In my 30 years of being an entrepreneur and serving other entrepreneurs as a trusted advisor, I've seen just about everything that can possibly happen in a small to medium-sized business.
I've worked with hundreds of companies with revenues of $2 million to $50 million and 10 - 500 employees.
I've seen their owners cope with every kind of frustration and wish for better results without a clue how to get them.
What people really want
Whenever I sit down to begin work with a new client, I always ask, "What do you really want from your business?"
Sometimes people are in such a state of frustration that it takes them a while to be able to articulate the answer. But when they finally put their finger on it, here are the top ten responses I usually get:
- "I want my business to REALLY work. I'm tired of something always going wrong just when things begin to go my way. I need consistent, good performance in both good times and bad times. I need to better predict the future and have a plan for it."
- "I want my people to work together as a team. I can't stand all the bickering going on between different people/departments. I want them to cooperate with each other and work together for the good of the company."
- "I want to make more money. I work too hard and risk too much without getting the financial return that should go with it. I want my debts paid off, good cash flow, and money left over for some of the wonderful things I've always wanted in my life."
- "I want to sleep at night. I have too much to do and I'm constantly worried about what's going to happen tomorrow. For once, I'd like to be able to walk into the office in the morning without finding a crisis waiting for me."
- "I want good people to delegate my work to; people I can trust to get things done right the first time. I am frustrated with my employees, and I can't seem to find enough good ones."
- "I want to stop fighting fires every single day. I'm tired of crisis and reactionary management. I put out one fire only to find a new one as soon as I turn around. I wish I could prevent them in the first place."
- "I want to build my business into a legacy. I want to pass it on either to my children or my employees, or to a good buyer who will continue my life's work and maintain the reputation I've built."
- "I want a business I can sell later to secure my retirement and my family's future."
- "I want NOT to work with certain people anymore, but I don't know how to transition. I have a vendor/customer/partner/employee that is a bad fit for me. They just aren't worth the hassle, but they are so valuable that I'm afraid of what getting rid of them would cost me."
- "I want to take a real and fully relaxing vacation - for a week, two or even three weeks - and know that everything will go well while I'm gone and there won't be a giant mess waiting for me when I return."
All these answers are generally followed by some version of the same statement: "I want a business that serves my life instead of consuming it. I treasure my family and my friends, but my business keeps me from being with them. Time is flying by, and I'm missing so much."
Why entrepreneurs don't get what they want
I have observed that about 95% of business owners never get even half of the things they really want from their companies.
Over the years, I've made note of what the other five percent do - the ones who are the most successful and are getting what they want. I've studied how they operate, and they all have one thing in common: a system.
Successful companies with happy owners have a method of operating that allows them to address all the critical areas of the business while making sure they do the same fundamental things consistently, relentlessly, and at every level throughout the company. Their employees know what the company's purpose is and they understand their own role in fulfilling it.
I was trying to invent and document such a system that would work in any industry so I could use it with my clients when I discovered that someone else had already done it!
I found a system that can be learned and used by an entire leadership team - the entrepreneur, the head of sales & marketing, head of operations, and head of finance - all at the same time. That means they are all on the same page; they have all bought into the disciplines necessary to achieve a shared vision, gained the traction they need to make that vision a reality, and done it through healthy relationships with one another and with their employees, partners, customers and vendors.
And if you read last month's issue, you know that the reason I am so passionate about it is because it is so effective at helping entrepreneurs avoid being devoured by their businesses the way my father was.
It allows entrepreneurs, including myself, to live what we call "The EOS Life". It's a lifestyle of freedom; not only financial freedom, but freedom from worry, with the ability to do only the work you enjoy, and freedom to spend time away from work doing the things we want to do with the people we love.
The bottom line is that running our businesses according to a system is the only reason we can enjoy this kind of freedom.
Does this sound too good to be true? Too simple? People tell me that sometimes.
Well, it is truly simple, but "simple" is not the same as "easy". While the process is not complex, it can be painful at times, and it doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey that takes about two years to complete.
That may seem like a long time to wait for the results you want, but if you're an entrepreneur who is already in a world of business pain, what would you like to be doing two years from now: living a lifestyle of freedom or spinning your wheels in the same rut you're in now?
My clients all agree that the results are totally worth any difficulty they may have encountered along the way. They frequently tell me, "I wish I had implemented EOS ten years ago."
One former entrepreneur even told me, "If I had known about EOS, I would never have sold my business and gone to work for somebody else."
If you want to be one of the successful five percent, pick an operating system - it doesn't have to be EOS - and get started on it right away. Without a solid system, you will never be able to create the kind of company you want or enjoy the lifestyle you went into business to achieve in the first place.