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Traction is a blueprint for first-time entrepreneurs and those who’ve hit a ceiling in their business where hard work and determination are no longer enough for it to survive and grow.

Business owner and consultant Gino Wickman explains how to structure your business using his Entrepreneurial Operating System to remove typical frustrations, so it runs seamlessly and gains the traction to grow at a faster rate than you thought possible.

If your business seems to be spinning its wheels, part of the problem may be that you’ve become so wrapped up in it that you’ve forgotten it’s a separate entity from you. To reach the next level you need to build it into a self-sustaining entity, powered by an effective system rather than by your determination.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS™ builds or strengthens the following six key business components, so your business functions smoothly without your constant oversight:

  1. Vision
  2. People
  3. Data
  4. Issues
  5. Processes
  6. Traction

1) Vision

Most entrepreneurs have a vision for their company, which they assume everyone else can see as well as they can. But many times, others in the organization don’t see it. To get traction—the ability to execute, or make the company’s vision a reality—you need

to clearly define and communicate your vision.

Your vision defines your organization, and it spells out where it’s going and how it’s going to get there. To create a vision, determine the following:

1) Your defining values: Your core values serve as guiding principles for your company. They define your culture and who you are. You build a culture around your core values by letting them guide you when you hire, fire, review, and reward people. To determine your values, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Think of three people in your company who stand out.
  • Step 2: List their key characteristics—what do they do differently or what values do they exemplify? Your core values are among the characteristics you listed.
  • Step 3: From the list in step 2, decide which three to seven values define your company. Examples are: service, results, cutting-edge knowledge, passion for the brand, being action-oriented.

2) Your focus: To determine your core focus, you need to know two things: your company’s purpose and its niche. Here are some questions to ask to figure out what they are.

  • Why does your company exist? What’s its purpose or mission? Strive for an answer that: is no more than seven words, is simple and bold, resonates emotionally, involves everyone in the company, doesn’t involve money, and is broader than a goal. An example of a purpose or mission would be “to improve the quality of life in our town.”
  • What’s Your Niche? What specifically do you do that fulfills your mission? The answer should be simple and useful in making decisions about how to spend time and resources. Examples of niches include: popcorn (Orville Redenbacher) and solving complex real estate problems (a real estate company).

3) Your 10-year target: Discuss with your leadership team where you want to take your company. Start by asking what the company’s revenue goal could be in 10 years. The right target is one that generates energy and excitement throughout the company.

4) Your marketing strategy: One reason you need clarity about your core focus is so you can then focus your marketing strategy effectively. An effective marketing strategy has four parts:

  • Your target market (your ideal customer based on such things as geography, demographics, income or company size, and so on)
  • A prospect list (a call list of potential customers who meet your target market criteria)
  • Your differentiators (three strengths that make your business unique)
  • Your unique process for doing business (your steps from order through delivery and followup)
  • Your guarantee (a promise to customers that differentiates your business)

5) Your three-year goal: In writing your three-year goal, focus on measurables and bullet points, not details—that is, focus on the end point rather than the potential hurdles.

  • Determine what your annual revenue and profit numbers will be in three years.
  • Choose a key measurable to hit (like the number of large clients or quantity produced).
  • Describe how the company will look (number of people, resources, office environment, systems, technology, product, clients).

6) Your one-year plan: A plan for what has to happen this year creates traction for achieving your vision.

  • As with the three-year picture, set a revenue goal, profit goal, and a one-year measurable consistent with your three-year measurable.
  • Choose up to seven priorities or objectives that should be completed this year.

7) Your 90-day priorities: Your leadership team should set 90-day priorities to put you on track to meet the one-year goal, which positions you to meet your three-year and 10-year targets.

8) Your issues: With your leadership team, discuss and list any issues you’re likely to encounter in pursuing your vision. Maintain and continually update your issues list as part of operating your business.

