The light-bulb moment, when you develop a strategic plan that revolutionizes the way you do business, is often followed by a moment of, 'Now what?' This scenario creates the need for understanding the EOS process, which stands for 'entrepreneurial operating system.'
In the episode of the Pulse of the Practice, “EOS and accounting firms,” Paul Miller, CPA from Business by Design, Bill Sheridan, CCA, EOS implementer and CCO of Maryland Association of CPAs, and I discuss how to integrate the EOS process and its relevance to accounting firms – even the smaller ones.
Executing a plan for business growth
“Our clients come up with some really great strategic plans,” says Sheridan. “But what they struggle with, I think just like everybody does, is executing on those plans.”
“And so we sat down and we thought, well wouldn’t it be great if we could also help them with execution?”
Sheridan was inspired by the book Traction, written by Gino Wickman, who founded and created EOS. “It really kind of resonated with me as a possible way that we might be able to help our clients start to execute really well on the visions that they were creating in their strategic plans,” says Sheridan.
Intrigued, Sheridan reached out to EOS Worldwide and became trained as an EOS implementer. He took on a few clients, including CPA firms and CPAs in public practice. Through the course of this, he discovered the concepts of EOS applies to a variety of organizations and businesses. “CPA firms are no different from any other entrepreneurial organizations in that they are trying to execute on their vision, they’ve got a plan…they’ve got some place down the road where they want to go,” says Sheridan. “And the question is, how do you get there? EOS is designed to help them do that.”
To get a full understanding of EOS, there are some basic principles to understand. These simple, but powerful, tools help business leaders achieve these goals.
“The first is what we call vision, which simply means getting the entire leadership team 100% on the same page with where the organization is going and how it’s going to get there,” explains Sheridan. “Because all too frequently, leadership teams aren’t on the same page. If I had a leadership team of five people and I took each one of them separately into a separate room and ask them what the vision was, I’m liable to get five different answers.”
Producing a shared vision aligns with having an organization follow the direction of its leaders, so that everyone not only knows what the goals are, but also how to achieve them.
“Everyone is executing on that vision with really healthy doses of discipline and accountability and the entire team is operating as a single functional, healthy, cohesive unit,” he says. “And that’s our ultimate goal…to help organizations achieve those three things.”
The impact of EOS on recruiting talent
My podcast co-host, Paul Miller, raises the idea of recruiting talent and how implementing EOS affects the firm. Sheridan’s response? EOS clarifies the core values of any company or organization, which helps distinguish its DNA.
“Core values are really one of the most powerful things that an organization can do, is to become,” Sheridan explains. “And once they’re clear on those things, that really lays the foundation for everything, especially the people side of the equation.”
Not only does that help recruit ideal cultural fits for your organization, but it will also weed out those who don’t share your beliefs.
“So, they really become kind of a magnet for surrounding yourself with great people,” says Sheridan. “And that’s one of the first steps in the entire EOS process…getting clear on those values because they do serve a critically important purpose throughout the rest of that system.”
Components of discipline (not meant in the punitive sense) are critical to core value, in terms of creating accountability. Accountability and holding to our disciplines, if we’re all in good alignment around our core values, is a major key to getting everyone on the same page.
Determining the right fit for your team
“It’s an absolutely critical first step,” Sheridan said. “And once you’re clear on those, you want to be hiring, firing, reviewing, rewarding people in your organization based on those core values, right? They play a critically important role culturally throughout the organism organization.
“And, really, it’s the foundation of everything you do. The core values, it’s a great tool, as I said, for surrounding yourself with great people. But it also helps you become really clear on what you’re trying to achieve.”
Miller also notes that during the recruiting process, it’s common to “find someone who can do the work.” But the need for an organizational and cultural fit are crucial.
In terms of the people equation with EOS, Sheridan refers to a phrase from author Jim Collins: “You’ve got to have the right people in the right seats.”
“They believe what you believe, they share the same values that you do,” says Sheridan. “You just love them to death, right? Seats means that those people have the God-given ability to do their jobs and do it really, really well…So, it’s really a kind of a two-headed monster. They (must) be great cultural fits, but then you also have to have somebody who really wants that job, who’s a great fit for that particular seat.”
EOS has importance for smaller leadership teams, too
Establishing an EOS process is important for even a one- or two-person leadership team. Establishing a plan is good for not only creating clarification, especially if your business or organization grows. It also helps retain top talent.
“Getting crystal clear on that is critically important, because eventually you may bring somebody else in who hasn’t had that experience of clarifying that vision with you and you can then share with them, this is where we’re going as an organization,” Sheridan says. “This is how we’re going to get there. And we want you to be part of that.
“And by the way, these are the things that we hold dear. These are our values. And if they don’t resonate with you, you may not want to work here because it may not be the right fit for you.”
Miller also brings up the point of extending this thinking toward the types of clientele you recruit.
Sheridan agrees. Finding clients – as well as vendors and partners who share those values – sends a message.
The value of using EOS reaches all levels
“We want to work with everybody who believes what we believe,” he says. “That starts to become really powerful when you see a client kind of take it to that level.”
I think that’s a key point, especially for those single-partner firms where they say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to bother spending time to practice articulating my vision or to put myself in an accountability situation to have to articulate it to somebody in a clear and concise manner.’
When you’re not forced to present it, then you don’t really know what the match is when you see it. Also, on the other side of the table, that potential staff and potential client can’t identify that fit for themselves, either.
“Everything about EOS is designed to just inject crystal clarity about every single part of this system,” Sheridan says. “What’s our vision? Well, it’s right there in writing.”
He refers to a simple two-page tool he uses called a Vision/Traction Organizer, which leads clients through a discovery exercise. This eight-question tool helps form a vision.
“There’s no ambiguity. This is where we’re going and this is how we’re going to get there,” Sheridan says. “And it’s something that you can just hand to somebody and say, ‘Hey, look there. There it is. There’s our vision.’ And it’s so simple, but it’s very powerful in that it is kind of clarifying for the entire organization.”
He talks about the popular notion of how an idea needs to be mentioned seven times before listeners begin internalizing and embracing it.
“You just have to keep repeating them and emphasizing them so that everybody understands, wow, these guys, they’re serious about these core value things and this is really a part of who we are as an organization,” explains Sheridan. “That communication is critically important in every step of this EOS process.”
Listen to the “EOS and accounting firms” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Google Play, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.