Decision Vision Episode 168: Should I Adopt the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)? – An Interview with Billy Potter, Snellings Walters Insurance Agency
Billy Potter, CEO of Snellings Walters Insurance Agency, joined host Mike Blake to discuss the successful outcomes his firm achieved after implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). They discussed what EOS is, the role of values, the impact of EOS not only on the bottom line but in one’s personal life, the challenges implementing such a system brings, and much more.
Snellings Walters Insurance Agency
Snellings Walters has been providing honest advice & protecting what you value most for more than 69 years. They are the smartest way to protect your business & family. They identify the critical issues facing your company. Survival of your business requires managing risks. In today’s environment, these risks are rapidly changing and becoming more complex. They have built a customizable platform to provide you with the security you need.
Billy Potter, CEO, Snellings Walters Insurance Agency
Billy Potter’s career in insurance spans more than two decades. In 2011, he joined Snellings Walters to head the Employee Benefits Division and quickly proved to be an effective consultant. His superior consultation contributed to his winning various awards within the agency, and in 2018, he was nationally recognized as “Broker of the Year” by BenefitsPRO Magazine.
His reputation as both a top consultant and engaged team leader resulted in an invitation to become an owner at Snellings Walters in 2018. As Chief Sales Officer, Potter led his team to produce record sales for the agency. The combination of his knowledge, experience, character, and passion resulted in his transition to Chief Executive Officer in 2022.
In addition to his expertise and technical know-how, Billy’s personal philosophy aligns with the core values that drive the Snellings Walters vision: engagement, accountability, curiosity, and authenticity.
By cultivating and nurturing an agency culture that allows its employees to feel empowered and supported, Billy’s mission is to inspire the next generation of successful business people at Snellings Walters and beyond.
Mike Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is the host of the Decision Vision podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms, and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth-minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
Decision Vision is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision-maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the Decision Vision podcast.
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Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:21] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, a clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision-making on a different topic from the business owners’ or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:42] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. I’m a managing partner of the Strategic Valuation and Advisory Services Practice, which brings clarity to the most important strategic decisions that business owners and executives face by presenting them with factual evidence for such decisions. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast.
Mike Blake: [00:01:09] If you would like to engage with me on social media with my Chart of the Day and other content, I’m on LinkedIn as myself and @unblakeable on Facebook, Twitter, Clubhouse, and Instagram. I also recently launched a new LinkedIn group called Unblakeable’s Group That Doesn’t Suck, so please join that as well if you would like to engage.
Mike Blake: [00:01:26] Today’s topic is, should I adopt the entrepreneurial operating system or EOS? And according to Wipfli, almost 9000 companies now run on the EOS system that was presented and popularized by Gino Wickman in his book called Traction. And, I have a particular interest in this discussion because you may have – if you’re a long time listeners of the show, you may have noticed there’s a subtle change in the intro of the podcast, whereby we’ve spun off my practice group into a separate company and I was named managing partner. And in doing so, when something like that happens, you are both excited for the opportunity and terrified of the responsibility.
Mike Blake: [00:02:13] And, one of the things that I realized very quickly as this was happening was that I needed to have some kind of operating system, if you will, for my company, because this is my first time in that role. I’ve managed before. I’ve led before, but I’ve never sort of been at the top of the org chart before. And candidly, that’s a very different kind of responsibility and a different kind of opportunity. And, about a year ago, I ran across Gino Wickman’s book. Somebody recommended it to me, and really have fallen in love with it, have studied it, and we’re in the initial stages of implementing EOS in this new company. So, I know a tiny bit about it.
Billy Potter: [00:02:58] And so, to talk about this, and so that I can mooch off of somebody else’s expertise, I’ve invited somebody that’s actually been living the EOS life and has been successful in doing so, also in a professional services context. So, I’m very pleased to introduce to you Billy Potter whose career in insurance spans more than two decades. In 2011, he joined Snellings Walters to head the Employee Benefits Division and quickly proved to be an effective consultant. His superior consultation contributed to his winning various awards within the agency, and in 2018 he was nationally recognized as Broker of the Year by BenefitsPRO Magazine.
Mike Blake: [00:03:37] In addition to his expertise and technical know-how, Billy has a personal philosophy that aligns with the core values that drive the Snelling Walters vision, engagement and accountability, curiosity and authenticity. I think we’re going to hear those words a lot in the next hour. By cultivating and nurturing an agency culture that allows its employees to feel empowered and supported, Billy’s mission is to inspire the next generation of successful business people at Snellings Walters and beyond.
Mike Blake: [00:04:07] Snellings Walters leads complex businesses into safety and security through commercial insurance and employee benefits and they focus on their values of core delivery of process, energy, and growth. For more than 60 years, they’ve been advising clients on business, personal, and life/health insurance. They’re the only commercial insurance and employee benefits company that energizes with a proven process. Growth is personal for them. Billy Potter, welcome to the Decision Vision podcast.
Billy Potter: [00:04:34] Thank you, Mike. Happy to be here.
Mike Blake: [00:04:36] So, not enough people know about the EOS and surely some people who are listening have never heard of it before. So, you’re a guy that’s living and having success with it. How would you describe the entrepreneurial operating system or EOS to somebody else?
