Operations & Management

EOS® Strategies for Financial Services Companies

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We talked with Ben about:

  • The core pieces of EOS® and what makes the operating system work
  • The function of meetings in the EOS® model 
  • Keeping team members accountable and excited 
  • How to get started with EOS® tools

About Ben Norton:

Ben Norton started his career in a Fortune 500 company but it wasn’t long until he joined the startup lifestyle. After running four different companies, Ben had a solid understanding of how critical operation models are to success. When he experienced the impact of the EOS® model, he changed his career path to help other entrepreneurs have the same opportunity.

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:04):
Ben, thank you for joining us today.

Ben (00:06):
Hi, Lauren, great to see you. Thanks so much for having me.

Lauren (00:09):
Yeah, I have been so excited about this interview. As I was just sharing with you, we dig EOS®; we have implemented pieces of it, which we're going to be talking about today. We've implemented pieces of it not only for our agency but there's a lot of clients we work with that also use EOS® sometimes like end-to-end and others just chunks of it. And I'm really looking forward to hearing more about it, on so many levels. So before we get into it, why don't you go ahead and just share a little bit more about your background. You have a really interesting narrative to how you got to where you are today helping companies with EOS®. So over to you. 

Ben (00:51):
Great. Well, thank you so much, Lauren. So I'm Ben Norton and I'm an entrepreneur at heart but it took me quite a while to figure that out. I started my career with a very large Fortune 500 company, and though I learned a lot, it just really wasn't my calling. And when I had the opportunity to join a startup building a new technology company, things really, really started to click for me. And so we were successful at growing that business and it got very interesting to Google and they acquired us and that sent me on a trajectory. I got the bug for building and running companies and more specifically in the digital marketing space. And so I had the good fortune over my career to run four different businesses. The last one we ran on EOS®, and that experience was so much better than my previous involvement that when we sold that company, I decided to dedicate the rest of my career to helping other entrepreneurs get everything they want out of their companies. So I just love being around entrepreneurs. I love their energy. I love seeing them build new things and helping them achieve all of their dreams.

Lauren (02:00):
So an EOS®, for folks who aren't familiar, is the entrepreneurs operating system or entrepreneur operating system.

Ben (02:06):
Entrepreneurial operating system.

Lauren (02:07):
Okay. Thank you. So just for formalities there, there's all these acronyms, there's EOS®, we'll get VTO, the people, we'll get into all that. But tell us a little bit like why was it so much more night and day when you started to implement this and what were you seeing as far as outcomes? We're always interested in seeing outcomes as a business. 

Ben (02:30):
So EOS®, the entrepreneurial operating system, it's not software, it's a people operating system. And so it's a way of harmonizing and systemizing all the moving parts in your business. And so for me, the particular experience I had, I was a business leader running a company on EOS® just being able to use all the tools. All these tools have been around for a hundred years. They're simple concepts and tools that are proven, they've been battle tested and they're just organized into a complete comprehensive system. Think of it as almost an oversimplified business in a box. All the tools you need to run a really great business. And for us as a leadership team, one of the things we found that was so helpful for us and really making that company great was one of the tools was really helping us be better at solving issues that came up in our company, working together as a leadership team to really get to the root cause, not just looking at the symptom and coming up with a plan to solve that issue but addressing all those issues and making them go away forever.

Lauren (03:34):
So I want to get into the issues and what that process looks like too but before we do that, I'd love to hear, I've got actually it in front of me, what the heck is the EOS® book? I know there's tons of books. I don't know how there are tons — almost a library — and I know there's all kinds of other technology and things that have spun off to just really make the system robust. So let's start big picture. That's always a good place to start. So I know one of the first pieces with EOS® is this Vision Traction Organizer, the VTO. Can you talk with us about that? Who's involved in putting that together? What are some of the key must-have components? Is the whole thing a must-have component? I know there's a proven process and there's all kinds of terms. Tell us a little bit more, right?