2) People

The second component of the EOS™ is people. There are two steps to managing people in your business:

  • Hiring the right people: The people who will fit and thrive in your culture are the ones who share your key values. The “People Analyzer” tool is a report card for grading people on your values to see if they’re a good fit.
  • Putting people in the right positions: The right position is the one in which the job duties match the employee’s distinctive skills and talents. The Accountability Chart and the GWC tools help you fit people to positions.

The ‘People Analyzer’ Tool

Create a spreadsheet listing the names of your employees in the left column and listing your core values across the top. Rate the people on the list on...

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Introduction

Traction is a blueprint for business success for first-time entrepreneurs and those who’ve hit a ceiling in their business where hard work and determination are no longer enough for the business to survive and grow.

Business owner and consultant Gino Wickman explains how to structure your business using his Entrepreneurial Operating System to remove typical frustrations, so your business runs seamlessly and grows at a faster rate than you thought possible.

The system is based on practical experience, not theory. Numerous tools and templates lead business owners step by step through processes to create a structure and...

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 1: The Entrepreneurial Operating System

Most entrepreneurs get caught up in worrying about countless details. However, every organization or system has a number of key components—and when they’re set up correctly, your business functions smoothly without your constant oversight.

The six key elements of any business or organization are:

1) Vision: You need a compelling vision for your business that you communicate clearly so everyone can focus their energy on it and help you achieve it.

This book explains how to define your vision, which capsulizes who you are as an organization, where you’re going, and how you’ll get there. You develop a vision by identifying your “sweet spot,” the area where you excel; defining a marketing strategy; and setting one-, three-, and 10-year goals.

2) People: You need to have the right people in the right positions. People who are wrong for your company, or are in the wrong positions, hurt your business. A tool...

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 2: Letting Go of Control

Most businesses fail to reach the next level of growth because owners are afraid to let go of total control, trust their leadership team, and delegate to them. But for their business to grow, they need to take that leap of faith. The key is getting an EOS™ in place, so your business functions without your micromanagement.

The first step is to change your thinking: Stop treating your company as an extension of yourself and let it evolve into its own entity. For your company to evolve, you must:

  1. Build a strong leadership team.
  2. Expect to hit ceilings.
  3. Choose a single operating system to run your business.
  4. Be open-minded and humble.

1) Build a Strong Leadership Team

Every entrepreneur must decide whether to operate the business as a dictator or with a strong leadership team.

A business run by fiat can’t grow beyond a certain size, nor outlast its leader. It stalls when the number of decisions and problems becomes too much for one person to handle. The best approach for the health of the business is to run it with a strong leadership team.

Your senior leaders should have clear responsibilities, authority to make decisions in their areas, and...

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Shortform Exercise: Is Your Business Stuck?

Many businesses become stuck or fail because their owners can’t let go of control, build a trusted leadership team, delegate, and systematize their business.


In your business, do you have a leadership team that you trust? What kinds of things do you delegate? How often do you check up on people?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 3: Defining a Vision

The first component of the EOS™ is your vision. Most entrepreneurs have a vision for their company, which they assume everyone else can see as well as they can. But many times, others in the organization don’t see it—and when people are confused, they go in different directions and visions can’t be realized.

To get traction—the ability to execute, or make the company’s vision a reality—you need

to clearly define and communicate your vision.

To create a vision, determine the following:

  1. Your defining values
  2. Your company’s main focus
  3. Your 10-year goal
  4. Your marketing strategy
  5. Your three-year goal
  6. Your one-year goal
  7. Your quarterly priorities
  8. Your issues

If you prefer, you can download the Vision/Traction Organizer V/TO tool free to fill in your answers.

1) Your Defining Values

Creating a vision starts with defining three to seven core values that serve as guiding principles for your company. They define your culture and who you are. When your core values are clear and compelling, you’ll attract people who share them and discourage those who don’t from sticking around.

You build a culture around...

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Shortform Exercise: What’s Your Vision?

Your business should be guided by a vision, which is based on: your core values; a core focus or purpose; a marketing plan; 10-year, three-year, and one-year goals; and 90-day priorities.