Billy Potter: [00:04:51] I think the easiest way to paint a picture of what it does for your business is EOS is an assembly line for small businesses. The assembly line allowed them to be more effective and more efficient with manufacturing product. And, this has the same impact to running your business. A lot of us in small businesses we get to where we’re at because we’re good at our craft, whether it be manufacturing or offering a service. And many of the times, we don’t get an actual chance to work on our business, to make the business – allow the business to have a better impact to our product or our service. And the opposite occurs where we’re incapable of delivering our product or service because we’re so poor at developing structures to run an effective business. So, I like to look at EOS as an assembly line for your organization. And that’s been our experience. In fact, I’m a direct product of EOS. They implemented it right when I got here. So, I’m the benefactor of that efficiency.
Mike Blake: [00:06:09] So, the operating system sounds kind of cheeky maybe to somebody who’s not familiar with it. Is the name apt? Is it truly an operating system?
Billy Potter: [00:06:18] I would say yes, it is. So as, you know, it’s not a sexy term at all, EOS. We commonly refer to it as a language that we all speak, a language of efficiency and smoking out issues. That’s what we commonly refer to. In our L10 meetings is let’s smoke out the issue. So, these are the things that we speak of, or maybe that we know about that we’re not openly sharing, that the operating system has a good way of shaping your conversation so that the issue is a safe thing to address. So, from a communication perspective, which I think is the most powerful component of EOS, it sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true. It allows you to speak with one another. And it also allows you data points that should align with what you’re saying.
Mike Blake: [00:07:15] So, you know, the back story is kind of interesting in that – and if I understood correctly, you walked into EOS. It wasn’t necessarily that you were running a company and chose EOS, but rather you came from one situation, I presume, that was not an EOS organization and you walked into one. As you did so, what were some of the immediate – what were some of the differences that you might have noticed immediately or very quickly after making that transition?
Billy Potter: [00:07:45] Yeah. So, I came to this organization December 1, 2011, and the only thing I brought to the company was debt. And I had to work my tail off to get square of the house. But I would say sometime in mid to late 2012, they decided to implement EOS and we were not a young company at that point. We were 60 years old, but we had a ceiling that we couldn’t get through. And, the owners at that time thought that pursuing EOS was a fix to breaking through that ceiling.
Billy Potter: [00:08:22] The first thing that we saw, and this is going to sound a little negative, but we found people that didn’t want to be in a culture of accountability. And, I don’t know what’s worse, having people that don’t want a culture of accountability in business or not knowing that you have people that don’t want a culture of accountability. That is even worse. So, that was a big shocker.
Billy Potter: [00:08:52] The second thing that I think that really jumped out at us is I believe that this operating system, it provides an environment that protects your highly engaged employees. So, the numbers are somewhere like 30% of your organization is highly engaged. I think, if I remember correctly, 50% is disengaged and 20% is actively disengaged. So, the actively disengaged means these people are trying to ruin your business. So, you’re fighting for the 50% and you’re trying to protect the 30%. The 50% are in the boat without a paddle. The 30% are not in the boat. They’re in the water with a rope pulling the boat, swimming in the river. And then, the 20% are in the back of the boat, rowing in the other direction. That was just a very polarizing picture for us.
Billy Potter: [00:09:49] And, once we started implementing EOS and having some traction with it, we realized that all the metrics that we thought that were valuable, they quadrupled in productivity. It was unbelievable; a 60-year-old firm quadrupled in productivity. We had single people that single-handedly shaped an entire division with how we run service. And these are not like industry veterans. These are rookies just like me that came in, that were highly engaged, that were attracted to a system. And honestly, it kind of unchained them and unleashed their potential.
Mike Blake: [00:10:32] And, I’m curious about that process. How long did it take to start showing results that dramatic?
Billy Potter: [00:10:40] You know, I’m not completely – I can’t completely remember. I’d say that we had some turnover that we experienced probably within the first two years.
Mike Blake: [00:10:50] Which is by design, right?
Billy Potter: [00:10:51] Which is – well, the book said it. The book said you’re going to lose really good people that know insurance. It doesn’t say that in the book, but that know that your product or know your service, they’re industry veterans. We didn’t really believe it.
Billy Potter: [00:11:07] The second thing is, I would probably say that those productivity scores probably jumped up about 2 to 3 years as well, where we were like, holy cow. But I think the squishier, the more the subjective impact, the things that you didn’t see in the scorecard is the harmony that started to create in our leadership team. And honestly, I think that that’s what the biggest plague is in most small businesses. It arrests the ego that’s driving the business.
Billy Potter: [00:11:40] So, if Mike and I are running a company, and Mike wants to do X and Billy wants to do Y, and then your employees can’t serve two masters, and there’s a lot of end-arounds, which is what the book refers to it. It’s an actual thing. It’s like, “I know Mike told you to do this but do that.” And there started to get alignment within our leadership team of what’s your role and responsibility? What’s my role and responsibilities? Let’s be accountable to that, which fostered a greater community.
Billy Potter: [00:12:14] The word conflict is kind of funny. We were implementing Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team at the same time of EOS, which is really a dynamic duo because – we might get into this later – healthy conflict is certainly a part of EOS. It’s not like a fight club. You know, conflict is a positive word. That’s how we look at it.
Billy Potter: [00:12:37] So, when you talk about immediate results, I’d say it opened our mind that conflict is a sign of progress, not a negative for a business if you think about conflict in your life. Probably the greatest conflict I’ve had is with family, maybe my spouse. But it’s because we have trust and we started to seeing more of that in our leadership dialogue.
