A new operating system

Aug 06, 2023


This tool helps businesses become more focused, disciplined, and accountable, which ultimately leads to improved performance and profitability.

Do you feel like your business has hit a ceiling? Are you frustrated with how difficult it is to get things done and move toward your goals? If so, the Entrepreneurial Operating System may be the answer.

EOS is a system developed by Gino Wickman, outlined in his book, Traction, aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses become more efficient, effective, and profitable. It is a comprehensive system that consists of various tools and processes to help businesses achieve their goals and improve their performance.

The EOS system is based on six key components:

  1. Vision. Defining a clear and compelling vision for the company.
  2. People. Ensuring that the company has the right people in the right positions, and that they are aligned with the company’s values and culture.
  3. Data. Collecting and analyzing data to make informed decisions and track progress toward goals.
  4. Issues. Identifying and addressing issues that are hindering the company’s progress.
  5. Process. Establishing efficient and effective processes to achieve the company’s goals.
  6. Traction. Establishing a culture of accountability and ensuring that everyone in the company is focused on achieving the company’s goals.

The EOS system provides a framework for business leaders to implement these six components and improve their business operations. It helps businesses become more focused, disciplined, and accountable, which ultimately leads to improved performance and profitability.

The system is gaining momentum, with more and more companies implementing EOS. A franchise business of tools and implementers has been created, called EOS Worldwide. Tools, resources, and implementation assistance can all be found online. However, you may still be wondering, will it work in an AEC company?

The short answer is yes. While EOS was originally designed for small and medium-sized businesses across various industries, its principles and tools can be applied to architecture and engineering firms as well. In fact, it may be the perfect system for our industry when you consider the fact that approximately 99 percent of AEC firms employ fewer than 300 people, which is within the typical footprint envisioned for the EOS.

I can attest that the system works, having implemented EOS in my own 300-person AEC company. Beyond that, implementing EOS was one of the most impactful and beneficial organizational initiatives witnessed in my 35 years in the business.

Before implementing EOS, we liked to think we had a well-run business. After benchmarking with the EOS tool, however, it became clear that there were some holes in our existing operating system. As we moved forward and began to fill those holes, we started to see immediate benefits. A few examples of those benefits included:

  • Accountability. Like many businesses, we struggled to achieve the accountability necessary to have a truly great business. This is particularly difficult in the AEC space as our workforce is high in education, intelligence, and the desire for autonomy. We saw accountability improve with the added role clarity, goal clarity, and reporting clarity in the system.
  • Focus. Many firm leaders experience a form of déjà vu in their management meetings, talking about the same issues over and over and never solving them. With a little discipline and the EOS system, we stopped talking about every issue in the firm in our meetings and began to focus and solve the top priority issues. Every firm has issues and always will. The key to successfully moving forward is resolving the issues that make a difference.
  • Clarity. It’s fair to say our firm was an above average strategic planning firm. As good as we were at strategic planning, we were still able to significantly improve the clarity around what we were selling, who we were selling it to, and why. I credit the simplicity of the EOS system around marketing strategy, and this clarity resulted in us doubling our business in a targeted niche.

There were several other positive outcomes from our EOS implementation including more productive meetings and reduced leadership stress. There were also some lessons learned shared below:

  1. Do this first. There is a compounding effect to having a more productive operating system that impacts everything else you do. If you are deciding between competing initiatives or corporate projects, my recommendation is to do this first.
  2. You don’t have to start from scratch. We found that much of the work we had done on the business prior to EOS implementation was useful. Things like culture and processes became part of our new operating system.
  3. Don’t DIY. You can self-implement EOS but I don’t recommend it. Having an independent implementor is akin to having a facilitator for a strategic planning session. It is worth the investment to get independence, objectivity, and to negate any workplace politics that might hinder the implementation.

Maybe it’s time to consider a new operating system for your firm. EOS can be an effective tool for architecture, engineering, and construction companies to achieve their business objectives and improve their overall performance. 

Stewart Haney, PE, PMP has over 35 years of experience in the design and construction indus-try. An electrical engineer by training, his career has flowed through a range of leadership positions from project engineer to president and CEO. Contact him at stu@aec-ops.com.

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.