The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 24
Today, we are sitting down with Tom Barrett from Navigate the Journey to talk about the EOS system and how you can use it to achieve the vision for your business. EOS is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that have helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses.
In this episode, we are discussing what EOS can do for your organization and how you can implement it into your business.
Jamie Nau: All right, welcome to today's podcast. Today, Adam and Jamie from Summit are joined by Tom Barrett from Navigate the Journey. Today, we are going to go into a topic that has been very helpful for both us and our clients. So a real quick intro on Tom and his background. So Tom is a certified EOS implementer and the co-founder of Navigate the Journey, a firm that helps entrepreneurs get what they want from their business by using proven processes, including EOS. Tom has spent most of his life learning about what it takes to run a truly great business and now spends all of his time helping entrepreneurs clarify, simplify and achieve their vision by mastering the simple concepts and practical tools you'll be sharing with us today. And just on a personal note, I talked about this already a little bit, but both Summit and a lot of our clients have used EOS. And I can tell you, whenever I work with a client that uses EOS, they're a lot more organized and they're a lot easier to talk to. You can tell they understand the direction. So, Tom, can you go into that a little bit? First, give us a little bit more about your background and then kind of talk about how you got hooked up with knowing so much about EOS.
Tom Barrett: Thanks, Jamie. Thanks, Adam. Thanks for having me on. So, yeah, in terms of my background. So I started off IN life as a CPA while I worked for Deloitte way back when it was part of the Big 6. Then went on to another CPA firm, Ernst and Young. M&A due diligence, then went on to be in leadership positions for two entrepreneurial or entrepreneurial organizations. And as any leader knows that’s been around for a while, you learn more from your mistakes than your victories. And so probably two big insights from that period of my life, one, is that clarifying your vision and your plan, I think is the easy part. Actually executing it, see it come into reality is the hard part. I had another big discovery as well during that period of my career working in leadership in two organizations, is that actually what I do best is facilitate teams through planning processes. So along that journey is actually where I discovered EOS. Like a lot of people, they probably first heard about EOS from the Traction book. Somebody handed it to me and I gobbled it up immediately because it's like, okay, this is what I've always been looking for, something that can actually help clarify a vision, but also give leaders the practical tools to actually implement that. So then in terms of our business, Navigate the Journey, I specialize in fully implementing EOS, what our clients in terms of helping them get what they want from their business and how we're going to talk about that. But that's basically how I've gotten to where I am today.
Adam Hale: That's awesome. I mean, there's so much stuff out there, though, how do you, and Traction is one of those books I've read it. I know a lot of people that have read it. And what I hear a lot of times is I read it, I understand it. It makes sense. But they still fail to kind of execute it on their own, like there's a lot of good tangible stuff in there. So a lot of times they are like, you know, an implementer, somebody that can kind of put that in. I mean, do you see a lot of people that have kind of tried to get it off the ground and then they just need to give you a call?
Tom Barrett: Yes. So there's a lot in there. So let me just kind of say a few things about this. So EOS stands for the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and so let’s camp on that last word there. So as a complete system, what happens a lot of times, so somebody read the Traction book and they'll be like okay, these one or two tools or however many tools or whatever part of the system they're going to go implement that in their business, and that's all good. That certainly is allowed in a very much open source system. But I think there's maybe a little bit of a mixing up of implementing. Some of it is mixed up with implementing all of those. And I think to the extent you like any system, if you don't implement that holistically and fully it's not going to work as intended.
Jamie Nau: I think I could definitely agree with Adam, I think most companies I've seen either go to you or another implementor, try it on their own a couple of times, and like you said, they either get halfway there, they just implement parts of it. It definitely helps their business. But I think implementing it all is very helpful. So what would you say is the number one sign that an organization needs something like EOS, or is there a couple of things that I should keep an eye out that is something I really need?
Tom Barrett: Yeah, so probably the best way to answer that is really what's the ideal target or customer profile for implementing EOS? First, it's typically an entrepreneurial business that has between 10 to 250 employees. The leaders, their growth oriented, they're not content with the status quo and then they're willing to be open and honest and willing to put in the hard work to grow and change. So you've really got to be there. And truth be told, some entrepreneurs are just not right. They are content with the status quo. They really don't want to be open and honest with their people. They don't want to make hard decisions in terms of growing and getting better. So you've really got to fit in that first category of what the ideal profile for actually fully implementing EOS us.