Mike Blake: [00:13:03] Yeah. And, you know, there’s a thought that conflict is where ideas come from. And there’s a school of thought. I don’t remember who put this forward, but it suggests that truth only comes out of conflict, right, where at some point, there needs to be a conflict of ideas and that needs to be resolved. One of the things you’re kind of getting at, I think you’re getting at, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, is EOS is sort of the interferon for passive aggression. Like, passive-aggressiveness just cannot survive in an EOS implementation. It’s passive-aggressive killer.
Billy Potter: [00:13:46] Yeah. And Traction, the first chapter of Traction, I believe, is titled Letting Go of the Vine.
Mike Blake: [00:13:54] Yep.
Billy Potter: [00:13:54] And so, you know, I’d like to believe that most issues of most organizations start with leadership. And, you know, we work with a guy that likes to say that you are ridiculously in charge. And I love that. That saying, it just resonates with me that we’re ridiculously in charge. We are ridiculously responsible for employing employees that don’t want to be accountable. You know, that’s on us. That’s a product of leadership.
Billy Potter: [00:14:21] And so, once you drop this model and you start fostering, “Well, Mike, what do you think is best for the business? Why do you think that’s best for the business?” That kind of conflict and that rub. You’re right. That’s what births truth, and perhaps hopefully a better process for your business, which is where we’re both aligned. We both want a successful business. And that allows kind of the ego to be, “Okay, well, maybe Mike’s not attacking me. He’s making a logical argument of the business and what we have a shared goal on.” And that’s what EOS really does a good job of not making it about the person, but making it about the company.
Mike Blake: [00:15:01] One of the things I find seductive about EOS is how it ties in to so many other ideas. And you mentioned the word conflict. I want to stop on that for a second because I think that’s really important. And it ties in with part of my introduction, which talks about how much you value curiosity. Right? And if I’m not mistaken, the EOS, EOS system is about converting the anger of conflict and the threat of conflict into curiosity. Right? Because you can still get to the same place but if you phrase the debate away from you’re an idiot for thinking that to why do you think that, right, and you really listen to the answer, that’s such a much more constructive platform for that conflict to take place.
Billy Potter: [00:15:52] I couldn’t agree more. We implemented it for two reasons. And all of our core values, which was such a fun process that EOS suggests you follow, it was fantastic. It helped bring our leadership team closer together. But we also came up with little phrases to help us be centered on what the core value means. So, for example, curious is seek to understand. And so, the reason we did –
Mike Blake: [00:16:17] [Inaudible] it’s a highly effective people. Right?
Billy Potter: [00:16:18] There you go. There you go. And honestly, that’s one of our favorite values because it’s a little unique too. You don’t see curious as a core value in many organizations but it really does two things effectively. First, it attacks ego. And, I think a lot of the times, I don’t want to listen because I know better, right? And, when I’m forced to think, okay, we’ll seek to understand. Why is Mike bringing this up? And you know what? This is the fourth time he’s brought it up in a meeting. Let’s smoke out that issue. What is the issue behind the issue?
Billy Potter: [00:16:55] And then, secondly, assumptions. How much conversations we have on a daily basis where we assume that we understand and we don’t? Is it George Shaw, George Bernard Shaw, maybe, who has a phrase something along the lines of the most challenging thing about the communication is the illusion that it’s taking place?
Mike Blake: [00:17:18] I don’t know who said it but it certainly sounds wise.
Billy Potter: [00:17:20] It’s brilliant. And it’s like once you start becoming a student of this and realizing I don’t understand, I am assuming what Mike means by that, it’s incredible the dialogue it promotes within your teams and within your community. And it makes it more about someone other than you when your focus is understanding their message. And once you do a good enough job of understanding, I think the really the solution presents itself. I don’t think it’s really hard to solve the issue once you understand the issue, but it’s understanding the right issue, which is the yeoman’s work.
Mike Blake: [00:18:00] And, to me, the flip side of that is that that also requires vulnerability to admit when you don’t understand something and going back to your discussion of ego. And now, there’s sort of – at least people are writing about it. I don’t know if people are doing it. People are writing and talking more about authentic management, vulnerable leadership, and so forth. And it strikes me that that’s really the flip side of curiosity. It has to be, right?
Billy Potter: [00:18:31] Amen. And authenticity, which is another core value. So, you are kind of striking here why are we aligned with those core values. So, curiosity, seek to understand. Authenticity. Authentic is the core value; your true self.
Billy Potter: [00:18:46] Look, we want to create an environment where you’re allowed to disagree. You’re allowed to have an opinion. It’s incredible. Like, when we onboard a new employee and we ask for their candid feedback, they’re like wounded animals. They look at us and be like, “You really want to know? Are you sure?” And, we have to literally position it to the point where if you don’t tell us – if you tell us that everything’s right, we know you’re lying. The only way you’re going to get in trouble here is if you’re a silent sufferer. That’s it. And, we need you to love us enough to tell us when we have broccoli in our teeth.
Billy Potter: [00:19:27] And, new employees are actually really critical because these are uncontaminated people. They have a fresh perspective on what we’re doing. We’re drinking the Kool-Aid, we’re making the Kool-Aid, and we’re swimming in the Kool-Aid. So, having that fresh perspective to create a more vulnerable and authentic environment, it’s crucial. It allows us to not be aspirational.
