Scale Up Faster By Slowing Down

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When you drive your car, do you keep the engine redlined, ignore the warning lights on the dash, and turn up the radio so you don’t hear the noises coming from somewhere underneath? My hope is that you don’t. So why do so many entrepreneurs do exactly those things when driving their business and trying to scale up?

I may be dating myself, but for those of us who learned to drive a manual transmission, you know that in order to shift gears smoothly you have to ease off the throttle. If you have ever driven on icy, slick roads, you know that if you lose traction, you have to slow down to regain your grip.

Running a business is no different. I was recently facilitating an EOS® quarterly off-site with a leadership team of a growing business. They had just opened their second location and their big goal, or Core Target™ as we call it in the EOS® world, was to systematize the model and scale up to 20 locations by 2025. Their Visionary owner had been passionately driving toward that goal since we met.

But there was a problem. They were running into customer-service issues, having trouble hitting numbers, not communicating well, and struggling to define and document their Core Processes.

As we began to dig deeper into what the underlying issues truly were, to a person, the Leadership Team members all admitted to being stretched well beyond their capacity. To use the analogy above, they were all redlined and the Visionary owner still had her foot on the gas and the pedal to the floor. They needed to speak up and just say no to grow.

I was eventually able to push the team to the point of being 100% open and honest with the Visionary about the aggressive drive to the Core Target™ and how they were struggling to scale up while the engine for their growth sputtered and skipped as it needed a tune-up. After some very open discussions, the Visionary began to have a revelation.

We transitioned into a conversation about what it would look like to take a breath for the next 6-12 months, focus on fine-tuning the engine and letting growth happen organically, and then, only after the engine was rebuilt and ready, hitting the gas and going hard for the finish line.

With a fresh perspective from the Visionary and a much relieved and refocused Leadership Team, we refined their 3-Year Picture™ and 1-Year Plan, then set Rocks to focus on an alignment around solving their internal issues and tuning the business to scale up in years 2, 3, and beyond.

6 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Blow Your Engine

  1. Do we have the growth engine for our business well tuned and ready for the journey ahead?
  2. Do we have a clear structure in place, defining the flow of accountability to get us to the next level?
  3. Are all of the right people in the right seats?
  4. Does everyone in the organization share our Vision? Are we all 100% aligned?
  5. Are our Core Processes defined, optimized, documented and Followed by All?
  6. Do we have good data and does everyone in the organization have a number?

As we closed our session at the end of the day, the feedback was unanimous. Everyone, including the Visionary, felt more confident and aligned. Even though the pace of external growth may slow for a few quarters, the pace of internal growth will explode. And when the internal growth is strong, this team will be well poised to scale up to their 2025 goal and may even blow it out of the water a few years early.

Next Steps

  • Watch for Michael’s new book, RISE: The Reincarnation of an Entrepreneur, available on Amazon later this year.
  • Scale Up Faster by Slowing Down: Learn more about The TRACTION Hub and EOS® Implementation here.
  • Download Free Chapters of books from the EOS® Library in The TRACTION Hub Resource Center by clicking here.

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Just Say “No” to Achieve Growth

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Have you ever said yes to something and then regretted the commitment you made? If so, you’re normal. Saying no is difficult for two primary reasons, which I will share below. But being able to say no is essential in creating the capacity to say yes to, and to be successful at, what is truly important.

I’ve been working with a particular client in the large-format printing business for about 18 months now. The company’s owners started in their garage in 2004, and today have built the company into a successful $10+ million business with around 100 employees. But it wasn’t without some bumps along the way.

In the early days, they were taking every order that came their way. It was always about finding a way to get to yes—and in those early days, doing so was critical to their survival. By the time we started working together in January of 2016, the business had grown to about $8 million in revenue and 70 employees. They had invested in very expensive large-format printing equipment, CNC machines, and the like and were capable of taking on very large projects. But their ability to achieve growth had flatlined. And they were stuck.

