Breaking Through the Ceiling with EOS
All businesses are different; at some point, most will experience periods of sustained growth followed by the feeling that everything has come to a standstill. This can be one of the most frustrating times for business owners and CEOs, because we need to first clarify the root cause of the problem before implementing plans for correction.
There are a few common reasons why businesses end up hitting the ceiling, with one of the core reasons being a lack of innovation and clarity both internally and externally.
In today’s fast-moving world, companies need to be constantly evolving just to keep up, let alone grow. We hit that point where we knew we needed to innovate and grow to reach our potential, but the question remained: how?
We had to start identifying the underlying issues that our organization was experiencing. The only way to understand them was to take a good hard look at ourselves as leaders and ask ourselves the tough question – why is it like this?
As we asked ourselves these questions, we started to understand we needed help. So we began to unfold and cut away the layers of our company onion, realizing that our organization needed a complete overhaul.
Some of the issues we uncovered are as follows:
A Suboptimal Team Structure
As our business grew, we often needed to take the time to reevaluate our team structure and ensure that we had the right people in the right roles. Unfortunately, this led to stagnation and inefficiency, which prevented further growth, money and time lost trying to move people around.
Unclear or Changing Strategy
A lack of clarity around our business strategy led to confusion and indecision, which limited both team and individual growth.
Alternatively, if your strategy changes too frequently, then employees will struggle to keep up and execute effectively.
We started to understand that this issue was becoming apparent from the top down as time passed.
For example, we would implement a new project management system and then try a new one only months after we had dedicated time and resources to the first system. We did this dance three or four times before we settled on the system that was right for us.
We needed to fundamentally change our strategy and business practices from the inside out to break through the ceiling. But what did that mean? And how would we do that if we could not understand the issue?
The beginning of 2020, we had entered our 4th year of business, and we were growing at a steady pace in revenue and team size — then, out of the blue, the entire world came to a standstill.
In 2016, my friend Chris Kirksey (CEO of Direction) sent me a video message over Facebook about what he was doing and how he could help the company I was at rank on Google.
SEO was a buzzword within the marketing industry at that time, and there was little information about what it was or how it worked. For most, it was something magical that didn’t seem real.
Fast forward to 2017, I was outside my office when out of the blue Chris pulled up in his BMW and said, “Hi!”
It took me a minute to connect the dots as I hadn’t seen him since he sent me the video years earlier — he explained he was in town for a business conference and wanted to see what I had been up to for the last couple of years. So we spent the next couple of hours catching up, I showed him my studio and cafe, we exchanged info, and said our goodbyes.
Following Chris’s visit, he decided south Florida was the place to be and told me about his plans to move his new company, Direction, to Florida. He asked me if we knew of or had any space available. Lucky for Chris, we had just opened our new office, and we had plans to sublease to companies that complemented our service offerings.
He agreed to rent out one of our offices in the building and started building his team. We would find time to chat about our companies, new clients, employees, and growth. I would advise him on strategic business steps, and he would do the same and show me new apps, tricks, and projects he was working on.
My company at the time focused on content marketing and social media, while Direction concentrated on digital marketing, primarily SEO. We eventually hired Direction for SEO, and that got my wheels turning.
Chris eventually decided Florida was not the right fit for Direction and moved the agency back up to Virginia. We continued to work together moving forward until I decided to join Direction in early 2020.
The Moment We Knew We Needed to Change
When I first joined Direction, I remember one very glaring detail; the client list sat on a whiteboard in Chris’s office next to his desk. I remember asking him, ‘What is that?’ And he responded with, “That’s our client list!” I then asked, “Aren’t we in digital marketing? Why isn’t this in a system of sorts? And how do you keep everything together?”
That’s when he looked up at me and said, “Very carefully – and also, that’s why you’re here.”
He explained he had tried using the available intranet systems like Podio and had an active subscription to basecamp, but didn’t like how it functioned very much and was looking for one system to do everything — but it just hadn’t been created yet.
He explained that having the whiteboard allowed him to see who he was responsible for and what needed to be focused on in one glance — I listened and appreciated the efficiency.
Without Action, There Can Be No Start
Every company starts somewhere, and at the start of it all, it’s usually one person with an idea — nothing more, nothing less. Then, the company starts to form when that idea sparks belief, leading to action. Needless to say, that action is all over the place, with many mistakes, hitting the ceiling in many ways, especially if it’s your first venture.
