Book Review: Traction
Of the business books I’ve read, Traction offers the most practical, process-oriented approach with serious steps to take your business from zero to hero. The book takes you through 6 aspects of a business that, if implemented correctly, would have your business firing on all cylinders: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, & Traction. Gino Wickman states that his average client has 10-250 employees and makes anywhere from $2 million - $50 million in revenue (These principles apply to smaller businesses as well). Here are 6 takeaways from a book that has, well, a lot more than 6 takeaways:
(1) Everyone in your organization should adhere to a central vision.
Gino discusses a system he created called the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System). The EOS focuses on the 6 areas above. The first is Vision. The vision is crafted by the leadership team and then passed down to various levels of the organization. Traction takes you through the process of gathering & selecting a vision for your business to focus on. This is where your core values, core focus, target market, and 1, 3, & 10 year plan are discussed & solidified. Traction uses a tool called the VTO (Vision Traction Organizer) to organize the previously mentioned vision items. It also discusses how to share your VTO with employees. Having a vision that is shared by all is crucial to the success of the EOS. If you do not have all areas of your organization rowing in the same direction, your business will struggle to succeed.
(2) Your employees should exemplify your core values.
People are obviously key to the success of any business and it is no different in the EOS model. Traction gives you tools like the “people analyzer” to help you hire and fire around your core values. Core values should be the center of all business decisions - including your workforce. The people analyzer provides a way to review current and potential employees by rating them based on how well they exemplify your core values. It provides black and white data to make tough employee decisions. Gino also mentions the importance of finding the right people AND putting them in the right seats. You may have the right person in the wrong seat and that could be why they aren’t performing up to expectations. It is up to you, with the help of Traction’s tools, to hire the right people and put them in the right seats.
(3) Have objective data on how well your company is doing - and make it accessible.
How can you make good decisions without the appropriate data to drive them? The EOS is big on having data visible to the entire organization in the form of scorecards. Scorecards provide a way for the leadership team and employees to see how various aspects of the business are doing. Not only is it a way to determine the health of your departments, but it also helps hold people accountable for poor results. When everyone has a number they are trying to hit they have objective results as to whether they have met company expectations.
(4) Establish processes for handling challenges.
Every organization has problems to overcome, but not every organization has effective ways for dealing with them. The EOS suggests 1) creating efficient meetings that accomplish a purpose and 2) use the IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solve) method in those meetings. Traction encourages organizations to use a standard agenda that has a set aside time to IDS issues. The basic process works like this. A team member notices sales are down this month and raises it for an IDS topic. The team discusses why sales are down this month and then they come up with a new promotion to help grow sales for the month. The IDS topic then gets removed from the meeting agenda because it has been solved. Putting some formal processes around meetings can help make them much more effective and discourage tangents that tend to keep meetings from ending on time.
(5) Document and implement processes.
Without processes, a business cannot scale with ease. Similar to Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited, Traction takes a hardcore stance on processes being key to the success of a business. Traction believes every business should have a process bible where every single business process is documented and followed by all. This will assure that every process is being followed closely and the desired outcome of that process happens 100 times out of 100.
(6) Put the ROCKS in first.
How do you get the EOS adopted and implemented? Traction refers to “Rocks” as what you want to get done for the quarter. You may be familiar with this analogy.
You have a collection of rocks, pebbles, and sand - and you need them to all fit in a jar.
You could put the sand in first, and then the pebbles... but there would be no room for
the rocks. Instead, you put the rocks in first, then the pebbles and then the sand - which
will fill in the gaps.
If the rocks are the “must-do’s” for this quarter, the pebbles and the sand represent other tasks, projects, etc. that would be great to do - but that are secondary in importance to the rocks. Focus on the rocks. Every single person in an organization should have a “rock” for the quarter and gives an account every week as to whether they are on or off track. Anything off track goes to IDS and is discussed as an issue. This helps keep people accountable and helps drive traction.
As a business owner, you don’t have time for fluff - and this book does not have a whole lot of fluff. If you are interested in a practical book on how to completely change your business from top to bottom, this is the book for you. After you read it we would love to hear your thoughts!
Michael Kern, CPA