Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

I recently finished reading Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. (Reading the book and writing this post were two tasks on my 12 Week Year for Q1 2021.) Traction came recommended to me by several colleagues whose recommendations I value highly, so I wanted to check it out for myself.

The book begins with pain points that business owners face — lack of control, people frustrations, not enough profit, no growth and ineffective tactics. Wickman developed an “entrepreneurial operating system” (EOS) with six key components to help business owners overcome these pain points.

Before he dives into the six components, there’s a quiz to determine where you are right now (take it again later so you can see how far you’ve come) and a chapter on “letting go of the vine.” His goals are to get you to build a leadership team and open yourself up to change.

The 6 Components

Vision

Vision means clearly defining who and what your organization is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there. This two-page business plan includes your core values, core focus, 10 year target, marketing strategy, three year picture, one year plan, rocks and issues list.

Here are my core values:

  • We are always learning and trying to improve. We love sharing our knowledge with others — from educating our clients to teaching in the community.
  • We’re passionate about helping you promote your business.
  • We’re nice to work with — kind, approachable and always helpful. We value being organized and thorough, and we are clear communicators.
  • We are professionals with excellent follow through — we do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we’re going to do it.
  • We love solving problems.

People

Your goal should be to hire the right people — people whose core values match yours AND to put them in the right seats — match their unique abilities and strengths to the needs in your organization. Vision and people aren’t enough — you have to hold people accountable; Wickman recommends an accountability chart.

Data

Many business owners are very busy but don’t always know where they’re going. Numbers (data) allow you take the pulse of your business at any time to make sure you’re on the right path (the path to your vision). This allows you to leave the ego, assumptions, subjective opinions and emotions behind. Wickman recommends a scorecard — 5-15 numbers to track on a weekly basis.

Issues

“Your ability to succeed is in direct proportion to your ability to solve your problems; the better you are at solving problems, the more successful you become.” Create an issues list that you act on and review often. Prioritize the issues that are most pressing at the top. The author also suggests an approach for dealing with issues — identify, discuss and solve (ultimately so that the issues are solved once and for all).

Process

The secret of success is consistency. Identify and document your core processes, then share them with everyone. This activity also helps you identify inefficiencies in your organization — from HR to accounting to operations.

Traction

Gaining traction means making your vision a reality. Two areas of weakness in most organizations are accountability and discipline. To gain traction, everyone must set specific, measurable priorities and meet better as an organization. Wickman calls these rocks and the weekly meeting pulse.

All the Jargon

There is a TON of jargon in the book. To really understand what the author is talking about, you have to learn his terminology, which can be a bit daunting at first. For example:

  • V/TO — Vision Traction Organizer — a short document about your company, what you offer, who you serve and where you want to go in the next 1, 3 and 10 years
  • Scorecard — the 5-15 numbers by which you measure how you’re doing on a weekly basis; these should be leading indicators (like scheduled calls, proposals sent and new clients booked) instead of trailing indicators like your profit and loss statement
  • Issues Solving Track — a system to handle issues where you identify, discuss and solve
  • Rocks — the 3-7 most important priorities for the company that should be done in the next 90 days (similar to the 12 Week Year concept)
  • Quarterly Meeting Pulse — a plan for meeting off-site every 90 days to determine how the previous quarter went and to set priorities and rocks for the next quarter
  • Weekly Meeting Pulse — a plan for meeting every week for 90 minutes to review the previous week, solve problems and set to dos for the next week

What about VERY small businesses?

To me, this book was geared mainly towards existing businesses, NOT businesses with one or two people who wanted to grow (or really, stay small). Nonetheless, I think there are some important takeaways for sole owners or people who haven’t built a large team yet:

  • Create a V/TO — where you want to go and how to get there
  • Implement a scorecard — what numbers can you track weekly?
  • Document processes — every business (every. business.) can benefit from systematizing (I’ve been using a combination of Notion and ClickUp to document my processes)
  • Set rocks — determine quarterly goals (the most important priorities for the next 90 days)
  • Review — even if you’re a company of one, meet with yourself to review your goals and progress weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually

Links and Final Thoughts

Here are several links to the book and other resources.

If you’re planning to read the book, read it first and then do the exercises. Chapter 10 recommends how to implement each of the tools and the best order in which to do so.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Have you read it? I’d love to hear how you’ve implemented EOS in your business.

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