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Cindy Bates

Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution of Microsoft

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Grow Your Small Business Without Losing Passion or Purpose

April 12, 2016

Break through to the next level without losing sight of yourself or your business.

Many businesses are born because entrepreneurs have a strong sense of purpose – there's a problem to solve or a passion they can offer the world. As a business grows, it's infused with an electric sense of possibility from new people and ideas. But it's often during these times of growth that entrepreneurs feel like their grasp on everything is slipping away.

We approached Gino Wickman, founder of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a business system that helps companies mold strong leadership teams for long-term success. Gino, an entrepreneur since the age of 21, is the bestselling author of Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business. In the below post, and this great video, he shares his insights on breaking through to the next level without losing sight of yourself or your business.


Most of our clients come to us because they're hitting a ceiling. It's a natural phenomenon that many companies experience once they passed the startup phase. Now they're a successful small or mid-sized business, but they've grown to a point where sheer passion and drive isn't enough to carry the organization forward. There's a need for systems, process, structure and leadership.

One of my favorite examples is Sachse Construction, a Detroit-based commercial construction firm, which has been an EOS client for over 10 years. Founder Todd Sachse's business was hitting a major ceiling when he reached out to us, but he couldn't point to a specific reason or problem.

In our decades of helping small businesses get unstuck, we've been able to take this intangible feeling of frustration and get to its core. Fundamentally, it's about the people – after all, businesses run on human energy.

What Sachse needed was an operating plan to harness this energy and channel it in the right direction. We got to work helping Sachse build a strong leadership team with laser focus. First, we got the business owner and the leadership team into one room for a series of full-day sessions. The idea was to give them a holistic approach to treating the entire company, rather than just symptoms.

Below are a few tips we used during these sessions that you can use in your own business:

1.) Share your vision for the company – The first step is to get the leadership team's ideas out of their heads and into writing. This lets you see where there's overlap with the rest of your team and where there's almost no alignment.

2.) Get your leadership team to agree on answers to eight core questions – To do this in a structured way, we use the EOS Vision/Traction Organizer, which you can download for free. The basic questions are:

  • What are our core values?
  • What's our business's core focus or sweet spot?
  • What's our 10-year target?
  • What's our marketing strategy?
  • What's the 3-year picture?
  • What's the one-year plan?
  • What are the quarterly priorities?
  • What are all the issues, obstacles, and barriers that we have to solve?

3.) Develop a vision statement based on your answers – Every effective leadership team has a strong vision statement that defines who they are, what they do, where they are going and how they will get there. This will inform every decision within the company for years to come. It's your guiding light, even as people come and go.

4.) Create a solid leadership team based on the vision – This was a real challenge for Sachse because there ended up being some changes to the original team. This isn't unusual, though. I'd say about eighty percent of the time, we end up making changes to the leadership team.

But this isn't a value judgment or indictment. Rather, it's about defining the core functions of the business. Put simply, the leadership team is made up of the people who head up these major functions. For this process, I use an Accountability Chart and the People Analyzer to ensure the right people are in the right seats.

Once the new leadership team and vision statement are in place, then the answers to formerly confusing decisions seem to come into focus. You get unstuck. This is when companies begin to see a shift in culture that cracks the ceiling.

As for Sachse Construction, over a decade later, they've experienced incredible growth – as much as 400-500% – through a recession in one of the hardest hit cities. But over the years, they've had to get unstuck more than once.

If you find yourself getting stuck again, go back to the vision your leadership team agreed on and work towards getting everyone on board again. Once you have the structure in place, it's as simple as reviewing, refining, and reminding yourself about the core focus that gave you passion and purpose in the first place.

This article originally appeared on Microsoft Business Hub.

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