One of the early issues we recognized that was holding them back and causing frustrations was that they were still saying yes to everything that came their way. It was a habit based on what allowed them to survive when they were a startup. When we started to look at the kind of work that was a good fit for the business as it stands today, they began to recognize that much of the work they were saying yes to included jobs that were too small to efficiently utilize their newer, higher capacity production model. What was a fit for them in startup mode was no longer a fit.

The end result was that by saying yes to the small projects they had survived on in the early days, but which now created inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and frustrations, they were essentially saying no to doing more of the kind of work that was a right fit for them in their current stage. When they began to say no to the smaller orders that didn’t fit, they created more capacity to go after the big jobs that did. They became more efficient, more profitable, and their growth rate accelerated 20% in our first year together.

Why Is “No” So Difficult?

There are two primary reasons that we find it difficult to say no. It requires deliberate courage and it creates awkwardness. In his book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown explains these two reasons why we struggle to just say no.

Deliberate Courage

We often say yes to things in an effort to avoid conflict, avoid disappointing others, or to give in to pressure. It takes a clear understanding of what is important and why in order to develop the clarity to know when to say no. With clarity and focus on the important things you will have to say no to by saying yes in the moment to something minor, the courage to say no to the trivial, or less than important, becomes easier to find.

Social Awkwardness

We have a natural tendency as humans to conform to what people expect of us. Psychologists refer to this as normative conformity, or “the conformity that occurs because of the desire to be liked or accepted” Deutsche and Gerrard (1955).

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and it is up to us to determine how we choose to allocate them. Have you ever been invited to something by a group of peers and said yes, even though it forced you to give up something of more value that you needed to do? Have you been asked to do something by a boss or colleague even though you did not have the capacity to do it without dropping something else?

Saying no actually brings us physical and emotional discomfort in these situations. What we have to pause and remember before answering these requests is whether to politely say no, and regret it for a moment, or begrudgingly say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or years.

Next Steps to Achieve Growth

I want to challenge you, before the end of the day today, to set aside 15 quiet minutes alone to think about all the important things you are not able to focus on because of the things to which you should have said no. Make a list of the three to seven things that are most important to you. The next time somebody asks you to do something, pause and ask yourself, “Will this harm my capacity to focus on the important few things?” If yes, then smile, and give them a polite, “No.”

To learn more about how The TRACTION Hub can help you clarify, simplify, and achieve your vision—whether for your business or for your personal life, contact us.

 

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Are You Stuck because of Head Trash?

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Is there something you are telling yourself – about yourself – that is holding you back from being exactly who you want to be?  Do you long to express your creativity, but tell yourself you just really aren’t creative enough?  Do you want to start a new career path that would be based on a passion, but tell yourself you cannot really succeed at it?  Are you in a situation that you know is not healthy for you, but you remain in it anyway – just because you don’t believe you really deserve anything better?

We often do this in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. I call it Head Trash.

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability.  It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Anthony Robbins

One of the greatest personal satisfactions I have as a Certified EOS Implementer and Professional Coach is in that occasional moment when somebody cracks open the door to their true beliefs about themselves and allows me to see inside.  I often observe in these moments, people who have amazing gifts and talents, yet who are holding themselves back because they refuse to allow themselves to see their true potential.

I recently saw a Steve Harvey video clip where he related our gifts and talents to our own personal parachute.  Before our parachute can serve us, we have to jump.  But before we can have the confidence to jump, we have to have faith in our parachute.  And when we do jump, there is a period of time where we are free-falling.  That time can be frightening, or it can be exhilarating.  Either way, it is part of the process.  But when we pull the cord, and our parachute catches the wind, we begin to soar.

What is your parachute?  Do you have faith in your parachute?  Is it time for you to jump?  When I see clients get beyond their Head Trash, I get to witness them achieve amazing things.  For me, that is the pinnacle of my journey to mastery as a coach – being able to see that happen in my clients lives time and time again.  To those of you who have allowed me in – I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Learn more about what I do as a Certified EOS Implementer and Professional Coach.