Without that whiteboard and the willingness to ask the question, how do you keep everything together? we may not be where we are today. Humble beginnings start the making of a proven process, and little did we know that we would have a lot of time to create that proven process which would lead our company and clients to success.
Understanding the Problem and The Start of Progress
At the start of 2020, the world and our growth slowed. We were suddenly in what felt like a sink-or-swim situation. We wanted to grow, and it became clear that our industry would be more critical than ever, but the outlook for the near future was grim.
Companies began closing their doors, budgets quickly began drying up, and business owners were scared.
During this time, Chris sent out a memo to the whole company and reaffirmed that everyone’s positions were safe and Direction would come out stronger than ever before. There was a sense of peace and certainty following the memo but little did we know it would be short-lived.
Uncertainty and Future Growth
We were still determining what would happen, which of our clients would continue, or how our business would weather the sudden change. There is a term for this; it’s called FUD, which stands for ‘Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.’ I would be lying if I said our working environment didn’t have a level of FUD attached to it, but to be fair, I have a feeling the whole world felt this way.
We decided to continue following the rules from the top down. First, it was social distancing; then, we were told we would have to close the office and attempt to have everyone work remotely. I remember it like it was yesterday — I had just started, and now we were faced with shutting down our office and moving to a remote work structure. We didn’t like the idea of remote working, considering our CRM was still a whiteboard…
Little did we know, this action alone would change everything for us as a company, whether we wanted it to or not.
When we first made the switch, we quickly realized how difficult it was to operate under these circumstances, and like many other businesses, we had to figure it out along the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury to shut down and weather the storm, so we had one option: we had to make it work.
The decision had come, and we had to continue to support our clients while faced with a plethora of unfamiliar business obstacles. So, what did we do? We shut down the office and went fully remote in a little under a week.
We would check in on everyone on Fridays and Mondays and worked hard to bring a previous whiteboard-run company into a more comprehensive system that would support what we needed to move forward in a digital world.
We started using Airtable to bring together a united front. We relied on Slack to communicate internally and would jump on Google Meets every time we needed to chat with one another. This all felt cold and unfamiliar, but what choice did we have?
Looking back, going remote was a blessing in disguise, forcing us to look at our processes and procedures and clean up our systems of operation. At that point, we had a team of 9, and everyone was working remotely and doing great work. We seemed to be on the right path; our processes and speed were increasing internally and on top of that our clients were seeing improvements across the board.
The Moment Clarity hits you in the Head
It had seemed as if we had it figured out. We had gone 100% remote, and our systems and processes were getting better and our team felt strong and happy… or so we thought.
Then, out of nowhere, one by one, our once-happy employees started to turn in their two-week resignations.
We asked if they would consider staying if we matched the new jobs offer, but we were told it wasn’t about the money and if we matched the offer, they would consider it, but ultimately there was nothing we could do to keep them there. Something needed to change.
Hitting The Ceiling: If You're Not Improving, You're Losing
Losing over half of our employees didn’t feel right — it felt like we were being attacked but didn’t know why. That’s when Chris brought up the book Traction in one of our end-of-week leadership meetings. He mentioned that someone from his EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) group recommended we check out the book.
He explained that the EOS framework changed everything for his business and he highly recommended it. He did, however, have a bit of warning. He said, “if you commit to it, you have to commit 100%. Otherwise, it won’t work.”
He also said if you commit, all the issues you’re having will be solved moving forward. In fact, most companies see an 18% year-over-year growth once they fully implement EOS. He told us, we’ll be equipped to fix our employee problem and it will filter down to our customers in positive ways. Instantly we were all intrigued, so the leadership team decided to give it a chance and committed to reading the book front to back
Systems, Processes & Accountability = Success and Growth
Fast forward to today, our company has fully adopted the EOS system. With this, our company has broken through the ceiling, our employees love their roles, our customers are growing at a steady pace, and we are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
EOS has allowed us to find the right seats for the right people, which in effect has changed how we conduct business both internally and externally. We no longer wonder who we are or where we are going, or who is coming with us. With EOS, we finally have the one critical thing we were missing: clarity.