not gone through the implementer/consultant training, so I’m not able to give you any feedback there. My suggestion would be to connect with some other certified implementers on that front. We’re a business implementing EOS and I pay a certified implementer as a consultant to help us get the most out of EOS. If it makes a difference, all of the implementers I know are great people!
How would you explain the adapt EOS to HR, specifically employee policies and procedures. We want an open honest dialogue with employees and that everyone knows the expectations so they can do their job properly but, some of the current policies are vague and subjective. This is leaving managers in the company and employees with different understandings of things like our attendance policy.
Hey Steven – I’m more entrepreneur/CEO kind of guy than HR guy. But my advice would be to attempt to shift your policies to be more measurable and objective than vague guidelines. I find that being specific and objective wins in the long run. When your team knows what you expect of them, they tend to step up or get out.
That being said, I think EOS as an operating system provides a lot of space to work out these issues. If you have vague policies, perhaps each one of them needs to be added as an issue and IDS’d with your leadership or department team until you have better policies. Or, if leaders/managers in the business aren’t getting what they want from their team, they need to define the seats better and run a “555” meeting where you run through Core Values and GWC (get it, want it, and capacity for it). Make sure the right people are in the right seats.
Hope that helps.
We are starting EOS and I am concerned that the Quality Department has been left out. How do we address customer requirements and being certified to 3rd party specifications such as IATF-16949 under EOS?
I’m not sure any department is “left out” of EOS since creating your company’s Accountability Chart is an exercise that your Leadership Team will undertake. Depending on how you approach this, your Quality Department could be a top-level department with a leader that participate in the leadership meetings and direction of the business. Or it could be a person or team that reports under Ops or Finance/Admin depending on what makes the most sense for you. If I was in your shoes and participating at the leadership or department level, the issue would be “quality department and accountability chart” and then you would IDS (identify, discuss, and solve) for the issue to figure out where you fit within the org.
Can EOS be used as the model from the very beginning of a business? I am the sole owner / employee at this early stage, just starting the business and looking for the best model to work with. When I read some EOS materials, I can’t quite see how to implement EOS at this early stage. Am I feeling this because EOS is better suited to a later stage of my business?
Hey Ryan, this is a really good question. EOS was “designed for” companies in the $2m/year to $50m/year stage. However, I have personally used it for businesses in an earlier stage than that and have consulted with hundreds that are at the very beginning stage of their business and EOS has been a great operating framework. I think to have a two-page business plan (ie. your V/TO™), weekly all-hands meetings with a team (or self-led via journaling if you are solo) to tackle and breakdown issues, and weekly scorecards are all must-haves. There are other tools within the EOS toolbox that you would only start using once you have a team (accountability chart, 555’s, LMA, etc), but I think there are a lot of tools that will work just fine while you’re at the starting stage.
I would recommend some additional toolsets for early-stage companies. One, in particular, being the Lean Canvas and Customer Validation that you can read about in Ash Maurya’s Running Lean.
Hope that helps. Best of luck with your venture!
This is a great review of EOS, Brent. We are considering implementing this. I’ve had 3 key personnel read Traction and now the discussion begins of how many people should be on the Leadership Team. We have 65 employees and do approximately $10-$12 million revenue annually. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks.
You’d have a leader for each of your core business functions like marketing, sales, operations, finance, and administration plus your Integrator and Visionary seats. Each business has its own structure, some combine marketing and sales into “business development”. Some have other operations-level teams like quality assurance and other teams like that. What is important is that it’s the right structure for your team. Based on your size, I would highly recommend hiring an EOS implementor. This is not what I do as I run my own company like you. We used Bobi Siembieda at Conrad Business Results. She’s a legend.
Hey Brent… I’m an EOS Implementer and love what you’ve done here! You’ve helped people to better understand the WHY behind EOS (something I discovered as a business owner a while back) and even some of the challenges. Well done! And kudos to Bobi for helping you through it.
Can you direct me to the Who method to improve our hiring processes?
