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Season 2, Episode 1: Transcript


Angela Greenwell: Welcome everyone. Thanks for joining us. You’re listening to Atlanta Business Impact Radio with Veanne Smith, and I am your co-host, Angela Greenwell. Atlanta Business Impact Radio is a podcast that showcases some of Atlanta’s most innovative and forward-thinking business and technology professionals. In our second season we are shedding light on the stories of individuals who are passionate about developing careers and growing businesses.

Veanne Smith: Today on our podcast, we are excited to welcome Wayne Kurzen. Wayne has made it his life’s calling to help businesses transform and grow while allowing business owners to have more time and the freedom to enjoy it. He does this by teaching leadership teams how to implement EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Both Veanne and I look forward to sharing this podcast with you.

Welcome everyone! Thanks for joining us! This is Veanne Smith with Atlanta Business Impact Radio!  In this episode of our podcast, we will be talking about how companies scale without leaders losing their personal lives.

I am excited to welcome Wayne Kurzen as our guest today to talk on this topic.

Wayne is a multi-time national award winning business advisor, sought after speaker, and successful entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in helping business leaders create organizations that become market leaders and highly valued companies.

A decorated Air Force pilot and commander who was promoted in the top 1% of his peers, he has translated the leadership into running several successful businesses– growing one startup to become a Home Depot supplier in less than two years. Later won many national awards as a business coach to include “Coach of the Year” for client results.

Wayne’s passion is helping business owners have more time, money and the freedom to enjoy it. He does this by helping leadership teams implement EOS® — the Entrepreneurial Operating System, which we will talk about today.

Hello, Wayne, and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio.

Wayne Kurzen: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, Veanne, and appreciate you asking me to be here.

What Is The Entrepreneurial Operating System?

Veanne: Well let’s get started. So I’d love to first talk about, you know, to kind of tell our listeners a little bit more about the Entrepreneurial Operating System which is known as EOS. So could you tell us what is it exactly, and where did it come from?

Wayne: Okay. Well, what EOS is, it’s a complete business system with a set of simple tools, and when a company embraces it, and we teach it to the leadership team first, but when a company embraces it, it does three things. First of all, we call it vision. It gets everyone a hundred percent on the same page with who you are, where you’re going, how you’re going to get there. The second thing we call traction which is our book, but that’s execution, so that’s where the leadership team becomes more self-disciplined, accountable to each other. They get the right people in the right seats looking at right numbers, and then the third thing is called healthy, and that’s an open, honest, transparent leadership team that really gets things done, and we know that as the leadership team goes, so goes the rest of the company, and so we teach it to the leadership team first.

Where Did EOS Come From?

Veanne: So where did the idea for EOS come from?

Wayne: Okay, a guy named Gino Wickman, at age 25, he took over his father’s real estate sales training. It was actually one of the largest in the country, but it wasn’t doing so well, and so at 25, he took over, and in three years turned it around and then stayed on another three and after that, he—well, actually, he and nine others in Detroit formed the Detroit Chapter of EO, Entrepreneur’s Organization, and he found he was always giving advice to his peers, and so he realized his passion in life was the science of business.

So he tested what he had learned for five years, and then he—about 12 years ago, he rolled this out, wrote the book and, today, there’s 130 of us, what we call Professional or Certified Implementers, and so it’s a very simple to understand system, and it has a lot of power. Our sweet spot is a company with 10 to 250 employees. We’ve got some at two and a half billion and some that are three people, but really that 10 to 250 employees is the real sweet spot.

Veanne: One of the things I like about the EOS system is that it was started by someone who pursued his passion—

Wayne: Right.

Veanne: And that you, the Implementers, are all doing it because it’s something you’re passionate about.

Wayne: Exactly.

Why Did You Decide To Become an EOS Certified Instructor?

Veanne: So it’s a great concept. Well, so along that line, how did you discover it, and what is it about it that made you decide to become certified in this EOS process?

Wayne: Okay, well, I’d been working with small, mid-sized businesses for 13 years, and about—a little over three years ago, well, actually, I’d read the book, “Traction,” five years ago, and I was actually using some of the tools in my private business coaching practice, but I didn’t really understand that it was a complete system. So I ended up on the website, and two weeks later, I wrote the check, and I was sitting in training to get certified, and I just wish I’d found it sooner because it just has such great impact with clients that I’d already had. I was able to move them up a good step and so.

