EOS Implementation Journey Chapter 4: Going At It Alone [The First Mistake]

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I was invited to join Direction.com as their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in January 2021. 

At that time, our primary service was search engine optimization (SEO). Though we also provided Google Ads Management, PPC, and Website Design and Development.

When I came on board, we were just starting to break into a new niche, local SEO, having recently launched a new SaaS product, Direction Local.

My main objective as CMO was to increase awareness around our new product. So, my team and I got to work making the software the forefront of our brand.

Direction Local Listing Citations

This required a realignment of the company at a foundational level. Who is Direction.com, what do we provide, how are our services unique, who do we serve

We needed to answer these questions and more to move the company into the next lifecycle. 

This required simplification via specialization. We needed to limit our service offerings to what we do best: SEO.

But this restructuring posed some challenges. Most notably: specializing in a few core services without losing revenue. 

We had hit a ceiling and didn’t know how to break through.

Breaking Through the Ceiling with EOS

In our search to break through the ceiling and grow our business, we came across the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). EOS implementation can be done by self-implementation or by hiring a professional EOS consultant. Let’s go over what happened as we made attempts at both.

What is EOS?

EOS is a complete system for achieving business success.

It includes tools and strategies for clarifying company vision and values, setting unwavering priorities, solving issues and conflicts, and developing accountability among team members.

EOS has been used by over 50,000 companies worldwide and has proven to be effective in improving communication and driving growth. 

In fact, EOS-adopting organizations have reported an average three-year growth rate of 32%. 

Needless to say, this system appealed to us and our lofty ambitions (though we didn’t quite know what those were yet).

The EOS Model for Success

After reading Traction by Gino Wickman, and comparing this with the lessons in Scaling Up by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles, we knew the route we would take.

Getting Started with EOS

According to EOS, it’s recommended that you work with an professional EOS consultant when getting started with EOS implementation. 

An EOS Implementer is a trained professional who guides a leadership team through the EOS process, helping them implement EOS tools and principles within their organization. Even more valuable, an EOS implementer also helps you discover who you are as a company, how to communicate this to your audience and team, and how to live up to the persona you’ve established. 

EOS integrators come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, but all have in-depth knowledge of EOS and a passion for helping businesses achieve their goals. 

Working with an EOS integrator allows a leadership team to focus on what matters most — running their business – while having expert support in navigating the EOS journey. 

In short, an EOS integrator is a valuable asset for any leadership team seeking to improve their operations and reach new levels of success.

Without an Integrator, implementing the system can be choppy and lead to more hindrances than it does advances (which we learned the hard way). 

Anyway, we started interviewing potential Integrators to help us with EOS. What we learned is that Integrators don’t come cheap.

Budget Constraints

In 2021, we had just paid off all of our outstanding business loans. We also paid back our investors from the startup phase of the company and made the final payments on our domain name. 

Direction.com was now entirely owned by us.

Though having an employee-owned company was a relief (and officially checked off our bucket list), it posed financial constraints.

And like most businesses on a budget, we looked to cut costs where we could while still working towards the objectives outlined in our playbook.

We decided to forego an EOS Integrator for our EOS implementation and go at it alone — sort of.

Working With An Alternative to the EOS Implementer

Instead of hiring an EOS Integrator, we decided to enlist a colleague to guide us through the process.

The colleague, who we’ll call Joe, was a service partner of Direction.com’s who assisted with PPC campaigns. 

Joe already knew what Direction.com is and what we were trying to achieve long-term. He knew our company, so it seemed like a natural fit. 

And though Joe was not an EOS Integrator, he had done the readings, practiced the system and wanted to become a real EOS Implementer. 

We were his guinea pig, so to speak. 

And the problems started almost immediately. 

EOS Implementation Trial and Extreme Error

We skipped the 90-minute meeting portion of The EOS Process with Joe since we already knew each other and had agreed that he’d be leading us through the course.

We had also done 90-minute meetings with other EOS Integrators when we first decided to move forward, so we felt like this step was redundant.

For those new to EOS, the 90-minute meeting is essentially a meet-and-greet that covers the following:

  • About Us (the EOS Integrator and the process)
  • About You (your organization)
  • The tools
  • The Process

It’s a foundational step to implementing EOS and should not be undervalued.

With no 90-minute meeting to start the process, we moved right into the Focus Day, where we discussed:

  • Hitting the Ceiling
  • Our Accountability Chart
  • Our Company Rocks
  • The 90-Minute Meeting Pulse
  • Our Company Scorecard

This is when problems first became apparent.

Not only was our Integrator learning the system at the same pace that we were, but he was also too close to our organization. 

He could not separate his role from what he already knew — and the things he assumed about Direction.com. 

This generated a lot of conflict and limited us to a sluggish pace. But we persisted nonetheless.

Lack of Vision Building

During the Vision Building process, you’re supposed to tease out the following:

  • Core Values
  • Core Focus
  • 10-Year Target
  • Marketing Strategy
  • 3-Year Picture
  • 1-Year Plan
  • Quarterly Rocks
  • Issues List

Again, we encountered conflicts — only this time, we could identify the root cause.

Our Integrator was redirecting our conversations, injecting his beliefs to guide our reasoning rather than allow us to collectively discuss and decide on key elements of our business.

When Chris, Ian, and I would discuss our targets, we were told all the ways we could not hit them instead of what we needed to do to move closer to our objectives. 

Joe was controlling the narrative on who Direction.com is and what we can achieve without allowing us to debate these characteristics.

We were unable to tease out important attributes of who we were (our values and our focus), what our challenges were (the ceiling), how we could scale the company (our rocks), and the most pressing items we needed to resolve to move forward (our issues).

We were confined to a mindset that was not our own. The result was the building blocks of a company that was not Direction.com.

There was a serious identity crisis at this stage. Instead of feeling the motivation we had when we first found EOS, we were discouraged, feeling the weight of our journey with no clear path and no identity to build off.

We made a collective decision to stop.

In Conclusion

In hindsight, Joe was not a bad Integrator. He just wasn’t the right fit for us. 

He was too close to the company — too aware of who we were without being able to see what we were striving to become. And this led to confinement, which is an unhealthy environment to grow a company.

Now, we are not without blame here. 

We regularly tell our clients and prospects that if they want something done right, they need to invest properly. 

Yes, yes, yes… you get what you pay for. 

We ignored our own teachings and went the budget route, which cost us resources, patience, and excitement. 

We got all of those things back and more when we decided to hire a real EOS Consultant for our EOS Implementation.

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