Of course! Here is Geoff Smart’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Who-Method-Hiring-Geoff-Smart-ebook/dp/B001EL6RWY
How were your initial L10’s? We’ve had 2 so far and neither has been productive. Nothing solved, and the average score was (a generous) 6. We’re trialing Traction Tools, which is helping (some of the LT) with organizing To-Do’s and Issues, etc. Scorecard is a disaster. Prioritization of IDS is also an issue, but I like your suggestion to choose Company Rock-related ones first, then go to Individual-related next and other urgent ones after. I’m leading the L10, so will recommend that for the next one. Any other tips welcome. We have VB1 with our Implementor in 2 weeks.
Hey there Captain –
Couple of things…
Why give yourself a generous assessment? You and your team need to be 100% honest. If the meeting was as 1, call it a 1. Sounds to me like right on the top, you aren’t being open and honest as a team. If the meeting wasn’t effective and team members are calling it a 6… I’m going to call that out.
Couple of things on your Issues List:
1) Are you asking each team member to put their issues on the list?
2) Are you prioritizing the top 3 issues? (don’t go further, just “1, 2, 3”)
3) Are you IDS’ing your issues (Identify what the issue is, who it affects, why it needs to be solved, Discuss what is happening, what are the options to solve, then Solve – what is or isn’t going to be done about the issue and who is accountable to getting the Todo done?)
4) Are you adding those Todos to your list and getting to 80%+ complete each week?
5) Are you directing team members to the Issues List when they bring up problems that need the teams help to solve?
Re: Todo list… the todo list is for the L10. Not for tracking all team members’ activities in the business. So if you are tracking a ton of non-related, seat-level todo’s on the L10 board, you’re not doing it right. The L10 todo list is for tracking accountabilities from L10-related todos that are directly solving issues from the last L10.
Re: Scorecards, this takes time to figure out. Likely there is one or two numbers per major business function. Consider tracking less, but better numbers. For example, Marketing should be accountable for driving qualified leads. Sales should be accountable for closing business via a number of deals or gross revenue generated. Ops should be accountable for client fulfillment revenue or client retention as a % of churn. Finance should be accountable for aging accounts receivables.
Here is an article you can read about Scorecards that I wrote:
My last piece of advice to you Captain is to stay patient. Work with your Implementer on these tools and stay disciplined in their practice. Perhaps ask your Implementer to audit one of your L10’s. We did that a lot early on to get feedback.
Just like riding a bike… you gotta start slow, but you’ll be doing backflips in no time.
Hey Brent – We have used EOS since 2012 and have grown the business from $7MM to about $100MM. I’m wondering if we could outgrow this system. I’m kinda looking for the next thing to get us from $100MM to $1B. Thoughts?
Perhaps talk with Verne Harnish and his team over at Gazelles: https://scalingup.com/
That’s outside my area of expertise, but I’m sure Verne could guide you to resources that might be relevant for you. I would also consider joining YPO (https://www.ypo.org/) if you’re not already a member there.
Super content – Thanks for writing Brent and for the other contributions here.
I’ve just discovered EOS and am excited to implement the methodology and I’ve got some super insights from this thread!
Awesome Pete! Glad we could inspire part of your EOS journey. Let us know how you progress.
Nicely written article Brent, we implemented EOS for my EO chapter yesterday and I’m considering implementing for my company. We had a business coach for a year but our process had zero accountability. It seems like the strength of EOS is the “traction” part which helps hold everyone accountable, so I’m intrigued.
Did you find that Bobi’s coaching was a large factor in your implementation’s success? If so, what are one or two vital characteristics that she brought to the table?
I have a coach in mind, just interested in hearing more about that side of it.
Note: Great article, expertly organized for SEO 🙂
Hey Aaron! Glad you enjoyed the post. Congrats on making moves towards implementing EOS. Did the business coach use EOS? Or perhaps you’re referencing that you’d like a more accountability-based system leveraging EOS that drives accountability…
You are right, the “Traction” part of the process drives internal accountability. Here are my thoughts:
1) The most frequent accountability pulse is with the weekly L10 meetings. You are putting up your to-do’s every week and holding yourself and your team accountable for taking action. You and your team should be getting at least 80% of your weekly to-do’s done. These to-dos are being created from the L10’s solving real issues in the business–in addition to any roles/responsibilities for each team member’s seat.