Jamie Nau: So do you often go into onboardings, or into that first week of EOS do you find companies that thought they needed it and you find one of those things where it’s not need, and you're like, you know guys, this type of thing might not be the best for you.
Tom Barrett: Great question. So, we have a concept called the EOS process. The very first step in that process is what we call a 90 minute meeting. So typically how this happens is I get connected with typically the owner of an entrepreneurial business and just have kind of a quick conversation about what EOS is like. And then if they like what they hear, the next step is setting up a 90 minute meeting with their leadership team, with the team of key leaders who would go through all the EOS sessions. And so in that 90 minute meeting, that's really where I unpack my background, the EOS model, the key tools, what implementation looks like, actually tell them what that profile I just told you earlier in terms of what the ideal profile for implementing it uses. And so that team gets a good preview and that's a no obligation 90 minute meeting. And that's where they get to decide okay, are we going to start down this road of fully implementing EOS? And if they don't, that's fine. But if they do, they should know ahead of time what they're getting themselves into.
Adam Hale: Speaking of which, I guess I think a lot of times failure to launch is just because it seems overwhelming. What does the time commitment look like for something like that? If I'm your customer, what are you telling me? What do I have to do? How much time do I have to put into this?
Tom Barrett: Yeah great question. So, if you use an outside implementer and if you're going to do it fully on your own, it's probably going to look like in the first 12 months about 5 full day sessions. So if you use an outside implementor over the first 60 days, you're going to have 3 full day sessions. So you are going to have that time with your team. There is homework and things like that in between. But overall, I would say any time that you spend working on EOS tools, you're going to save that time and more because of how EOS is making your team better. So I think net wise, time wise, you're going to come out ahead, even though probably at the beginning there probably is a little bit of you spending more time, but certainly 3 plus months and you should be saving time.
Adam Hale: So is there a lot of homework for me or is it those are working sessions and we can get most of that kind of worked out during those full days?
Tom Barrett: Yeah, it's the latter. So the homework is relative, really most of the value is delivered in full day sessions, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. kind of sessions. And the homework really is actually the most of the first session and then decreases, but it's relatively really not that much. And frankly. So like in the first session, one of the big pieces of homework is what we call the accountability chart. And even though we make great progress in the first full day session, there is iteration that needs to be done. But, you know, that's the kind of work that just always needed to have been done. And then once you actually invest that time, get that clarity, you're going to make things so much better for your team that again, it is just homework. But is time well spent.
Adam Hale: I think that's a super powerful tool. I talk about it all the time. I mean, that's kind of definitely a lead into, you know, the power of the EOS. You know, I think that just defining that accountability chart was so eye-opening for us at Summit CPA. It not only gave us a clear path forward to go to individual people and say hey, you have to own A, B and C, but it also gave us a roadmap for how we were going to grow and not only what we were going to grow to, but how we were going to get there, which was really eye opening. And we always had it in our head, you know, kind of how we were going to just naturally do it. But being able to just like a financial forecast, being able to kind of map that out and just know, you know what the kind of different lanes we needed to break that up. I mean, Tom, you helped us, Jamie got into the accounting director role because we were kind of like, I feel like I'm more of like an accounting director and he's more operating like a CEO instead of the CFO. And in order to do that, I need somebody to own these portions of the roles. And that's how we selected Jamie for that role.
Tom Barrett: Yeah, an actually the accountability chart is essentially the first tool we start out with in EOS. So before we actually get on to clarifying what the vision is, we verify what is the right and best structure to take the organization to the next level. And that actually is rooted in a concept we call hitting the ceiling because that’s the journey of most entrepreneurs, right? Usually it's like them, maybe by themselves or a freelancer started hiring some people, just figuring everything out on the fly, and then next thing, 5, 10, 15 years later, they wake up and they're signing 30 paychecks twice a month and now they're running a real business. And that kind of fly by the seat of their pants approach no longer works. And so typically where it's at is that everybody, all 30 of those people in this hypothetical situation, they're all wanting to know what's expected of me, what am I really responsible for, but also what all my teammates, who's really responsible for X, Y and Z. And usually there's overlap. And we say when there's two people responsible, nobody's responsible. So we clean up a lot of that. So we're cleaning up duplicative effort, but we're also ensuring that okay, with key drivers of the business who really is responsible to drive that area? And so, again it's just, it is really actually revolutionary when you do the accountability chart properly. And it is a game changer from the beginning.