Mike Blake: [00:19:50] It sounds a lot like something of one of my philosophies for what it’s worth is that I want our frontline people, when we’re delivering work product, everybody can, anybody can stop a work product going out. It can be an intern. If they see something that isn’t right, they don’t like, they don’t understand and they see it going out, I’m not going to kill you for stopping the work product. I’m not even going to kill you if we miss a deadline, if it isn’t too critical. Right? But, boy, what I’m going to lose it over is if you saw something that was wrong and you didn’t mention it to anybody. That drives me crazy.
Billy Potter: [00:20:30] Yes.
Billy Potter: [00:20:30] And that gets to – one of my, what I hope is our core value, is honesty and integrity, not just to our clients and not just to each other but to yourself. And if you don’t have that, then you’re not going to – you’re not going to stop that blunder from going out that everybody else overlooked, even though you’ve read the report four times. Right? Somebody else is going to find some of that fifth time. But the bargain for that is you got to create the safe space for that, right?
Billy Potter: [00:21:00] Yeah. And the way that we word it for a similar reason is accountable. And the tagline is, own your part. So, we don’t want somebody saying, “Well, what was Mike’s report? Mike sent it out. Yes, I did see the flaw in it, but that was Mike’s responsibility.” No, it’s not. Own your part. What is your responsibility in that incorrect report going out?
Billy Potter: [00:21:22] The former CEO of Ritz Carlton, he allowed any employee to spend up to $2000 on the spot to fix the customer’s problem. That’s a lot of money.
Mike Blake: [00:21:35] Yeah.
Billy Potter: [00:21:36] But – I mean, how empowering that is for them to be a part of the solution on whatever they’re touching. And, I’m so thankful for EOS and just forget about the business for allowing them to allow me time to reflect on how important some of these qualities are in my own personal life, in my marriage, with the children I’m raising. What a gift this structure, this operating system has given to help me live a more fulfilling life at work.
Mike Blake: [00:22:09] So, I want to pause on that because I do think that’s a really important facet of this conversation, in that if you’re not familiar with EOS, one might be tempted to jump to a conclusion, it’s just a way to make more money or just a way to squeeze more productivity. Right? Whatever. Productivity hacks, life hacks, whatever you want. But the thing that strikes me about EOS and I think why people such as yourself who have embraced it are so passionate about it is because it’s not just about your job, right? If you do it right, it has a virtuous cycle kind of knock-on effect of every element of your life. That’s what I’ve observed from people who’ve kind of made that journey and why I’m so excited and intent on starting it for our firm.
Billy Potter: [00:23:02] I couldn’t agree more with you. Truett Cathy said if you make people better, bigger is inevitable, and, you know, the whole concept of we’re a for-profit entity. So, just to be clear, we’re in business to become more successful. We want to grow. These are reasons that we want to be held accountable to something bigger than ourselves, and it’s okay to want to make more money. But that’s a lagging indicator, not a leading one. Making more money is a result of something.
Billy Potter: [00:23:32] And it’s almost like, I think most businesses are saying, we want to get an A on the test. Let’s not talk about our preparation for the test, you know. That’s what EOS does. It allows you a study guide to make sure that you get an A. Actually, it allows you to study guide to redefine what an A is. And that’s what all the metrics are that we have.
Billy Potter: [00:23:56] And so, of course, we want to make more money in the end or be more successful. We want to pay employees more money in the end. We want to do all those things. But, you know, it came down to what makes us unique, which again is a product of EOS. And the first one that we have of three uniques is growth is personal. And so, if we are winning at work and we are not winning at home, we’ve lost. We’ve missed the point. We want your personal life to benefit with your professional life. We want both to be enhanced. And, honestly, in the end, we’re going to get a better product, a better result, a better service, a better experience because we are open to improving both. It can’t just be one or the other.
Mike Blake: [00:24:41] And, you know, the way when you say things like the money is the result not the goal, I hear Simon Sinek talking.
Billy Potter: [00:24:49] Yeah. That’s exactly right.
Mike Blake: [00:24:51] People listening to the podcast, now I’m basically a cyberstalker of his. Like, Simon, please come on the show at some point. I haven’t gotten a restraining order yet, but I probably will. But again, another tie-in where the EOS comes in. Knowing your why, I think, is critical to understanding, to successfully adopting an eOS.
Billy Potter: [00:25:08] Mike, I almost feel like you’re stalking us. When you walk into our office, you’re going to see Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle taking up an entire wall.
Mike Blake: [00:25:19] Really?
Billy Potter: [00:25:20] Yes. I swear to you.
Mike Blake: [00:25:21] I may visit. I want to see that and take a photo.
Billy Potter: [00:25:23] You’re welcome. Any time you want, buddy. In fact, part of me wants to take the Zoom call right now and show you the wall. But he says, people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. So, all of these things were coming together at once for us. We had Simon Sinek. It starts with the why. Honestly, the video is really all you need to see, the TED Talk. It’s 18 minutes long. How Great Leaders Inspire Action is the name of the TED Talk. And so, that influence combined with Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunction of a Team and Gino Wickman’s Traction. All of those things came together at once for our organization, which was like bottling lightning, you know,
Billy Potter: [00:26:01] And, my partner, Steve Harmon, went on a trip with other people in our industry and they said, “Why do you do what you do?” And you want to know what he was told? Man, it’s great money. Man, it’s a well-known secret, you know, this industry. It’s just great. The substance of what he was looking for wasn’t being shared by his peers. So, then he came back to us and said, “Hey, why are we getting out of bed in the morning? Why is God waking us up?”