What are your three core values (think of the values demonstrated by your three “star” employees—some of those are likely your core values).

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 4: Managing People Effectively

The second component of the EOS™ is people. There are two steps to managing people in your business: 1) hiring the right people, and 2) putting people in the right positions. The tools and practices introduced in this chapter help you do both.

  • The right people for your company—the ones who will fit and thrive in your culture—are people who share your key values. The People Analyzer tool is a report card for grading people on your values to see if they’re a good fit.
  • The right position is the one in which the job duties match the employee’s distinctive skills and talents and she’s able to apply her abilities to the greatest effect. The person in the right place creates value for the company and receives value from having the opportunity to hone a talent.

Three common personnel problems are:

1) Right person, wrong position: The employee shares the company’s core values but isn't in a position that matches her particular talents. She may have been promoted to a position that’s not a good match, outgrown her current position, or was put into the wrong position to begin with.

Often, the person is allowed to continue in an unsuitable position because...

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Shortform Exercise: Manage People Effectively

To operate effectively, your business needs a structure that clearly defines functions and roles and establishes lines of accountability. Then people must be put in positions that match their capabilities.


In your organization, what function or functions are you performing (integrator, visionary, or both)? Are you performing any roles better suited to a department head?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 5: The Data Component

The third component of the EOS™ is data. Many entrepreneurs are like pilots flying blind with no data to help them determine where they are or where they’re heading. They may talk to a few people and gather subjective opinions about the health of the company, but opinions and instincts aren’t enough to make good decisions.

Instead, a handful of key numbers comprising a weekly “Scorecard” will let you check the vital signs of your business weekly, spot problems and trends, and make course corrections before problems become crises. The Scorecard will enable you to let go of control while remaining connected.

The Scorecard

The Scorecard immediately tells you how your business is doing. Most companies rely instead on a P&L (profit and loss) statement, but by the time you get it (monthly or quarterly), problems have already occurred. With the Scorecard, you can see where you are and, if necessary, change where you’re headed.

For example, as mayor of New York City, Rudy Guiliani used a type of scorecard to more quickly address and even prevent crime. The tool, called CompStat, allowed police to report crime numbers immediately so precinct commanders could spot trends and...

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Shortform Exercise: What Are Your Key Numbers?

Reviewing a handful of key numbers or vital signs weekly can tell you how your business is doing—for instance, revenue, sales activity, customer complaints, or production output. They give you a chance to avert problems and help you stay on track to meet your goals.


What numbers do you review regularly to see how your business is performing? How often do you receive and review these numbers?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 6: Resolving Issues

The fourth component of the EOS™ is issues. Many leadership teams talk endlessly about problems without solving them. But unresolved issues or problems drain your company’s energy.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System provides tools to help your leadership team uncover problems, drill down to the cause, discuss solutions, and take action. The tools for tackling issues are an issues list and an “Issues Solving Track” (a three-step process).

The Issues List

The issues list is a tool for getting issues on the table and in one place where they can be dealt with. Organizations should keep three types of issues lists:

1) A quarterly meeting issues list: This is where you list non-urgent company issues that can be addressed in future quarterly leadership meetings. They’re not immediate priorities for this week or this quarter, but you need to note them so they won’t be forgotten. Examples include: new product ideas, HR issues, and capital needs.

2) A weekly meeting issues list: These issues are tackled at weekly leadership meetings.

They’re strategic, non-departmental issues that need to be addressed this week or this quarter at the leadership level....

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Shortform Exercise: Improve Your Problem-Solving

Unresolved issues or problems drain your company’s energy. Systematically identifying and solving problems using the IDS system (Identify, Discuss, Solve) keeps problems from escalating and keeps you on track to meet your goals.


Which step of the IDS process (Identify, Discuss, Solve) needs the most improvement in your company? How can you improve this step?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 7: Documenting Processes

The fifth component of the EOS™ is process. Your company has a few key processes that keep it running—together, they constitute your unique “way” of doing business.