2) You’re also checking in weekly on a weekly scorecard and whether or not you’re “on track or off track” on your rocks (big priorities).
3) Then, through your quarterly meeting, that’s where the ultimate accountability comes from. “Did we hit our goals? Our rocks? Our numbers? Did we do what we said we’re going to do?”
What Bobi does for our team is provide a formal meeting with someone “outside the bottle” to add one more layer of accountability. I don’t want to let Bobi down. But mainly, she’s someone outside the system that can provide perspective on where we fell short, what are potential blind spots, and to challenge us on things that we might not see. She also provides support on the tools so you can get the most out of your EOS implementation.
While Bobi does some “coaching” with us to help us get moving or unstuck, I think the main value is in proper facilitation of our quarterly and annual meetings so we can stay focused on working our issues and getting clear on our strategy. Doing that on your own means that you have 15-20% of your brainpower going to facilitation which has a real cost to it in terms of ability to work your issues.
And I’ll say again, there’s inherent value in having someone “outside the bottle” because sometimes we can’t read our own label.
Good luck on your journey and let me know if you have any other questions on EOS!
I was noting we didn’t have EOS in our last coach.
Ya, I love the concept of having someone “outside the bottle”, I’m not a natural entrepreneur and sometimes need external motivation to keep growth top of mind.
Thanks again man!
Our very recent venture “build3” is located in Goa. We are an incubator for sustainable start ups and are grateful to you for writing this article, it has added great value in understanding what the experience of implementing EOS may feel like.
While we are thorough with the body of knowledge being “Traction” we are unable to decide whether we should use “ninety.io” or “traction tools”.
The problem we intend to solve is – that documentation and products of our business process should run via the tool and not burdened on our people (gdrive).
We were keen to know if you have an opinion on the tools available with reference to our concerns and to know your overall feedback?
Hey Karan–I do not have any personal experience with either of those tool suites. We use Google Docs/Drive for all of our business documents as this gives us a lot more flexibility and control over how we operate them. We also have a lot of business docs that fall outside the EOS umbrella, so not having to update two systems is helpful.
Here are a couple of notes:
1. Consider having an “index” type document that is an inventory of all of your SOPs and EOS docs that is available to your team.
2. People have to be accountable–or at least some *person*–in your organization for your docs and SOPs. Thinking that the tool is going to manage and maintain your company playbook is not going to happen. Someone has to OWN making sure your docs are updated, easy to find, and used by your team. There is no tool that will hold your team accountable. That is the job of leadership.
3. This is the hierarchy you should be thinking in: People > Process > Tools. Meaning, you need to define your stakeholders and be clear on who is accountable for what. Then you need to define a process for which you have documentation and how it’s used that everyone gets and is clear on. Finally, you need a tool that lines up with this process and is able to be used by the people.
For us, Google Docs checks all of the boxes and is a tool our team is already comfortable with and is using on a daily basis (and we pay for it already). So added something else hasn’t been of highest priority or usefulness yet.
Hope that helps!
We are looking at the EOS Model and implementation requirements. The Integrator is a key role and will be a new staffing addition. I assume the salary range for this position would be based on company revenue and typical geographic differences. Are you aware of any information available on salary range that would assist with our planning?
Thanks in advance for your response.
Hey Tim–the Salary range for an Integrator would vary wildly by your specific accountabilities, skills required, team size, industry, etc. I have worked with small digital agencies that have Integrators making $40-50k per year. I have also seen businesses that are $50-100m that have a “CEO” or “COO” that would be considered the Integrator and is making upwards of $500k or more once you count performance bonus or profit share. I would recommend thinking about what your Integrator role is called within your market or industry and use a website like Glassdoor to find a comparable salary range to help you build a target budget. Good luck.
We are a private practice physical therapy company, and have implemented traction. It seems as if it creates extra work for clinical staff and they do not attach to it. Do other medical practices use this system. It appears to have made things more complicated.