Business Insights, Strategy

Read Traction – Quick Thoughts That Were Sparked

  Seems like every business owner, entrepreneur, manager and executive is reading or has read this book. We have been utilizing as a leadership training book so I decided to give it a read this Saturday evening. If you have kept up on all the bestselling business books over the last 10-15 years, then you already read this book. Traction really is a culmination of the best points and thoughts of the great business books over the last decade or so. Throw in a Franklin Covey like planner for entrepreneurs (EOS) and a crap ton of acronyms and you have Traction. (I won’t go into all the acronyms and buzzwords) So if you didn’t read E-Myth and Good To Great and all those classics, Traction may be a good cliff notes version (I still recommend reading all those old books though!) For those companies without a strong operations leader, the Entrepreneurial Operation System (EOS) is going to give the person a strong base to run the business day to day. Those with strong ops leaders, they likely do most of this already minus the nomenclature. This book will explain to you why the failure rate of startups is so high. And it’s simple, a bulk of entrepreneurs don’t give a shit, they procrastinate and most commonly, don’t want to deal with the hard things such as confrontation and firing people. So often I have run into business owners that don’t want to deal with the hard things. How many restaurants have you walked into and you know the owner is there but the place is dirty, service is slow, and the owner is over in the corner reading the newspaper? We have all witnessed that more than we want to. The book really hones on on the talent side, which is every companies most important part. From having people in the right seats to cutting those that don’t fit. (remember that old mantra “slow to hire, quick to fire” Yeah, be quick to fire if someone is not producing) I can recall many business owners that didn’t want to deal with firing people. I knew one case where the person had 50+ people sitting on their Paychex roster but they have low or ZERO hours. Instead of just firing them, he just didn’t schedule the hours because it was sad to fire someone. So if you just ignore them they will go away right??? Sad? Huh? You’re about to go out of business and along with that you signed a personal guarantee on the lease so it’s going to drag you into bankruptcy too, and you’re sad to fire the people that are ruining your business and life??????? Force ranking, “rank and yank” or even the Cravath System, all the vitality curve and up or out type systems have some merit. They are just implemented poorly or done to the extremes. I think you should always be looking at who are the underperformers, those that don’t fit your culture or didn’t grow with the company. You may not need to cut the bottom 20% every year, but you cannot afford to let under performers keep seats warm. This isn’t a personal thing, it’s just business. It isn’t a lack of compassion, you must ensure the business thrives. The people you let go will likely go on to do great things elsewhere, where the work and culture fits them better, it doesn’t have to be a 100% negative thing. This is even more important at small companies. If you are a 10 person shop, and 1 person is underperforming, then 10% of your team is not carrying their weight. It is easier to hide in big companies, but smaller companies cannot afford to hang onto underperformers. When I am not coming up with new ideas or dealing with higher level issues, I am witch hunting. I am trying to find the one person at that moment in time that is slowing us down. Once I find them, we try to figure out why, try some training and measure progress. If progress isn’t made, we cut them and we must charge on. If not talent issues, the next thing I am hunting is problems. I hunt these problems based on metrics I am well aware of after being in business for 15+ years. This is where Traction talks about the Scorecard, and if you don’t have something similar, this really is a key point. This isn’t designed to measure everything, just the key indicators that show micro trends before they become problems. Along with the scorecard, the concept of Rocks is something every business should have as well. We have a strong analytics software that helps drive one of our B2B business units so those goals come easy. For one of our B2C businesses, our ops executive has been developing a set of goals and metrics that are in line with the 90-day goal system. If I had to give a quick summary of this book: Give a shit about your business, deal with talent issues head-on, don’t procrastinate, set 90-day micro goals, set long-term macro goals, and don’t waste time in unproductive meetings. And don’t slack on any of these items, ever. Yes, I missed a bunch of other points, but it’s scary to think that many of the fundamental things you need to do and survive in business are not getting done by a bulk of business owners (look at the failure rate of new business). Think back to how many times you caught yourself saying “I have no idea how this place stays in business” regarding a business other than your own. From a supplier to a competitor or a local restaurant, we have all said this at some point. Once you read Traction you will realize quickly that for every business you have said this about, they are not doing 99% of the things Traction teaches you. Overall good read, if you have read this please share your thoughts as I am curious about what others think.