Billy Potter: [00:26:27] His name is Steve Harmon. He’s had a phenomenal impact on our culture and was really one of the thought leaders in inspiring us to go down this journey. And, you know, we do have a why statement from EOS, and it’s “we lead to inspire confidence so we can unleash your potential.” And that’s super important, especially when you’re thinking growth is personal. You know, it has nothing to do with insurance.
Mike Blake: [00:26:54] I was going to say that noticeably absent is the word insurance.
Billy Potter: [00:26:58] Of course. Yes, Chick-fil-A. They want to become the most caring organization in the world. Where do you see chicken in there? It just doesn’t – it’s not there. It’s not Care-fil-A.
Mike Blake: [00:27:11] Yeah. Yeah.
Billy Potter: [00:27:11] So, it’s inspiring. And they were describing all of this, not even EOS. They didn’t know it exist when I was interviewing them in 2011. And as skeptical as I am, I thought, if they deliver on 20% of what they’re describing, this will be pretty cool. And we knocked it out of the park. I mean, EOS has more than quadrupled our business in a decade. We’re a 70-year-old company. It’s more than quadrupled it in a decade. That’s incredible. That’s the lagging indicator that gets everybody’s attention. And what’s powerful about this experience is like, “Oh, wait a minute. How I’m leading the company could lead to better revenue? Like, that’s amazing.”
Mike Blake: [00:27:53] Who knew?
Billy Potter: [00:27:54] Yeah. That’s crazy. I just thought I needed a longer whip.
Mike Blake: [00:27:58] Yeah. And again, another tie-in. I mean, that’s classic good to great, right? That’s classic flywheel stuff, the EOS – before I encountered EOS, I had an inkling of this but it wasn’t – I didn’t – nobody’s buying my book. I didn’t even write one. They wouldn’t buy it if I wrote one. But I did have an understanding or an idea that what really matters is not key performance indicators, but [inaudible] key performance drivers. Right? What I care about is, are you doing the things that you need to be doing consistently and faithfully? Right? And if you do those, eventually the results are going to show.
Billy Potter: [00:28:35] That’s it. You’re right.
Mike Blake: [00:28:36] It may take a while. It may take a while, but, man, if you have the mental toughness and tenacity to do that and the faith that it’s going to work out. Just like a farmer, right, you’ve got to have faith that all that work is going to result in growing things. You can’t just start yanking carrots out of the ground two days after you put the seed in. That’s where the action is, isn’t it?
Billy Potter: [00:28:57] Amen. And, the leading indicators, you know, and the leading and the lagging indicators were a gift from EOS. And it’s fun to even come up. Well, what are the leading indicators? What are the things that we need to report on a weekly basis to let you know that I’m rowing the boat, man? We’re not at the destination yet, but we are well on our way. And, that was a fun dialogue. And it constantly evolves. You know, like once it was no longer an issue anymore or once that habit is formed, we move on to a new leading indicator. And then, suddenly you look back and you’re like, “Oh, my goodness. We’ve quadrupled the business. How did this happen?”
Billy Potter: [00:28:57] When I got here, we were 21 employees and we had a lot of attrition. I mean, this is the valley of EOS. We did have a lot of attrition. Some employees said, “Hey, I love where you’re going. It’s not for me.” And so, we helped some of them find a job. We were sad to lose some of them, but that’s the truth of it. And then, the peak that followed that valley was a level of operational excellence that we didn’t really think was achievable. Our employees helped develop that. That’s what EOS creates, a ground-up movement.
Mike Blake: [00:30:16] So, we’ve talked a lot in this conversation so far about value so I want to come back to that because I think values – I think a lot of people cringe when they hear the word corporate values because they’ve often been abused, frankly, and employees have been abused in the name of so-called corporate values. How do you get – how do you sort of get past that? How did you find, identify and articulate your company values, one? And then, what did it take to establish a credibility that it wasn’t just more PR speak, but there was a real – there is a real substance and authenticity behind it?
Billy Potter: [00:31:03] This is a phenomenal process. We locked the door, the four owners locked the door. And, we said, who are the two people in your life that you could take over the world with? And then, you describe them. What are their adjectives?
Billy Potter: [00:31:20] For me, the two people that I said were my father and a lady named Jennifer Goodwin. And I enjoyed, like, just reflecting on what are all the characteristics of these individuals that I love, that I hold so precious. And everybody in the room does that in their own little space. And then, we come back together and we throw all of our adjectives up on the board, and then you group the adjectives.
Billy Potter: [00:31:47] So, for example, you say honesty and I say transparency. And we settle on a word that encompasses integrity. Okay? And so, we whittled the board down to maybe eight adjectives. So, we started with what? I mean, probably something like 60. Okay? And then, we whittled it down. We paired all the adjectives, grouped them together into maybe eight, and then you evaluate one another round. And, the evaluation of these adjectives, these core values are three grades. A plus, meaning you usually demonstrate; you mostly demonstrate that behavior. A plus-minus, you sometimes do, you sometimes don’t; or a minus, you consistently do not demonstrate that behavior.
Billy Potter: [00:32:34] So, any value that any one of our leaders had a negative in, we threw the value out. You could not do it. Because if you have an owner or a leader or whatever your group is that’s deciding the core values not defend one of those behaviors, then you’re aspirational. And far too often, I think that is what occurs within an organization. They say these things or they have 11 of them, or nobody can remember all the core values. And the truth of the matter is, you shouldn’t have to remember them. You should see them on a weekly basis from your people, and it should be modeled mostly by your leadership.