Adam Hale: We appreciated you being so being so forceful with us, because, like I said, Jody and I have some pretty strong personalities. And you're like, no, no, no. Like, you got to break that apart. So you really did that. And Jamie has been, you know, even just personally in my life, has been just like one of the greatest achievements of Summit. Like being able to get him into that level has just meant a lot to me both personally and professionally.
Jamie Nau: So yeah, I guess I need to thank Tom for my job right now. So I appreciate you talking to Adam about moving me up to the director role. So I appreciate it.
Tom Barrett: I'll send you my Amazon wish list.
Jamie Nau: Yes, please do.
All: Laughing [in audible]
Tom Barrett: So that's part of the benefit of using an outsider, right? Because the outside or the outside implementor is going to come in with the set of tools, be objective, not have a dog in the fight. So one of the lines I like to use with my clients for when I get to those, especially around the accountability chart or some other things like that, where you're kind of you're entering the danger of people's roles or titles, things they want to hold on to. So one of the lines I like to use with teams, when it's clear that people are holding on to the past and not willing to act for the greater good, I say hey, I'm just the dumb guy with a marker. But Jamie, what you're saying right now doesn't make sense to me or Adam and Jody. What you two guys are saying just doesn't make sense to me. So you got to explain it to this dumb outsider, because this is just not making sense. It doesn't seem right to me. So, yeah. So that is one of the big benefits of bringing in somebody from the outside because, you know, at 5 p.m. when I leave, even if people are not happy with me to some degree, as long as I serve the team and the greater good of the business long term, that's what I'm there for. Whereas if you're an insider, and that's one of the reasons why it is more challenging to implement those on your own, because, say, if I was on a team, it would be a lot harder to have led those conversations because Adam would be my boss, and I'm not going to say that same thing to my boss.
Adam Hale: Yeah, no I agree. I mean, I think that obviously that's what we do for a living. So we believe in outside counsel. So it'd be kind of silly for us not to recognize that whenever we need help in a specialty area. So you lead off with one of these day sessions, then obviously they have kind of a theme, or an objective for each one of them, just kind of move things along. So you start off with the accountability and then you move into the vision and culture in terms of team values.
Tom Barrett: So let me hit on two things real quick, because I'm going to answer that question second, but let me kind of back up to one place, because just in terms of the EOS model, so if you read the Traction book, that is a place to find out more about this. So the EOS model believes that at the center of running a great entrepreneurial business, it's all about strengthening 6 key components. So the 6 key components are first vision: simply where are we going? How are we going to get there? People: it's about having great people because you can achieve great vision and great people. It's about data: having the right amount of predictive data that's going to give us a pulse on the business. Once you strengthen those 3 components, then all of your issues bubbled at the top. The culture, the team becomes more transparent. And so we have an issues component. It's just about solving your problems or challenges and your opportunities at their root, making them go away forever. There's a fifth component, we call it the process component: it is about systemizing the repeatable parts of the business so that people are doing it. In your case, the Summit CPA way and not Joe or Jills way of doing CFO work, and then the final component is attraction component. It's about instilling focus, discipline and accountability, just bringing your vision to life. So that's the model. So then in terms of how it's implemented, yeah, we implemented the accountability chart. It starts as part of the first day. So we call it the focus, this accountability chart. Then we move to actually picking rocks for the first time. So rocks are 90 day priorities. So teams right out of the back get that practice. We teach a weekly meeting called a Level 10 meeting. That's a 90 minute powerful meeting. That's definitely one of the a great way to kind of test drive EOS, get the Traction book. That meeting agenda is awesome. You could definitely implement that on your own. And then we take a first pass at a weekly scorecard. So that's a full day. Come back a month later, review all of those tools from the first day because the other is homework iterations. See how everything's working for them. So review those tools from the first day, actually put people in seats. So we have an exercise we do to make sure that with the accountability chart we've created that as function first, people second. So on the second day, we're putting people into seats. So we do that exercise, we then start answering the first of the vision questions, core values, core focus, tenure targets and marketing strategy. That's a wrap on day two, come back to the third day, same approach. Review everything that came before, finish out, answering all the vision questions and then after that about every 90 days your leadership team is back in a room for a full day session, or a quarterly, or annual session every 90 days.