Veanne: Go to add it on to something that you already had some natural skills and abilities in.

Wayne: Right, and today, it’s all I do. I eat, sleep EOS, and—

Veanne: I know that’s true. We’ve talked about it a few times.

Wayne: [laughs]

Veanne: So, it’s something you’re quite passionate about, so. All right, before we get into the more granular details about how it works, you alluded to the types of, kind of the sizes of organizations that typically benefit from it, but I would also love to hear a little bit more about what else do you look for in the organization to determine if it’s the right firm or the right group of people to go down this path?

Wayne: That’s a great question. Size is one thing, but then you have to have ownership that really wants to get more from the business, and we say get more because we’re not sure what anybo—you know not everybody wants the same thing, but typically these owners are in peer-to-peer groups like Vistage because that shows they want to learn, and they want to take it up to the next level, so the attitude of the owner and leadership team is a big factor.

Veanne: Does the firm need to be healthy, or is it better if they’re unhealthy? Is there anything like that you look for?

Wayne: Well, this isn’t a real turnaround tool, so usually it’s a company doing pretty well, but they just want more, and there’s—

Veanne: Doing well and they just aren’t satisfied with well, they want to be exceptional.

Wayne: Correct, and I mean sometimes it’s lack of control, sometimes it’s—82 percent say they’re not getting all they want from their people which could be lack of accountability. It could be tension on the leadership team or tension between partners and, heaven forbid, between family members, so that’s an issue. Sometimes they hit the ceiling because they just, they grow and they just get stuck, so.

Veanne: Are there any other specific characteristics on the leadership team that you look for, that you want to see them possess in order for you to know that they’re going to get good impact and good results?

Wayne: Not really because our first session, where we’re actually starting to roll the system out, is we’re building what we call an accountability chart which is an organizational chart on steroids. It’s who’s accountable for what, so we’re actually developing the ideal structure, and then we plug people in after we actually figured out, in that structure, what each of those boxes is, what’s their key role or what they’re accountable for. So oftentimes we’re actually helping them figure that out for themselves.

What Are The Details Of EOS?

Veanne: Well I know we don’t have a lot of time here today, but I would love if we could at least talk about this a little bit more detailed level. If you can dive into some details about EOS, and how it works, and what the process looks like in terms of implementing it within a business.

Wayne: Okay. What we figured out, in business, it’s like you can face 136 different issues simultaneously, sometimes it seems like all on the same day.

Veanne: It does happen. They come in waves, I always say. [laughs]

Wayne: Right, but we found if you could develop strength in six key areas of the business, that these 136 issues kind of fall into place ’cause actually they’re just symptoms [crosstalk][07:19].

Veanne: Symptoms, uh-huh.

Wayne: Yeah. So the first one is vision, and that’s where we, I already mentioned, getting everyone a hundred percent on the same page with things like core values, core focus or mission, ten year, three year plan, marketing strategy, and the big factor here is what we call Quarterly Rocks. Quarterly Rocks are 90 day goals. So it’s creating that entire strategic and tactical plan.

The second one is people, and first we borrowed from Jim Collins here, but right people in the right seats, and we have three tools that when you use them, it is amazing. You know if you have the right people in the right seats, and the thing that’s kind of neat about it, I was—well, I’ll just say this. Right people fit your core values, so they live your culture. Right seats are people who, after we’ve defined what their key roles are, we call it GWC. They get it, want it, and have capacity to do it, and when we say capacity, we’re talking about mental, emotional. It could be high stress, and they don’t have the emotional skills. Then also time, and so if someone’s overloaded, that comes up here because we’re looking for three yeses in that get it, want it and have capacity.

So we had just the done the, we call it a people analyzer, with the leadership team in this company, and one gal didn’t quite make the grade on right person, and didn’t quite make the grade on the right seat, and it turned out that she was a sister of one of the owners, and the neat thing about it, and it often happens, they—she eliminated herself, so no one had to have that gut-wrenching discu—

Veanne: Conversation.

Wayne: Yeah. Right.

Veanne: That’s awesome.

Wayne: So, people second, third is data. Just getting the five to 15 numbers that really tell you what—give you the pulse, and then when you have good data, issues come forth. I mean they were there. You just didn’t know about it.

Veanne: Right.

Wayne: So the fifth area is what we call issues, and we have a way of solving issues that just—it—well most of the times when issues come up, people just start talking about it. Our issue-solving process is identify, discuss and solve, and most people just discuss.