Billy Potter: [00:33:19] And that was a really fantastic experience and something that you can be proud of. You know, there’s a personal connection within our ownership to each one of those core values, and there’s a beautiful story behind it as well. So, we had fun. It was probably a full-day exercise where we say, “Hey, tell me why specifically your dad. You know, what about your experience with your dad? Did you feel like you could take over the world with?” That was a joy to share. And it brought the team closer together.
Mike Blake: [00:33:52] I want to change – I want to change gears here because I just thought of a question I want to get out because I hope it’s interesting. And that is, I’ve been reading a lot recently about return-to-office and everybody’s talking about return-to-office, but one of the features of return-to-office is that it’s bringing back – it’s bringing back sort of the Peter principle guys, the people that tend to rise to the level of incompetence, the people who tend to get by more because of the relationships they develop with their superiors more than their objective capabilities and accomplishments. There’s probably a catch-all word for those types of people. I don’t know what that is, but I think you know what I’m talking about. And it led me to wonder as I sort of think about U.S. and our organization’s entirely virtual. I mean, you can come to the office if you want, I don’t care. It’s not necessary. And, I wonder if EOS is actually potentially easier to implement in a virtual environment because by necessity you have to be so much more intentional about how you communicate. It offers more opportunities for measurement and it frankly blunts the people that are getting by, by frankly schmoozing, for lack of a more polite better term. Do you think there’s anything to that, or am I smoking something from Colorado?
Billy Potter: [00:35:25] So, I don’t think you’re smoking Twinkies, although they’re not made anymore in Colorado. So, here’s what comes to mind when you ask that question. First and foremost, throughout COVID, everything that’s meaningful in our organization peaked. Record sales year. Record operational efficiency. We monitor tasks and activities within our client management record production of that. So, again, I don’t think that has to do with necessarily like in the office or outside of the office. I think it has to do with being a talent magnet of highly engaged people. Okay? And the truth of the matter is, when you have a highly engaged person, they want to do a good job, not for you but for them. And that’s pretty special. So, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the impact of working from home and things of that nature.
Billy Potter: [00:36:18] Secondly, I would actually say that there is a negative to EOS. And, the negative is you have a 90-minute meeting that your people sit in and it’s the same day, same time every week. Okay? And, I was a meeting snob. Well, actually, hold on, I am a meeting snob now. If I’m sitting in a meeting now and it’s not an EOS meeting, all I think about is, “Oh, my gosh. This is so inefficient.” So, I’m grateful for that structure and I’m not a structure guy, so I’m more of like a caged animal when you drop a structure on me. So, the fact that I welcome those 90-minute meetings says something about how much I appreciate the process.
Billy Potter: [00:37:00] But here’s the negative, Mike. The negative is of that 90 minutes, 60 of it is spent on identifying, discussing, and solving issues. And, people in America are not welcoming of conflict. That is not something that is, like, second nature. So I do believe there’s value in having face-to-face interaction and developing rapport and trust with your team. That is, it takes longer to do it remotely unless you’re like Simon Sinek.
Billy Potter: [00:37:34] Simon Sinek with his people has a call, like, every Monday where they all get on a Zoom call and the one rule is you can’t talk about work. It’s just to build rapport. It’s that lost time we have in the workplace where I’m going to get a cup of coffee and I’m like, “Hey, Mike, how was your kid’s baptism? How did it go, you know?” It’s that interaction that we lose virtually that we have to be intentional. It’s like a long-distance relationship. You have to be intentional about making it work.
Billy Potter: [00:38:07] And so, if there’s a negative to the effectiveness of EOS, it’s not like it’s less effective. But if you’re going to have juicier meetings, you’ve got to have trust so you can have healthy conflict. And I think the remoteness means you just need to be more intentional about creating that trust. Does that make sense, Mike?
Mike Blake: [00:38:26] Yeah. It does. It does make sense. You talked about sort of a downside of EOS, and one of the things that Wickman talks about in the book is that some companies just aren’t ready for EOS yet. They need to do some work before they’re there. He’s even talked about basically firing people, firing clients that want to do EOS. But once he got in there, he just realized they weren’t ready for it yet. And, I see you’re nodding. What makes a company – what does a company need to do to be ready for EOS? Or what are they lacking when they’re not ready?
Billy Potter: [00:39:03] So, if you have a desire to build a better business, go EOS. Okay? Now, here’s the whammy. You might be thinking that you don’t have a better business because of other people, which is the problem. You’re going to eat some serious humble pie throughout EOS. But you’ll gladly eat it because, in the end, you want to build a better business. And if that’s truly at your heart, building a better business, building a better environment, attracting better talent, making your employees want to be at work, then I would say EOS is for you.
Billy Potter: [00:39:44] But the truth of the matter is if you can’t find your part in the problem, you won’t be a part of the solution. And EOS does that. It helps you identify what the problem is. And if you want to foster an environment where there’s vulnerability and people can feel open and honest in sharing where you’ve let them down or how the process can be better, many times that’s leadership’s fault. And that’s hard to do. That’s why the book starts off with letting go of the vine and delegating and elevating. And what you hope is that I will delegate a duty to somebody else and they will elevate in their seat wanting to do that task or that service or that project on my behalf. But the hard part is letting me let them do it and letting them be better than me at it or letting them fail at it. That’s hard to do. And that’s just the humble pie that comes with operating the system.