Ben (04:21):
Sure, yeah, happy to. So what I do, so my role, I'm an EOS® implementer, and so what that means is I help companies master all the tools that make up the EOS® system. And so these tools all wrap around this discovery that there are six key components of your business, and to the extent you can strengthen those six key components, your business is going to just perform better than you ever had hoped it could. One of those six key components, and the primary key of the six key components is vision and working to get everybody in your organization 100% on the same page with where you're going and how you're going to get there. One of the tools we use to do that, it's called the VTO, the Vision Traction Organizer. And so the VTO is simply a set of eight questions we go through and we work with the leadership team of any organization to answer those eight questions. And by doing so, it helps them get really, really clear on their vision, where they're going and how they're going to get there.

Lauren (05:20):
What's that process and how long does it take? It's like a multi-day thing, and how are you guiding that? It's hard to get clear. What does that look like?

Ben (05:33):
So when a company is implementing EOS®, we go through three session days over the span of 60 days, and over those three days that are full day sessions, we're doing some very, very specific things. On the first day, we're helping them learn five leadership abilities to help them break through the ceiling when they hit it. Every company is going to hit the ceiling at some point and probably multiple times throughout the course of their existence. We get through a series of tools in what we call focus day, and then we have two very specific days that we call vision building day one and vision building day two. And so over the course of those two days, we're reviewing all the work we did in our first session together, and then we're simply answering those eight questions. So at the end of the three-session span of 60 days, you've mastered the focus day tools, you're 100% clear on your vision — where you're going, how you're going to get there — and then you just transition into execution mode.

Lauren (06:26):
And I heard you say it's really the leadership team that's a part of that, those conversations. And I like that it's spread out, because you've got to be able to sleep on things, have those sidebar conversations back to it validated in the business and what have you. Okay. So what kind of companies are doing this? Does this apply mostly to a certain level of company, either employee count or revenue size? Who's kind of going through these processes? Are you, or maybe it's a question of have you kind of projected some sort of curve, I don't know, M&A or something like that? I'd love to hear more about that.

Ben (06:59):
Sure. Yeah. Really the sweet spot for companies who run on EOS®, their companies are entrepreneurial in nature. The leadership teams are growth-minded. They are more afraid of the status quo than they are of change, and they're ready to be open and honest and vulnerable with each other to do the things they need to do to build a really great company. In terms of employee size, we don't really think about revenue but we think about number of employees. The sweet spot is about five to 250 employees. I have one client, the whole company is two people. They just love the discipline and accountability that come from EOS®. And so it works across any industry, it works across all types of businesses. It can work for a nonprofit, it can work for educational institutions, tech professional services — it fits across all industries.

Lauren (07:50):
And I feel like on the marketing side, when we're working with a team that's gone through this process and has that kind of clarity, they can really come to the table and they know this is who our target market is, this is what our unique difference is, this is what our guarantee is, so you can really market to those things to help you stand out in the market or with UVPs, unique value propositions. So once you've got that big picture aligned, which is more static if you will, I'm sure adjusting with time, it's not an easy exercise to go through. Then let's talk about the other components of it. So how do you actually make sure we map the day-to-day activities? We get departments and teams aligned, we're tracking things. Tell us a little bit more about how this VTO, if you will, then waterfalls across the company.

Ben (08:40):
Yeah, so the VTO, the eight questions, we start with getting really clear on what are your core values, and those are just simply the guiding principles for the culture you want for your business. And we then work through to get you really, really clear on your core focus. That's just your niche, your sweet spot. So you're always focused on what you truly love and are best at. We help you identify a 10-year target that's flexible from five to 30 years. So from there you can start to bring it down to the ground with your marketing strategy. We help companies get really clear on who their target audience is, what their three uniques are. If they have a proven process, we help them make sure and share with all their prospects and stakeholders if they have a guarantee. If not, we can help them create a guarantee for their business.