Veanne: I was going to say, you just need to listen.

Wayne: The most important thing is you got to figure out what’s the issue, and usually, the issue is a symptom, so you ask the question why, five times, and you get to the issue. Then you discuss it. We have rules there. Want everyone’s opinion but only once, and if somebody goes on a rabbit trail, we just say tangent alert, and then the solution or action items that are owned by someone.

So then the fifth one, I know this is—I’m kind of running on here, but the fifth one’s processes, and here, we’re really focused on what are the six to 10 core processes and document those in a very simple fashion because lots of times, you know processes have been—they’re in a three-ring binder, and they get pictures and flow charts, and it’s collecting dust on some shelf, so the big thing there is follow by all.

Then the final one is traction, so that’s taking that vision and executing it, and key disciplines there are focusing on those three to seven priorities for your 90 days, which we call Rocks, and then we have a meeting agenda which is probably the most transforming tool of all. It’s kind of a strict agenda where you spend a third of your time getting the pulse, looking at the scorecard. Are we on track with our Rocks? Do we have any issues with people, whether customers or employees, and then we have—review the To-Dos from the week before.

Veanne: That is a weekly meeting?

Wayne: It’s a weekly 90 minute meeting. You spend a third going through their reporting and then two-thirds solving the issues, so if you have a list of 10 issues, you pick the most important, and then you IDS that one, and set them up, knock them down. I know I—that’s—

Veanne: No, that’s good. That’s good, so nice condensed version of what exactly EOS is. That’s good, that’s what I was looking for. So I’m curious. A question that comes to my mind is a typical engagement, when you go out and work with a team, you know, is this a six-month-long engagement?

Wayne: Okay.

How Long Does It Take To See Results With EOS?

Veanne: Life-long? I mean, how long does this take to really see some results?

Wayne: Okay. So if a company is interested in taking a look, we do a free 90 minute discovery meeting, and it’s the best way we’ve found to exchange information ’cause I get to see if I think they’re a fit and vice-versa, and, you know, we smell each other like dogs and see if we like each other. [laughs]

Veanne: [laughs] It’s important. That’s important.

Wayne: Oh, yeah.

Veanne: We talk about that all the time. I mean, our capabilities might be there, but people need to work together, right?

Wayne: Right. So, if they decide—most decide they want to do it, but if they decide they want professional help, then what we do is we do, we roll it out in three one-day sessions. They’re each 30 days apart, and at the end of that, those three sessions, they’ve mastered the fundamental tools. There’s five fundamental tools, total of about twentysome tools, but five fundamental tools. At that point, the leadership teams learned it, and then they can cascade it on down.

Veanne: Throughout the organization, so they’re then responsible for taking it down through the ranks of the organization.

Wayne: Yes, and then we meet every quarter for one day to plan, look at the last quarter, plan their Rocks for the next quarter and teach some of the other tools, so we’re meeting just four times a year.

Veanne: So it’s a year-long process then?

Wayne: We find it takes about 18 to 24 months to master everything, but the unique thing about us is that we have no contracts and no prepayments, so we just schedule the meeting, do it, if you think you got value, you pay it.

Veanne: And do it next quarter.

Wayne: Right, and if you don’t think you got the value, you don’t pay, and we shake hands and we’re friends

Veanne: [crosstalk][13:10] quarter. Yeah, that’s nice. Okay. I always say, you know, get results and pay, right? So—

Wayne: Right.

Sharing Stories Of EOS Successes

Veanne: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay. You alluded to maybe one story, but I’d love to hear more. You know, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of positive impact. Are there any stories that come to mind that you’d like to share?

Wayne: Well, since we—you know, people is usually the big one. In one situation, we had been working about—I think we were at the six-month point, and so in the meeting I—and we’re facilitators, and we’re there to help the team master EOS process and graduate, not there to create dependency, but—so we were in our—about six months in, and I said, so, you have an issue that you keep looking at all the time? It just doesn’t go away, and they go, oh, yeah.

It’s—we’ll say his name is Bob, and this was a company that had 15 franchises, and the 15 franchises were split between two area coaches, as they called them, and the one was this particular person, and I just said, well, you know what? We’re not leaving here until you decide what you’re going to do, and so there was a lot of hand-wringing and, oh, what if, you know, he leaves? He’s going to take this person, and, you know? They ended up moving forward with a plan, and I think it was about six months later, the owner says, you know, I can’t even imagine not running our business on EOS, and the most important thing we ever did was get rid of that—

Veanne: Taking care of Bob?

