Holistic management system gains traction

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Achieve Traction helps companies adopt EOS, a business model that targets six key components for success. It aligns vision with process, a client says.

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Mike Paton of Achieve Traction, a consultancy firm, described the EOS system as a process that can be transformational in moving a business toward its potential.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

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Getting consultants — in this case the former Big Four accounting firm executives who run a Minneapolis-based international tax consulting firm — to hire a consultant of their own would appear no small feat.

Yet that’s the leap David Kolb and Stephen Daas, president and chief operating officer, respectively, of Global Tax Network took in 2008 when they brought in Mike Paton of Achieve Traction to help the firm adopt a holistic business model known as the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

Using EOS has helped clarify the firm’s growth strategy, targeting underserved companies as it has expanded from a handful of employees to more than 40, with offices in Europe and Asia. The firm’s also won a third consecutive Americas Tax Preparer of the Year award from the Forum for Expatriate Management.

“He’s obviously a consultant, so spending the money, we wanted to make sure we were going to get the value,” Daas said of Paton. “It’s a simple process to get you moving in the right direction. It has all the tools you need. It’s helped us get things done and move things forward.”

Daas was among more than 300 EOS adherents and others who wanted to learn about the model at “Traction Day MN,” a first-of-its-kind event that Achieve Traction hosted last month in Hopkins.

The Twin Cities area has the nation’s largest concentration of EOS users, according to Paton, with more than 100 companies that have worked with a coach to adopt the EOS model. Perhaps twice that number are using EOS or parts of it on their own.

Getting a grip

The other biggest concentrations are in and around Detroit, the hometown of Gino Wickman, founder of the leadership team development company EOS Worldwide, Paton said. Wickman and Paton co-wrote the book “Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable … Your Journey to Get Real, Get Simple, and Get Results,” a follow-up to Wickman’s “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” both published last year.

Paton spent 10 years running or helping to run four entrepreneurial companies before he discovered EOS after moving to Minneapolis to run a $7 million market research firm.

The EOS model is appealing partly because of its simplicity, Paton said. It focuses on six key components — vision, people, data, issues, process and traction — that companies need to manage and strengthen themselves to be great. Companies using EOS have seen improved revenue, growth and profits, Paton said. Some have described EOS as a practical distillation of the principles of popular business authors such as Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, Patrick Lencioni and Verne Harnish.

“It gets right to the heart of issues that keep a good company from being great,” Paton said. “Every business, even the really well run businesses, need some of this stuff. It can be transformational.”

Bloomington-based Bridgewater Bank, which in September opened a downtown Minneapolis location, has seen its assets nearly double to more than $540 million, its earnings triple and its staff more than double to 49 since it began using EOS in 2010, according to Mary Jayne Crocker, senior vice president of communications.

“It essentially allows you to get to issues that are impeding your growth,” Crocker said. “It is actionable and the tools are all there and rather simple. It fits with our entrepreneurial objective and our entrepreneurial client base.”

Identify, discuss and solve problems

Jim Stelten, a partner at KDV, said the accounting, wealth management technology and business advisory firm began using EOS to help it reach its potential. “It allows you to get at the root cause using a tool to identify, discuss and solve problems with the objective that you solve them once,” Stelten said. “We believe in the concept. It has paid benefits for our organization.”

The expert says: Brian Davis, an industrial organizational psychologist who leads three local Vistage CEO and executive peer advisory groups, said more than 20 of the 50 members in his groups are using EOS tools or have fully adopted the system. Davis said he has seen EOS produce positive results for companies ranging from less than $3 million to more than $500 million in revenue.

“It’s one of several tools I use to help members grow their companies and get better results by creating more alignment and accountability,” Davis said. “It’s one of the best tools I’ve seen for helping companies set priorities, more clearly define roles and make sure you have the right people in the right seats.”

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