And we just go into your three-year picture. What does this business need to look like just three short years from now? When the leadership team can all see it in their mind's eye, it's much more likely to happen than help you create your one-year plan. We establish rocks for the company and for each member of the leadership team; rocks are just simply 90-day priorities helping you live in a 90-day world. This comes from a lot of research that proves humans have a hard time staying focused on anything for more than 90 days. And so we help you stay really working in this 90-day world, we get all your issues on a list somewhere, and then we help you teach you how to solve those as they come along.

Lauren (10:02):
Okay. So when you're projecting those rocks, are you getting basically a big dump list and then prioritizing them? How does that come together? And then I'm assuming prioritization is key; share a little bit more about that.

Ben (10:16):
Sure. Yeah. So when we're working with the leadership team and in time, ideally in time everybody in their organization will have at least one rock. We also help you create a scorecard with measurables. So in time, everybody has at least one measurable. It's really, really important from an accountability perspective and a culture perspective that everybody is a part of the bigger picture and contributing to the greater good of the organization. Specifically when we're building rocks in a session, we get the laundry list, we get everything that could be a priority over the next 90 days on a list. And we just start working through with the leadership team to identify the three to seven in EOS®. We talk all the time about less is more — three to seven major priorities for the organization and then three to seven priorities for each member of the leadership team — always trying to get to less is more, better to be closer to three than seven. And then as we go, as we're implementing EOS® and the leadership team is mastering these tools, we then help them bring all of these tools down deep into the organization. So again, in time everybody has accountability. They're working with rocks to have a measurable on their scorecard. They're learning how to process issues when they come up within the organization and making them go away forever.

Lauren (11:31):
So then essentially each department has their marching orders, their teams also have theirs, all then mapped back up to that bigger picture, if you will. So, okay. That's right. Way easier said than done. Yeah, for sure. 

Okay, so now we've got the vision tracker, right? We've got our plan in place. We can see what the next 90-plus days potentially look like, what the priorities are. Let's get into some of the stuff you were mentioning earlier about this idea of just having conversations with people, like solving problems. How do you go about making sure you're actually adhering to these rocks or projects as you're going about these 90 days and how are you making sure people aren't getting shiny object syndrome and you're really working through those issues? So share a little bit more about that, please.

Ben (12:24):
Yeah. One of the tools we do, it's called Meeting Pulse, and specifically we use a meeting agenda called the Level 10 Meeting agenda. And so we teach leadership teams this very, very specific meeting agenda. And for me specifically in my past when running a company on EOS®, this was just so eye-opening for me. And so what we do is we teach leadership teams how to just go through and quickly report on how they're doing against their rocks — on track or off track. If it's on track, we're moving on. If it's off track, we drop it down onto an issues list. How are we doing on our scorecard — on track or off track? Anything that's on track, we're not discussing it. We don't need to go into the story behind it. On track, we're moving on; off track, we're dropping it down onto the issues list. We go through black or white, no debate. We talk about any customer or employee highlights very quickly. We review our to-do list from the previous Level 10 meeting agenda. And then we spend 60 minutes of a 90-minute meeting together solving issues. We prioritize, we go through what are the one, two, and three most important issues we need to tackle this week. And then we spend our time as a leadership team going through those and really digging, digging, digging, getting down beyond what might just be the symptom, getting to the root cause of what that issue really is. And then somebody takes an action to make that go away forever. So that tool, that Level 10 Meeting agenda, call it a tool, is amazing for accountability, keeping everybody on track and not starting to chase shiny objects.

Lauren (13:51):
And tell me more about how long these meetings are. They could probably go on for a long time. 