Billy Potter: [00:40:43] And I’ll tell you when you’re aligned with wanting to build a better business, it’s like a spoonful of sugar. It helps the medicine go down. But if you’re not aligned with wanting to build a better business, there’s a potential chance that you’re going to take that personally and you will refuse to let go of the vine.
Mike Blake: [00:41:06] There’s so much to unpack there. I mean, number one, it goes – it really gets down to what do you define as a better business, right? If a better business is one that delivers on its mission that delights its customers, that it’s a great platform for people’s careers, etc., EOS may be a good fit. If, on the other hand, the goal is -the definition of bigger, of a better business is to show everybody that I’m right, it’s about as effective as dragging your spouse to marriage counseling for the sole goal of having them lecture your spouse and how they’re wrong about everything.
Billy Potter: [00:41:44] That’s right. That is a great analogy. We’re here, doctor. Could you please tell my spouse everything she’s doing wrong?
Mike Blake: [00:41:51] Yeah. I wouldn’t get so mad if you weren’t just so damn stupid.
Billy Potter: [00:41:57] That’s exactly right. Yeah. You have to look internally first. And so, when you work with an implementer, most of the time, I think they have you work the process of EOS just within your leadership first. I know – I was not a shareholder at the time and they did it for maybe six to eight months. And then, they rolled it out to sales and then they rolled it out to the entire company over the course of like a year or so, but to learn the cadence and get comfortable with how the meetings should be run and really adopt and embrace, you know, implementing this system. And, you know, Gino says that. He says, “You know, even if you don’t adopt EOS, just commit, commit to doing it.” You know, that’s the key. And that means sometimes you’ve got to take your medicine.
Mike Blake: [00:42:45] Yeah. I hope I’m not being too forward with this question, but I do think it’s really important so I hope you’re willing to answer it. But if not, we’ll let it out.
Billy Potter: [00:42:45] Okay.
Mike Blake: [00:42:56] My question is, you alluded pretty heavily to how adopting the EOS not only has helped your professional life but it’s also filtered back into your personal life. Would you be willing to share a couple of examples on how it’s done that? Because I think that would be very inspiring to some of our listeners.
Billy Potter: [00:43:14] Hundred percent. So, the first one that jumps out at me is, you know, EOS has a 1310. So when you create – there’s this thing called a VTO, vision traction organizer, that EOS has you fill out and it says, “Hey, what is your business going to look like in 10 years? What is it going to look like in three years? And then, what do you have to do in the next year to be on track with those goals?”
Billy Potter: [00:43:40] I did it personally for myself. We had our sales team do it personally. How old will your kids be in 10 years? What will be your expenses? What are – what’s the life you want to be living in 10 years? What’s the life you need to be living in three years to marry that 10-year vision? What’s the life you want in one year? And when I looked at my results and I thought about what I was doing, I was like, am I going to make it? I’m recognizing right now how I will fall short on the vision that I want to create for my family. And that was – that stunk. I wasn’t doing enough. I quantified how I was falling short on the Billy I wanted to be.
Billy Potter: [00:44:22] And EOS talks a lot about putting the right people in the right seat, and they have several tools that they suggest in helping you find the right people to be in the right seat. One of the tools that we use, and it came from the book Rocket Fuel, is this system called Culture Index.
Mike Blake: [00:44:43] Yep.
Billy Potter: [00:44:44] And so, the Culture Index kind of, it tells me who I was since I was age 12. And it is unbelievably accurate. It’s incredible. So, long story short, it told me who I needed to be in my prospect engagement with some of the people I was trying to make in clients. And it let me know that I needed to be a little bit more logical. I was too emotional. I would make a sarcastic joke. I’d show a level of humor that was inappropriate to be trusted with millions of dollars worth of their investment. And I was like, “What was that matter?” Well, I listened to it. I listened to the feedback, and I applied it. And, I saw my numbers soar. I smoked my 10-year vision, smoked it. It was incredible. And, it was all because I started finding my part in the problem. And, I’m a very high – I have a high A trait, which can be a big threat to other people.
Billy Potter: [00:45:48] And, I had my wife fill out the same tool that we use in our business. And, I realized in my marriage, the way that I engage in conversation was challenging and hurtful in my marriage. I was speaking to others as I want to be spoken to. And, that’s not appropriate. The golden rule, do unto others as you would have done unto you, doesn’t work with communication. What I’ve learned as a product of this system is I have to speak so that my audience can receive it, not how I want to say it. How do I have to convey my issue or my concern so that it’s appropriately received by my audience?
Billy Potter: [00:46:29] And, when I saw my wife’s results, I said, “Honey, have I been crushing you for 15 years?” And she goes, “It’s been rough.” And I felt so bad because I had a blind eye to it. But on paper, if I looked at how she was aligned to her seat, if she worked for me, I’d have an intervention. And, I’m coming home every day and I’m thinking to myself, she didn’t ask me about my day, you know. And, that was some serious humble pie about the man I could be that I’m not being at home. Now, I would become that man at work because my work was helping me become the man that I needed to be to hit my 10-year vision. But then I would check out at home and think that none of those principles apply.