Many entrepreneurs neglect this component and allow their way of doing business to develop haphazardly; people do their jobs in whatever way they see fit. This creates inconsistencies and inefficiencies as well as never-ending headaches for you, as the owner.

In contrast, honing your processes so they run without constant oversight frees you to focus on building your business rather than being mired in its details. Also, when you have a defined way of doing business, you make your company more scalable and valuable in the event you decide to grow or sell it.

There are three steps to systematize your business:

  1. Identify your key processes.
  2. Document each process.
  3. Ensure that everyone follows the processes.

1) Identify Key Processes

Your leadership team needs to identify the processes for carrying out every major activity of your business. List the processes on a single sheet of paper and agree on what you will call each one, so there won’t be confusion over what anyone is talking...

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Shortform Exercise: Document Your Processes

Your business has a few key processes that keep it functioning. Identifying, documenting, and ensuring that everyone follows your key processes consistently makes your business more efficient and scalable.


Think of a process in your company or department that different people handle differently. What problems have resulted from the inconsistency?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapter 8: Getting Traction

With five key business components (vision, people, data, issues, and process) in place, you’re ready to create organizational traction and move forward. Getting traction means executing, or making your vision a reality. To create traction, set 90-day priorities and establish a meeting structure.

1) Priorities (‘Rocks’)

Short-term priorities move you in the direction of your vision. The company, leadership team, and employees all should have three to seven quarterly priorities aligned with your vision. When you focus everyone in the same direction, you collectively gain traction.

This book refers to priorities as “Rocks,” based on an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First, involving a cylinder (container) and rocks, gravel, sand, and water.

The cylinder represents the amount of time in your work day. The rocks are your priorities, gravel represents day-to-day responsibilities, sand represents interruptions, and water is everything else that comes up during your day.

If you put gravel, sand, and water into the cylinder first, the rocks won’t fit—that is, when you spend your time on day-to-day details, interruptions, and trivia, there won’t be time...

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Shortform Exercise: Make Meetings Productive

Meetings are an opportunity to get traction and hold people accountable. But to be productive, they follow a schedule and have a consistent purpose and agenda.


What meetings do your senior leaders and department heads hold weekly and monthly? How do you feel after a typical meeting (for instance, energized, exhausted, clear on direction)?

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Traction Summary Traction Guide Chapters 9-10: Implementing the EOS™

The combination of vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction—the Entrepreneurial Operating System—positions your company to achieve your vision.

This book presented one component at a time in order to make the EOS™ model easy to understand and learn, but that isn't the most effective way to implement it in a business. Based on the author’s experience with hundreds of companies, the following sequence is recommended.

Implementation Sequence

Implement these seven tools with your leadership team first, in order, before sharing them with other managers and employees.

1) Accountability Chart (along with the People Analyzer and GWC): Create your Accountability Chart first because it goes to the root of most issues. Determine the right structure, then put the right people in the right positions. With this tool in place, the other tools are more effective.

2) Priorities: Once you know who is accountable for what, you’ll set better priorities.

3) Meeting schedule (including the IDS process, and quarterly and annual meetings): Implement the weekly meeting first. This requires you to choose what’s most important every week and start solving the...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Entrepreneurial Operating System
  • Chapter 2: Letting Go of Control
  • Exercise: Is Your Business Stuck?
  • Chapter 3: Defining a Vision
  • Exercise: What’s Your Vision?
  • Chapter 4: Managing People Effectively
  • Exercise: Manage People Effectively
  • Chapter 5: The Data Component
  • Exercise: What Are Your Key Numbers?
  • Chapter 6: Resolving Issues
  • Exercise: Improve Your Problem-Solving
  • Chapter 7: Documenting Processes
  • Exercise: Document Your Processes
  • Chapter 8: Getting Traction
  • Exercise: Make Meetings Productive
  • Chapters 9-10: Implementing the EOS™