Wayne: Yeah. Right. So—

Veanne: So most of the time, it sounds like, you know, a lot of times it is really—you’re dealing with a lot of people issues.

Wayne: Right.

Veanne: More that than process. It—

Wayne: Yeah. It’s—

Veanne: A mix of both?

Wayne: Yeah, I mean there are—

Veanne: So intertwined? [laughs]

Wayne: There are applications out there that supposedly do all this stuff, but, you know, we’re talking to people, and we get people issues and so it’s really—a lot of it is—well most of the issues are people.

Veanne: Sounds very similar to—I’m a member of Vistage, as I think you know, and it sounds very similar to a lot of the benefits that we achieve, and the—

Wayne: Sure.

Veanne: Issues we discuss in Visage, so.

Wayne: Right.

Veanne: You know, many times, it just needs somebody’s outside, objective facilitation to help work through things.

Wayne: Yeah.

Veanne: ‘Cause you get too close to it.

Wayne: I think another thing, too, and one of my clients had been in a peer group through three or four years and also coached by one of the top coaching companies in the country, but he said, you know, I always have all these great ideas. I just never get them implemented, and so what he saw, and what did happen is EOS was the thing that wrapped around that industry and business knowledge and kept him on track in implementing the ideas.

Veanne: Yes, and I think the last, it’s accountability, right? You layer  accountability—

Wayne: Right.

Veanne: Into that process, and that’s a lot of what we need, too, right? We have a lot of great intentions, but nobody holds us accountable sometimes.

Wayne: Right. In my prior EOS life, I was basically doing weekly coaching with business owners, and I said to Gino, when I was looking at this, I said, how do you change behavior if you don’t have weekly accountability, and he said, the leadership team does it to themselves, and that’s exactly what happens.

Veanne: Very good. Well, another thing I think is always interesting. You know, we as teachers many times, you know, we teach our students a lot, but I think a lot of times the teachers learn just as much from those we’re teaching. Are there any stories or nuggets, you know, that you’ve taken away in your role in this career that you’d like to share?

Wayne: Well, you know, I think one of the—we keep the meeting moving, and in fact, when we have issues, we don’t discuss issues, we put them on a list and then prioritize the list, now we’re going to solve them. So lots of times, it’s breaking that habit, especially if you have a very talkative group or something, is how you can push them along and say, now wait a minute, we’re not going to discuss that yet, it goes on the list. So, you know, sometimes it’s knowing how far you can push somebody to keep them moving or, you know, tick them off. [laughs]

Veanne: So you tend to be more of a pusher? [laughs]

Wayne: Well, you know, that is my personality. [laughs]

Veanne: [laughs] So you’ve learned, so that’s a good example—

Wayne: Right.

Veanne: Of something you’ve learned that, you know, you have to check yourself a little bit.

Wayne: Well, we teach it in its purest form and then, of course, every business is different, and so they’re going to customize it to their—what they feel is best, but we do know that the closer you stay to the process, the more benefit, that you get bigger results.

How To Contact Wayne

Veanne: Well, this is a great topic, and it’s my hope that we have some listeners that are relating here and going, hey, this is something that I’ve been thinking about, and I could use some help and, you know, maybe EOS is something that they’re going, I think I’d like to learn more. So with that, if somebody would like to reach out to you or learn more about this, where are the best resources and locations that they can get additional information?

Wayne: Okay. My cell phone is (678) 362-7734, (678) 362-7734. My website is, and that’s spelled K-U-R-Z-E-N, so between those two.

Veanne: Excellent.

Wayne: More than happy to answer any questions—

Veanne: If your phone rings, you’re going to answer it.


Wayne: I usually do, or my personal assistant does.

Veanne: There you go. Very good, very good. All right, it’s been a great pleasure having you here with me today on Atlanta Business Impact Radio. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Wayne: My pleasure.


Angela: You have been listening to Atlanta Business Impact Radio with Veanne Smith, and I am your co-host, Angela Greenwell. This program has been brought to you by SolTech. For more information about the podcast, including other episodes, you can visit our website at or find us on iTunes. Thank you for listening, and we look forward to having you join us again.

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