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Start Waking Up Happy!

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So be honest – which of the two images above best represents how you feel most mornings when you wake up?  If you are like the vast majority of professionals, entrepreneurs, and managers, you likely wake up feeling more like the boy on the right than the woman on the left.  If that is you, then I want to challenge you to focus on where your mind is in those waking moments…do you wake up thinking about WHAT, or WHY?

Most entrepreneurs I have worked with over the years wake up in the morning completely focused on WHAT it is that they do.  They rush to get themselves ready.  They rush to get the kids ready and off to school.  They fight traffic.  They get to the office and deal with the multitude of frustrations that come with the territory:  The people problems;  The lack of control;  The lack of sufficient profit for all the time, energy, and risk invested in running a business (or should I say, being run by a business).  You get the picture.

Then what is it that separates those folks from the small percentage of entrepreneurs who wake up energized, happy, and excited to conquer the day?

In his book START WITH WHY, Simon Sinek, states the following:  “WHY:  Very few people or companies can articulate WHY they do WHAT they do.  When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that is a result.  By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief?  WHY does your company exist?  WHY do you get out of bed every morning?  And WHY should anyone care?”

For the first twenty years of my career, like most business owners, I often woke up feeling like the boy in the photo above.  I was stressed, worried, and uncertain.  I lacked clarity and purpose.  I was focused on all of my WHATs and WHAT IFs.  It was only after I lead my company’s Leadership Team through the implementation of EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System) and we discovered our Core Focus that I began to view everything I did, and we did, through the lens of our WHY.

Of course the WHAT, and also the HOW, are critical components of the success of any organization and of any person.  But if you start with WHY, and remain focused on your WHY, then you will naturally find more clarity around your WHAT and HOW, more peace in your life, and you will likely start waking up happy and inspired…ready to take on the world.  More importantly, when you look in the mirror, you will be able to answer the questions “WHY do I get out of bed in the morning?”, and “WHY should anyone care?”

Think of companies like Apple…they don’t exist to make iPhones, MacBooks, and iPods, those are the WHAT and HOW…they exist to challenge the status quo and to empower the individual.  All of their WHATs and HOWs – the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, iTunes – start with their WHY…to challenge the status quo and empower the individual.

If you are tired of being frustrated and feeling like your business is running you rather than you running your business, there are only three choices: Quit, Accept It, or Change It.  If you are ready to change it, you can learn more about EOS and the Simplified Methods for Achieving Results and Traction that I teach entrepreneurs and their leadership teams here.

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NAV, Inc Makes the Inc. 5000 List

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For a number of years, I was very frustrated with my business.  We were growing externally, but the workload was very high and the profit was very low…when there even was any.  Cash was always in short supply, and the more we chased and grew sales, the worse it seemed to get.  Then, a little over a year ago, I was introduced to the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) by way of my local EO Chapter.  After reading the book TRACTION twice – I was convinced not only that I needed to systemize my business, but that I needed to use exactly THIS system – EOS.

What has happened since implementing EOS, and doing it purely, is nothing short of life-changing.  Our internal growth has skyrocketed, external growth is now measured and predictable, cash flow is steadily improving, and my work-life balance – and that of our Leaders and Employees – has been restored.  In fact, since our Leadership Team has done such a remarkable job of managing the day-to-day operations and remaining true to EOS, I have been freed from the control my business used to have over me, and now have the time to grow my new business, The TRACTION Hub and pursue my passion of helping other entrepreneurs learn and implement the EOS system and get everything they want from their own businesses as a Professional EOS Implementer.

Today marks a great moment on our path to achieving our mission of building a Great Company, with Great People, and Great Results, as we celebrate being recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.  We could not have achieved this without great people, unified around a clear vision, and all “100% in” on the EOS system.  To learn more about how EOS and Professional Implementation can help you, click here.