Billy Potter: [00:47:18] And, look, I have EOS to thank, but growth is personal. It has benefited every relationship in my life and I use that word with great intention, every relationship in my life, solely because I’ve learned more about who I am and who I don’t need to be. Because the way that issues work – and I think about that, IDS, identify, discuss and solve issues – when we uncover an issue about Billy at work, which we have, it’s not like I don’t take that issue in every other one of my relationships. Of course, I do. And so, once we figure that out here, I’m able to solve it everywhere. What a gift.
Mike Blake: [00:47:59] I’m talking with Billy Potter, and the topic is should I adopt the entrepreneur operating system or EOS. So, you mentioned Rocket Fuel. In fact, I got into this, the concept of EOS, backward. Somebody recommended Rocket Fuel to me first and then I figured out, “Oh, this is the sequel. I’m basically watching the Star Wars movies out of order.” I’m not even sure the order they’re supposed to be in anymore, but I guess there is one. But anyway, are you a visionary or an integrator?
Billy Potter: [00:48:28] I’m a visionary.
Mike Blake: [00:48:30] Yeah.
Billy Potter: [00:48:31] Yeah. And honestly, whoever gave you that advice, I think is brilliant. Because now after reading those books myself, I encourage people to read, well, certain people to read the Rocket Fuel first because –
Mike Blake: [00:48:45] Do you really?
Billy Potter: [00:48:46] I do. Because think if you’re speaking to the visionary and/or the integrator, they’ll have a greater appreciation of the impact they can have on their business. And Traction is a brilliant book, but it is the blueprint. It’s not as wonderful of a read as Rocket Fuel. It’s not written in a story format. But I’ll tell you, if you’re a business owner, every issue that’s identified in Traction or that blueprint addresses almost every issue you have in your business. But Rocket Fuel is just a great appetizer, I think, because the most crucial – it only names to seats in your organization, visionary and integrator. And when you look back, just like Jim Collins did, when you look back at every great business in America, more than likely they had a wonderful dance between the visionary and the integrator, just a rock-solid relationship.
Mike Blake: [00:49:36] Yeah. Well, that’s exactly what my appetite and also what it made me realize that even though I’m a visionary type, which means I tend to look much more 5 miles ahead in the road and not necessarily the road that’s 10 feet in front of me and the pothole there, it made me realize I’m not a bad person or a bad executive. It just means that I’m normal and that I need to be paired with an integrator in order to achieve that – to realize my full potential.
Billy Potter: [00:50:06] Not only that, we need to hang scores on it. So, for example, one of my scores is, have I spent 4 hours this week thinking about our business, where we need to go, and what I need to solve in order for us to get there down the road? That is crucial. It’s part of my favorite score. When I actually carve out the time each week to think about growing our business, I love it, and that is using my gifts. That’s where I want to be. And so, you’re costing your business when you’re not in that seat, when you’re not looking down the road.
Billy Potter: [00:50:39] And it’s just so clear and crisp when you see what they call the accountability chart, we define all the roles and responsibilities by seat, and then we tie each role and responsibility to a score, usually a leading indicator. And then, monthly we do, we report on lagging indicators. But I love that. And, I took the test. Are you a visionary? Are you an integrator? All that stuff. And, I’m fulfilled by the work. I’m energized by it. So, your company is benefiting when you are working more out of your strengths, and that’s the key.
Mike Blake: [00:51:13] Yeah. I think that’s right. I read a book by Gallup called Focus on Your Strengths and made a very compelling case that ideally, you’re better off focusing on what you do really well because you can – the sky’s the limit on the things you do well, but you can only overcome the things you’re lousy at to a limited extent. Right? There are just certain things on my best day I’m going to be mediocre at.
Billy Potter: [00:51:40] Yeah. That’s right.
Mike Blake: [00:51:41] That’s an important function that’s going to hold the company back.
Billy Potter: [00:51:43] And it drains your energy.
Mike Blake: [00:51:45] It does.
Billy Potter: [00:51:45] You know. And I could work, you know, not that this is the goal, but I could work twice as many hours. But if I’m working on things that I’m gifted at, I’m fulfilled. Like, I could run home, versus, you know, no offense, but I couldn’t be an accountant. I just I don’t –
Mike Blake: [00:52:03] Neither can I.
Billy Potter: [00:52:03] I don’t have the bandwidth. I don’t have the appreciation or the level of execution on details. Could I do the job? Of course. Of course, I could do the job. But would I be good at it? Would it make me want to do more? That’s not my skill set. And conversely, we have other people that would be in more of a visionary or CEO seat that would be intimidated or not want to do the job. Like, I’d be fearful of making all kinds of mistakes as an accountant. I couldn’t do it.
Mike Blake: [00:52:32] Billy, this has been a great conversation. I could go another hour with you, but that’s not fair to you or your family, for that matter. There are probably topics that either our listeners wish we would have spent more time on or wish that we’d cover we didn’t get to. If somebody wants to ask more, ask you about the EOS and your experience with it, can they, and if so, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
Billy Potter: [00:52:53] Absolutely, they can. I’ll give you my direct line. So, the number is 470-660-8880.
Mike Blake: [00:53:06] That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Billy Potter so much for sharing his expertise with us.
Mike Blake: [00:53:13] We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next business decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcasts, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us that we can help them.
Mike Blake: [00:53:28] If you would like to engage with me on social media with my Chart of the Day and other content, I’m on LinkedIn as myself and @unblakeable on Facebook, Twitter, Clubhouse, and Instagram. Also, check out my new LinkedIn group called Unblakeable’s Group That Doesn’t Suck. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.