Ben (13:56):
They are 90 minutes. They start on time. They end on time. They're the same day of the week, same day, same time every week. And the only two reasons you miss them are vacation and death and death being your own. And that's kind of tongue in cheek but this should be the most important 90 minutes of your week. And you do everything you can to schedule everything you can else you have to do around it. And you spend that time with your leadership team taking 60 minutes of that 90-minute time slot together to really work on issues in the business. We also teach that you want to bring this discipline down into the organization so every team, every department has a version of the Level 10 agenda, and they do this every week. And it's just so powerful. It'll unlock so much time in your week, it'll give you back so much time. It will help you avoid so many train wrecks and fires that otherwise pop up in a business.

Lauren (14:51):
So thinking kind of Robert's Rules-esque, is there anyone who holds the gavel to hold folks accountable? It would be easy to get into the whole like, well, this didn't happen because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I'm not really on track, but I am, and this is why. How do we make sure we actually stay on course?

Ben (15:10):
Yeah. There's a few ways. One way in the world of EOS®, there are two seats on the leadership team. Typically, not always but ideally there's a visionary and an integrator. The visionary is the person who has 10 great ideas a day. They're flying high, they're moving fast, they're really good with big relationships, they're really bad with details. The integrator is the person who's the day-to-day. They're running the business, they're keeping the train on the tracks, and they're the one who calls that out. And if a team is truly what we teach — open and honest — if something is getting off track, we teach don't bury it. Bring it to the surface. You're a team, work together, let's figure it out. Get it back on track.

Lauren (15:53):
So well said. Okay. So it's the integrator then who’s spearheading the meetings.

Ben (15:58):
Typically the integrator runs the leadership's Level 10 meeting.

Lauren (16:02):
So if you're talking job titles, it might be the COO.

Ben (16:04):
It could be a COO, could be a VP of ops. It's that person, whoever is the senior most ranking person who's making the machine go.

Lauren (16:14):
Yep. Makes sense. Holding all those systems and details accountable. Absolutely. Okay, get it. So let's get into the people side of it. I know we're covering a lot here. We're kind of drinking from the fire hose but it's good to hear it firsthand and kind of get a flavor for it. So getting the people side of it, I know there's the People Analyzer and there's accountability charts and all these kinds of things. Great people are one of the biggest strengths but also sometimes it can be challenging like coaching and mentoring and hiring and I mean, you name it, right? So tell us a little bit about that. Because a component too, to make sure we are marching in lockstep and hitting goals, how are you helping to coach and support people with the people piece of it?

Ben (17:04):
Right people, right seats. And you got to have both. It's not negotiable. And so it starts when you set your core vision, when we're answering those eight questions of the Vision Traction Organizer, and we get really, really crisp on what your vision is and how that's going to shape your culture. That's then used in hiring, in managing. You tell the team every quarter, you're getting everybody together and sharing with them a state of the company, revisiting your core values. What is your vision? Where are you going as an organization? You have to tell people something seven times before they begin to hear it for the first time. So we continuously reiterate what our core values are, where we're going, how we're going to get there. We use a tool called the People Analyzer. We use this tool to facilitate a conversation to check in and see if someone is consistently aligned with the company's core values.

And if not, it allows for the leadership, the manager in some cases, and that person to have a conversation about where they're coming up short or where they're performing well. We use another tool called GWC, which stands for gets it, wants it, in capacity, and you got to have all three. And so using the People Analyzer, that helps us make sure we've got the right people. They're a great fit with your culture, and GWC is the right seat. They've got the skills, they've got the experience to be excellent at their job, and you got to have both. And in cases where you don't, we highly encourage our clients to make those tough decisions to help them find another opportunity elsewhere.

Lauren (18:37):
Yep. No, it's fair. And it's tough decisions too but at the end of the day, you want everyone to excel and it's no fun if you're hitting your head against the wall and it's just not the right fit. So it sounds like this exercise kind of helps to flesh that out or would help to identify it as you're moving forward with the plan at large.


That all makes sense. Lots to cover. What else would be helpful to kind talk through too that you're often seeing questions folks have about EOS® and any of that?