Adam Hale: Yeah, that maintenance is really important to just make sure that you're holding yourself accountable and keeping to it. But now those Level 10 meetings, I think their dual purpose I mean, most people listening to this not only need them internally, but you can use them externally as well. You can take nuggets of that information to really facilitate a strong customer meeting, which is an amazing dual benefit, I think.
Tom Barrett: Yeah. Summit and I, we share a lot of similarities. So I have a lot of service based businesses alliance, a lot of digital agencies and a number of CPA firms as well. And so yeah. So us all sharing that commonality of being professional services, that is an added benefit of EOS implementation for agencies or CPA firms, because not only can you EOS to help internally to make your CPA firm or your digital agency better, but you can take many of the same principles and apply them in the right and best way for how you help your clients. So I do see that. Certainly the Level 10 meeting is one is one of those approaches that you can apply with your own clients.
Jamie Nau: I think one of my favorite parts about level 10 and EOS is the rocks. I know you touched on that briefly, but I think it's really important. Obviously, I'm an accountant, and so it's important to me to have goals and numbers written down and then track those goals. But can you dig into that a little bit? And like both the discovery process and identifying those rocks, and then tracking them and talking about them?
Tom Barrett: Yeah. So what rocks are, rocks are just simply 90 day priorities. So in terms of how we set rocks and the EOS process is we have some context. So first we have your vision. So once we have that longer term vision clarified, there's always elements of the vision that are far off into the future. We don't have to do that until 3 years from now or whatever. But every now and then, some of those things we thought were 2 years out are in this quarter. Another piece of context we have for setting great 90 day priorities, great rocks and EOS is just simply an issues list. So having instilled that discipline of getting really good at just us getting all of our issues just simply on a list, that discipline alone is really actually therapeutic in so many ways. But it also, when you get around to setting your 90 day rocks, your team actually has a complete list of what all the issues are, problems, challenges, opportunities facing the business. So when we actually go to land on water our few priorities for the next 90 days, we've got all of our contacts. So that really part of the powerful, the power of the EOS and picking those 90 day priorities. Because if you don't have those pieces of context, people are just sort of like subjectively, depending on which way the wind is blowing that morning or hat side of the bed they got out of, working on the priorities that they just feel like, but they're not really the true priorities of the business.
Jamie Nau: I can tell you as a CFO I've had several clients work with you, Tom, and it's nice to have those rocks because it helps me stay focused as a CFO as well. I know what their priorities are for these next 90 days and what I can do. What questions I can ask. I can remind them about those priorities. So I know from a CFO standpoint, it's always nice to have those rocks laid out and talked about every week in the leadership meetings that I'm sitting in.
Tom Barrett: And the other aspect of rock setting in EOS too, is related to a concept we call the 90 day world. So because if you get into that commitment and the rhythm and the cadence that every 90 days your team is back in the room so the rocks that you set on say, you know, January 1st, well, on April 1st, we're going to be back in the room looking at each other eyeball to eyeball. And Jamie, the two rocks that you said you were going to get done, are they done, yes or no? If they're 98%, that's not done. You didn't get one of our priorities done. So basically teams, they get better not only at selecting better rocks every 90 days, but we also do the whole lessons learned. So, Jamie okay, you got 98% done, but we really needed to be 100%. So what are the lessons we can learn from being that close to getting it done? But we didn't get it all the way across the goal line. So teams they just continually learn and get better every 90 days.
Jamie Nau: And I've been on the side of some of those failures where you are like 90 days in, and we just haven't accomplished this yet to be able to reflect on it. It's again, it's super helpful and helps to have that growth mindset of, I think we just had these two rocks that were just way too big and we tried to compare both at once and I was pulled into different directions. Being able to reflect on that, I know that reflection has always been really good for me at Summit for sure.
Tom Barrett: And you know the discipline of saying no, I mean, this is something that I think we all struggle with when you're just really busy and especially in an entrepreneurial environment where people are just used to putting out fires and having way more on their plate than they possibly can handle. But, you know, in all do loving respect for entrepreneurs listening to this, like I get the adrenaline rush and it's sort of necessary to some point. But at some point, having that kind of culture is frankly, almost like kind of headless chickens running around like crazy. Whereas we need to, again, bring that focus, discipline and accountability. Water our few priorities. If we get these few rocks done in the next 90 days, it's going to make other things better. So it's like every 90 days, let's just pick a piece of what we need to do overall, long term for the greater good and also, we have a standard of 80% or more. So if you have you know, if you have six rocks, we're looking for an 80% or better completion. We're not going to say that 100% is necessary every quarter for a team, although that would be ideal. There's also a reality that every now and then stuff does happen. That's not an excuse. But again, it's like if we can get 80% or more of our rocks done every quarter we're making great progress.
