Traction examines 6 components of business development - Vision, People, Data, Issue, Process, and Traction - all of which are needed to advance ideas, products, and services into benefits for the customer. The book provides example tasks to manage each stage with an eye for personnel, tools, and financial resources.
Chaos is a blessing and a curse to many startup teams.
It occurs in the entrepreneurial environment during the launch years, but it can also hamper strategic decisions and consume valuable time when starting a business. Fortunately there are more books providing guidance to minimize chaos, especially as so many cloud services become available to businesses, be it enterprise or the sophisticated mom-and-pop.
One of the books that should be on your radar is “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” by Gino Wickman.
An entrepreneur who, at age 25, turned around a debt-loaded family-owned business, Wickman is the author of Get A Grip, a business problem-solving fable. Wickman’s experiences led him to create the Entrepreneur Operating System, (EOS), a holistic system that helps leaders run better businesses with better control and better balance while building a healthy, functional and cohesive team.
I had the chance to review a test copy of his latest book “Traction” from BenBella Books, and I have to say it’s a helpful guide for small businesses looking to get ahead.
“Traction” examines six components that, in one way or another, become part of a business: vision, people, data, issue, process and traction.
The first five are aspects of a business operation with labels based on EOS. The purpose of the last aspect, traction, is to be a catalyst based on those first five that lead teams into meaningful action.
Wickman uses each aspect to show practical universal principles of planning so that working with teams and managing resources is easier. Some of the aspects may seem straight-forward on first read. What Wickman provides are the steps to creating each aspect in an integrated system that will help your business execute meaningfully on strategy.
For example, when planning a vision, Wickman suggests about proving your services to potential clients and customers:
“There is a proven way you provide your service or product to your customers. You do it every time and produces the same result…There are typically three to seven major steps in any company’s proven process. Creating a standard proven process to use in selling situations will give you two very powerful advantages. It will increase your potential customer’s confidence and peace of mind in doing business with you….it will make you stand out among the competition….Rather than giving them a sales presentation and inundating them with information, you’re saying ‘let me show you exactly how we are able to accomplish great results for our customers.’”
While I like that non-fiction books reference classics in their topic — in this case, Jim Collins’ “Good to Great“ — I admired Wickman’s choice in “Traction” to not go too far in mimicking its source material. For example, he notes BHAG — Big Hairy Audacious Goals — from Collins for setting 10 year and 25 year objectives, yet he leaves room for adjustment, that “the length of time is up to you.”
Wickman introduces the idea of Quarterly Rocks, 90-day objectives that small business owners should adopt ASAP.
I have long believed that business owners should commit to small objectives in quarterly periods to better organize their results and needs for long term survival. Wickman believes that as well. Here’s what he says about how such an approach can be used:
“Quarterly Rocks creates a 90-day world for your organization, a powerful concept that enables you to gain tremendous traction… Every 90 days, your leadership team comes together to establish its priorities for the next 90 days based on your one year plan. You discuss and ultimately conclude what has to be executed in the next quarter to put you on track for the 1 year plan, which in turn puts you in track for the three-year picture, and so on.”
I also really appreciated Wickman’s sensibility about building a profit. Sales is important but statements like the following are excellent reminders that its the quality of profits that drives a business for longevity.
“Growth for growth sake is normally a mistake. Being a hundred million dollar company is not all that it’s cracked up to be… Would you rather have a 10 million dollar company with 20 percent profit or hundred million dollar company with a 2 percent profit? It’s the same net profit with considerably more work and higher complexity.”
Business owners are well-served with this perspective as a reminder to build businesses of lasting value.
There are tools within the book to help you document your core processes and to guide your team to agreement on vision derived from resources. While this is not an analytics-themed book, much of the material can open a discussion for organized tech needs such as analytic solutions and cloud solutions. Such tech is essential for scaling your organization while reducing unnecessary chaos. (There’s that word again! )
If your startup team is in the midst of maturing, this book can put some traction in your operations. And watch profits trend up as the chaos goes down.