Ben (19:10):
Yeah. One area we really didn't touch on—we've touched on most of the six key components. One is process. And so making sure an organization, any company out there, has about six to 10 core processes that really make the organization go. And so we help companies document those using the 20/80 entrepreneurial rule, meaning you do 20% of the work that gets you 80% of the way there. Any more than that, it's going to leave you with a 300-page standard operating procedure document nobody's ever going to use.

Lauren (19:42):

Ben (19:43):
We help make sure anybody who touches those processes, they're trained, they're properly managed and measured in terms of how well they are performing, using, engaging with those core processes. What this does is it gives you scalability, efficiency, and the ability to make more profit.

Lauren (20:01):
Yeah, so well said. I think what I appreciate about EOS® is that if you kind of want to dip your toes in the water, there's so many books, you can pick it up, you can try it out. A lot of companies we work with have got a neo-EOS implementer or they're trying it out, right? They're taking pieces of it and they're utilizing it. I think that's one of the beauties of the system. But I think there is just one last question for you here too. I feel like we could actually be here for quite some time

Ben (20:34):
All day.

Lauren (20:35):
But is there a time where you go, people are really ready for someone like yourself to come in? Yeah, we've been trying EOS® or we are just really committed. It's the new year coming up and we're looking at our goals. Or when do you see that come in when people are ready to go all-in?

Ben (20:53):
Yeah. First of the year is always a great time just to get that fresh start in the new year, to get really clear on your vision, where you're going, how you're going to get there. The other answer I would give you is it's when a company is just hitting the ceiling, they're trying everything. Nothing's working. The leadership team is working insane hours, people are burning out. That's the time when you really should look at EOS®. And so just to kind of dip your toe, all the tools that make up the EOS® model are available for free. You can go onto the EOS® worldwide website, you can download them all. There's tons of great content. There's tons of great tutorials. You can start to self- implement, teach yourself how to use the tools. Working with someone like me is going to accelerate that path to mastery. You're going to get to where you really, really have the tools dialed in a whole lot faster. I'm not a consultant. My job is not to stay there and embed myself in the organization forever. My job and all of us implementers, we're there to teach you the tools, get you to where you've mastered them, and then get out of your way and let you run a really great business.

Lauren (22:00):
Well said. And I think also, this is one of those systems where it's simple — you were talking about earlier — but it could be easy to implement but also easy to misstep. And I think one of the lessons in working with someone like yourself is that you can make sure you're doing it the right way, because kind of getting off course could also take you down the wrong path.

Ben (22:25):
A hundred percent down. And there also is this element of accountability when working with an implementer, when you know you've got your quarterly coming up and it's like, wow, we better make sure our rocks are done because Ben's going to want to know what's going on with our rocks. Absolutely. There's also this idea, we call it entering the danger. And so within organizations, oftentimes a leadership team, whether they choose not to see something or they're just ignoring an issue, it doesn't really get put on the issues list. When we see something that's an issue, when we see something that maybe a leadership team isn't seeing or is choosing not to see, we enter the danger and we bubble that up to the surface. And so a lot of companies really like that. To have somebody who, since I don't have a stake in the business, I can be bold and I can do that. And so a lot of companies just like that independent third- party outsider to come and just check in on them once a quarter, see how they're doing, making sure everything's on the right track.

Lauren (23:20):
Yep. That makes a lot of sense. Oh my goodness. Well, Ben, thank you so much for your time. Totally. For giving us an overview of EOS®, the system, how it applies to marketing and day-to-day people operations, and so much more, meetings, I mean, the whole thing. So it's good to get a little bit of a flavor. We'll make sure to link to the books, include your contact information and all that good stuff. I feel like once you start to unpack this, it's really fun. You can get deep fast, right? So I think just part of it is exploring it, scratching the surface but also asking, okay, are we ready? And what does that mean? So thanks for giving us some triggers for what that looks like. All right, we'll keep the conversation going but thanks again.

Thanks, Lauren. Bye.

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