One Thing!

Clark Neuhoff Strategy

When I look at how entrepreneurs and leaders operate in these hyper-competitive and unpredictable market conditions, I see two types of companies; those who are frustrated and those who are not.  Some are frustrated because sales, customers, people and profits just aren’t working the way they want. Then there are others who don’t seem to be as frustrated.

Remember the line from the movie City Slickers where the old trail hardened cowboy Curly challenges Billy Crystal to figure out what his one thing is.


“You city folk worry about a lot … Do you know what the secret to life is?  No, what?  Your finger?  One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else doesn’t mean (bleep).”

I wish I could tell you there is a silver bullet but there’s not.   I can tell you that the single greatest leverage point you have as a leader or business owner is to build a strong leadership team around you.  Without strong leaders an organization will never advance beyond what the owner can accomplish by themselves and worse, it will not continue without the active day-to-day involvement of the owner.

Building a strong leadership team is a process and cannot be done overnight.  It must remain one of the key priorities of every owner or leader.  It’s not that we don’t have great people, or we’re not working hard, or don’t have a strategy.  It’s often that we just don’t agree on the same strategy or communicate effectively with each other, so we waste a lot of energy pulling in different directions.  The key is to get everyone aligned and focused on the absolute most important things that must get done.  Then develop the discipline and accountability to stay on track.

I am always searching for the best of the best tools.  One of my recent discoveries is EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® developed by entrepreneur and business coach Gino Wickman.  I am so convinced of this approach that last year I joined EOS and share these tools with every leader I meet.  In his book Traction,Getting a Grip on your Business, Wickman identifies six key components that every business must master. He goes on to outline the exact tools that will crystallize the leadership team around a singular vision; create the discipline and accountability needed to execute and accelerate toward that vision; and establish open and honest communication that creates a cohesive, functional and healthy leadership team because unfortunately many are not.  Here are those six key components:

1) Vision – having the leadership team help create it, own it, and then carefully and systematically communicate it to everyone in the business

2) People – simply put, as Jim Collins says, “The right people on the bus, in the right seats,” and really making that happen

3) Data – having a good weekly scorecard and measurable number targets for the company and everyone in it

4) Issues – having a system to identify issues, quickly discuss them, drive to the root cause and effectively solve them once and for all

5) Processes – determining the six to eight key business processes and properly visually documenting them so they can be taught, repeated, and effortlessly carried out

6) Traction – having short-term goals by company and by person, and an effective meeting system to stay on track, to “dig in” — gain traction — and be effective in working toward the annual goals.

Together these make up the EOS model and he backs this up with a series of simple yet powerful tools and worksheets, which are in his book and many are free on his website

I did say there are no silver bullets or software packages that will solve everything.  The reason is that real change happens over time through the consistent and dedicated hard work of people who are willing to change, make some mistakes, learn from them and move on.  Technology and equipment are universally available.  What makes an organization truly unique, sustainable and increasing in value is building a strong culture with great people who know how to get where they are going.