 

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The Power in Recognizing Employees for Living Your Company’s Values

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The following is a post I recently shared on our Company’s Facebook page – which has nearly 1,500 followers – to call out and show my appreciation for an employee who, by staying true to our Core Values and 3 Uniques at a time when he could have chosen not to, built more good will with a customer than I could ever assign a dollar value.  What really struck me is that I wrote this more out of a desire to publicly thank an employee…what I got, however, was a deepening of the commitment and passion from everybody in the organization that I could never have imagined.  I would encourage you to never miss an opportunity to show appreciation for someone who deserves it.

Recognizing One Of Our Rock Stars…

In the past year, we have been on a journey through the EOS Process and have been putting a tremendous amount of effort into creating alignment and clarity throughout the entire company around our Core Focus and Core Values. Yesterday, one of our employees did something that encapsulated 3 of our 4 Core Values and all of our 3 Uniques in one action. I have to share the story as it makes me very proud to be able to lead such an amazing team of people.
As we approach the summer holidays, things tend to get quiet, and yesterday started out no differently. Our Sales Manager was on vacation and the remaining members of the Leadership Team were all at an offsite meeting – ironically on EOS. The warehouse team was packing a few orders for shipment later this month and planning on leaving at 3:30 to enjoy what was a beautiful afternoon.
In the middle of the day, an urgent email came in from a customer needing a small shipment rushed out in order for them to make a deadline on a small, high end order with a very quick turn-around time. Unfortunately, the customer meant to order one thing, and in a rush accidentally indicated in their email that they wanted something else.
Our team took the email, prepared the veneer accordingly, arranged a truck for next-day delivery, and the shipment went out the door in less than 2 hours – exactly as the customer ordered…and not at all what the customer wanted.
Within about an hour all of the paperwork and invoice had been emailed to the customer and we received a call back from them, in quite a panic, that we sent the wrong item. Valérie took the call, communicated with Elizabeth about the issue, and they immediately went to work trying to resolve the situation. Rather than focus on the error in the email from the customer and the fact that this would now turn into a very long day, they went right into Rock-Star Mode, worked with Tony Tolliver, our Warehouse Supervisor, to sort things out, the carrier was contacted and turned around, and the correct material was prepared as the guys waited on the truck to return (which at that point was already over an hour away).
Tony stayed quite late and when the truck got back to NAV, he got it unloaded, reloaded, and back on its way to the customer – with the right material, and still to arrive the next day so that the customer suffered no harm in meeting their deadline with their customer.
What makes me so proud of everybody, and especially of Tony, is that in the absence of every key decision maker in the company, he stepped up, took the lead, stayed true to our Core Values and 3 Uniques, got the job done, and provided a customer with a very positive experience. In the way he handled himself yesterday, Tony lived out the following 3 of our 4 Core Values:
1 – PEOPLE who are DEDICATED, PERFORMANCE DRIVEN, and who TAKE GREAT PRIDE in what they do
2 – An INTENTIONAL APPROACH to creating a CONSISTENTLY SUPERIOR PRODUCT and EXPERIENCE
3 – A CULTURE OF APPRECIATION for our CUSTOMERS, EMPLOYEES, VENDORS and SHAREHOLDERS
He also exhibited all 3 of our 3 Uniques:
1 – We take Great Pride in our Product and Service – Consistency, Quality, Accountability and Integrity mean the world to us.  We do what we say.
2 – We are Personally Involved in our Customer’s Success – We are regularly present physically to “walk” with our customers in order to gain a deep understanding of their needs and opportunities.  We Follow Up, we Follow Through, and we Listen.
3 – We have a Fun and Friendly “Family” Culture – We are Accommodating and desire a Never-Ending Satisfying Experience for our Customers.  We value Quality of Relationships with our Customers over the Number of Customers, and we want to enjoy some laughs together along the way.

Thank you Tony, and thank you to everybody at North American Veneer Inc. for your focus, your desire and your passion toward achieving our mission of building a Great Company with Great People and Great Results.

 

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