Adam Hale: I know it's kind of a preferable to have it in person, right, these sessions, but, you know, we're obviously in a different environment right now. So are you able to you know, for those people that have maybe a dispersed team or, you know, some of them are working from home, are you able to facilitate this just like we're doing right now?
Tom Barrett: So I was used to doing a lot of shorter meetings virtually before COVID-19 to be honest. Like a lot of prospects and my clients, we all kind of thought that you could never do this full day session virtually. But, you know, COVID-19 I think, proved a lot of our assumptions wrong. So, yeah. So over the last four months I've conducted most of my sessions virtually and all my clients they want to keep going virtually for as long as COVID is in existence. I've actually picked up some clients that that are difficult to travel to let's say. It works for them and me that maybe will be virtually forever, even after COVID passes. But yes, these sessions are highly effective virtually.
Adam Hale: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, just especially in the follow ups, that's cool. I mean, we've seen the same thing. We always thought the long meetings would be difficult, but you break them up and put them in bite sized pieces sometimes and they work out just as well. So that's definitely good.
Tom Barrett: Yeah and one interesting thing too about that as well. I've noticed over the last 4 or 5 months during COVID, is that one of the pieces of feedback I'll get at the end of these days, especially the first round of sessions, first quarterly sessions I was doing with teams is they really appreciated being pulled out of the weeds of having to deal with COVID and get back on track. What is our longer term vision? What are the bigger opportunities out there, and kind of getting them above the tallgrass so they can see more long term. That was actually very encouraging for teams, because if you just stay in firefighting mode all the time, you're going to just get exhausted.
Jamie Nau: So we have just a couple minutes left here, Tom, and I know this is such a deep topic and hopefully we've given our listeners a nice preview. But obviously reading the book Traction will help give a little more depth. Do you want to give your contact information for anybody that has read the book, or is interested in really taking the next steps of having someone walk them through EOS process?
Tom Barrett: Yeah. So the best way to check things out is go to: navigatethejourney.com. and my email is Tom@navigatethejourney.com. Certainly people can just feel free to reach out, more than willing to set up a call to walk through what EOS is. So then in terms for you listeners, probably the place to start is if you have never read the Traction book definitely go get that and read it. There is a kind of a business fable version of that book called, Get a Grip. So if you like, more dramatic, what it looks like in the real world, get the Get a Grip book. But in terms of options for your audience, in terms of implementing EOS, there are 3 options. First is self-implementation through the Traction book, and there's other eOS tools out there. Also go to EOSworldwide.com, you can get a lot of tools are available there. So that's option one. Option two, you can get a paid subscription also through EOSworldwide.com to something called BaseCamp. You have access to training videos, things like that. It is guided implementation, that's option two. Option three is someone like me. So there's about 350 EOS implementers globally. So I'm that first step, that 90 minute meeting is complimentary. So if you're interested in setting up a 90 minute meeting, I'm more than happy to do that with an owner and or their team. And that's the best way to explore what full EOS implementation looks like using Implementor like me.
Jamie Nau: Awesome. Well we appreciate your time and appreciate all the work have done with Summit over the years and with our clients. And any final thoughts from you, Adam?
Adam Hale: Just that I've never seen it done right without an implementer. So we appreciate the three options. But the reality is, any time I've seen it done well, it's been, you know, it is being a part of what Tom's been able to do. So I think that's important. If you are having, I wouldn't even say partner issues, but if there's not alignment at a partner level, or at a leadership level, which I think is the case in most, you know, it doesn't mean you don't get along and you're not friends. You just don't share the same common vision. I just think the power of being able to get in a room with a third party like Tom to go through these exercises just adds a lot of life and energy to a business. So big fan of it. And definitely appreciate and love working with you, Tom.
Tom Barrett: Thanks, Jamie. Thanks, Adam. Appreciate this opportunity. And let me know if I can ever help in any other way.
Jamie Nau: Thanks guys!
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