Hitting the Ceiling

My former partner and I started a publishing company in the early ’90s called Magnolia Media Group with a staff of five employees. The company consisted of one start-up national magazine called Michael’s Arts and Crafts.  We owned the magazine, and licensed the Michael’s arts and crafts store’s name.  As Michael’s dominated the retail craft space, having its name on the product provided us with significant cache, which helped to ensure the venture’s success.

We took the same licensing concept and duplicated it in other markets, including hunting and fishing with Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World magazine.  Over the next 15 years, we sold, purchased and started a number of other titles including the launch of Fort Worth, Texas magazine in 1998. Because the magazines were all in different industries, each one was similar to a company start-up. Before we knew it, we were managing a lot of employees, with a make-shift human resources department and all the pleasures that come with that. During this 15-year-run, my average work week was between 50 and 60 hours.

One of the most challenging things about being an entrepreneur in a growing company is that you’re often forced to be a jack of all trades. You end up wearing many hats yourself, and if you’re not careful, the business begins to run you. You can lose focus on the part of the business that you liked so much when you started it.  That is where I found myself in 2005, when (with one other investor) I bought my partner out of his interest in Fort Worth, Texas magazine and went out on my own with 10 employees and got my life back.

Fast-forward 10 years to July of last year, and we had grown to 18 employees, and the business had once again begun to run me. I was the boss, but I did not have control over my time. I had hit the ceiling, and our revenue over the previous three years was not growing as fast as I felt it needed to. It was at that time that I read a book called Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, written by Gino Wickman.

The title of the book is a reference to business owners who are spinning their wheels and in need of traction to move again. In the book, Wickman details his Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a set of simple concepts and practical tools designed to help entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses, and he exposes a number of common frustrations that entrepreneurs face.  As I’m reading it, I realize he is describing me.

In August last year, I brought on Jeff Whittle, a certified EOS implementer, to help me install the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Having it in place now for almost a year, I can honestly say it has transformed the way we run our business. Before we go to press with the next issue, we will be up to 21 employees, our profits are up substantially, I have more control, and I’m happier and less stressed. We are now proactive about solving problems and able to consistently monitor the business with confidence and clarity. I will not give you a book report in my pub note, but if your business has started to run you, I highly recommend that you read the book and implement EOS. You can read more about EOS in an interview with Jeff Whittle on page 68 of this issue.