Mary Cook, Founder and President of Mary Cook staff.
It is no surprise to business owners that changing market conditions can have a significant impact on your business. As the president of a national commercial interior design firm that has served home builders and the property development market for 35 years, I have weathered many cycles of change including economic downturn, savings and credit crunch, urbanization, volatility in rates, and now the pandemic. In a predictable manner, I have added staff to handle the boom and downsized when necessary. But when the needs of long-standing customers began to shift before the pandemic broke out, I knew that simply adjusting the workforce wasn’t the answer.
How to really look before jumping
Because our customers became interested in meeting the rapidly changing living preferences of the various market segments they served, we became an integral part of their ability to meet business objectives. This required a close look at our existing organizational structure, operational processes, personnel and growth strategies. With the help of experienced consultants, I realized that the company was ready for the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) – a comprehensive approach to charting that would allow us to shift a staff of design professionals to a more complex type of project, meet clients, challenge and drive that Business ahead while maintaining the level of quality we are known for.
The three-point lead
While EOS can seem intimidating, the journey begins with three practical steps:
1. Confirm consensus
Confirm that the leadership team is on board. Fortunately, my team was in sync with the state of our current business and the need to model it with a more sophisticated model. This included supporting the financial investment and understanding its role in its success. Consensus is easy to reach by recognizing the growth opportunity that would otherwise be missed without EOS.
2. Choose a moderator
EOS needs a moderator to drive implementation, and there are often many to choose from. Together with our CFO, I interviewed two viable candidates who were recommended to us by the recruiter who first recommended EOS to us. Choosing the best fit is critical to how EOS works.
Ask yourself, do you understand our business – its customers, services and its place in the market? Do you understand our culture? Do you understand our goals and our growth potential? Do you have the dedication, experience, and resources to bring it with you? And just as important, what about your personality and your communication style? In our case, we wanted someone with a strong personality who could hold our feet by the fire.
3. Optimize the team
Having a respected, talented, and hard-working EOS team is critical from the start. Remember that in addition to showing their best game, these internal leaders need to model new behaviors and inspire their own team members to accept and support the new approach.
Accountability drives traction
EOS works for any type of business and provides a “pre-built” infrastructure for businesses that have plateaued, transitioned, or just want to see more results. It all starts with the creation of an accountability chart. Egos and titles go out of the window and roles become the new norm. This exercise is a very powerful experience for laying a solid foundation.
After the rollout of the responsibility diagram and roles, define your short-term and long-term goals and action steps. This roadmap keeps teams motivated and on track to meet their priorities, which for us included accounting processes, profitability and productivity analysis, project management, forecasting and an updated sales and marketing strategy.
Make settings: right seat, right person
A key benefit of the EOS framework is its ability to naturally measure individual performance when the ball starts rolling. A person who looks good on paper and may even fit well culturally may not have the ability to achieve the predefined goals and steps of action. As difficult as this realization may be for the individual and the team, the sooner it comes up, the sooner it can be corrected by employing someone who can fully perform responsible tasks.
As new technology was implemented, processes refined, and other infrastructure changes made, we quickly gained traction and saw impressive results. We’re now tracking productivity and profitability more closely, and we’re already seeing improvements. We’re also making progress on more efficient bookkeeping, including budgeting and billing. A complete overhaul of our marketing activities included a renewed branding platform, a new website, a new social media and PR campaign, internal and external newsletters and a new series of white papers. Those efforts resulted in an 80 percent increase in passive leads, and we are seeing an increase in the projects word of mouth reached us.
The swing is contagious. As our second tier of leadership executes their accountability and achieves results, they inspire accountability in their teams. With EOS as a driver, companies can grow with ease and not only meet new market demands, but also be prepared for whatever lies ahead.
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