3 Tips for Self-Guiding/Facilitating your EOS® Journey

3 Tips for Self-Guiding/Facilitating your EOS® Journey

I was recently in a conversation with a visionary who asked about facilitating their own quarterly and ‘graduating’.

I did not hide my joy, and reminded him that they had ‘graduated’ a long time ago so it only makes sense for them to try facilitating their own quarterly. I reminded him that the whole plan of the EOS Journey is to graduate in 18 to 24 months which is the time it takes to:

  • Master the tools
  • Get to 80% strength in the 6 key components
  • Make progress toward 100% of right person in the right seat

But his next question really made me think. It was, “What do we need to do to facilitate ourselves effectively?”

It made me think because sometimes I take for granted what I do during a session. While I do lots of writing, asking questions, and moving around post-it notes, I see my role as a guide/facilitator. The simple language I use to describe what I do is helping teams have a productive conversation. I expand on ‘productive conversation’ with my mantra of having productive conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance. I have had this belief since I started my business 10 years ago (my anniversary is October 1).

Here are three key things that, if you are committed to and skilled at, will make self-facilitating a 9-10 quarterly a reality:

  1. Set the agenda and kick off preparations 2 weeks before the session: Look back at the emails I send and copy the message. Part of being a member of the leadership team is preparing for planning, which includes reviewing the SWOT, gathering issues and feedback from your team, finishing Rocks to 100%, and spending time THINKING about the key issues that need to be put on the issues list during the day.
  2. Prepare to manage as a ‘team’: The key things that have to be done are bringing the documents, leading the different parts of the agenda, and managing the conversations so they stay on track from a time perspective and are productive. Ultimately you want to hit the objectives for the day and meet the expectations of the team.

The two key roles are: 1) Preparation (email, copies of all documents, room/food) and 2) Tracking To Do’s in the session. Generally, the Integrator can decide how the agenda will go, but here are the three key phrases everyone on the team needs to be willing to say during the conversations to share the ownership in a 9/10 day:
a. Drop it down – Said whenever we get into IDS on something that needs to be solved in the Issues Solving Session that is always after Rocks. Record it on the board and keep going.
b. With all due love and respect – Said before anyone delivers feedback on a behavior that is holding the team or planning back. When delivering a truth that could be hard to hear, start with this to make sure LOVE is part of the equation.
c. All that being said . . . – The #1 thing that makes a session ineffective is getting off-track from the topic or not getting to the point with comments. It happens most in IDS time and Rock planning, so be ready to say this followed by:
i. What’s the issue?
ii. What’s the Rock?
iii. What does Success look like?

3. Enter the danger: A key thing I think about as an implementer is how to be ready to enter into the hard discussions a team needs to have and most often will avoid if I am not there.

This hit me in a recent moment of reflection from some feedback about the value I provide as a guide/facilitator of the EOS journey. Enter the danger is simply this: when someone is not being honest, a big issue is mentioned that we need to stop and talk about, or someone needs one more question to really get to the point of a key (and sometimes painful) issue that is being danced around – I have to stop the group and make sure it gets talked about. Since this revelation, I estimate I do this mentally 30+ times a session as I read the room, the people, and the words. It is a judgement call, and sometimes it leads to an emotional and hard conversation. Sometimes I have to pull the team in, and sometimes someone on the team beats me to it, much to my delight.

This is my ultimate gauge of team health, and the #1 thing I look for in teams that are ready to graduate. As you start facilitating your own sessions, this phrase and some of the phrases above should be on display to see for every quarterly and annual.

On the back of every Cairn I give to graduated clients I share this quote:

Always remember that mastery is a journey, not a destination. Lead well!

By doing the three points I mentioned above, I believe you will be successful leading your own EOS journey.

EOS® for Visionaries: Your Unique Abilities

EOS® for Visionaries: Your Unique Abilities

Remember Focus Day when your name went into the Visionary seat?
In watching visionaries grow into their roles, the top 2 frustrations I continue to hear are:

  1. I do not even know what I am supposed to do in this seat
  2. I feel like my input isn’t appreciated anymore

Do these feel familiar?

There is an answer for both, and if you need a reminder read Rocket Fuel. You should be reading it with your Integrator partner once a year to reset yourself on how critical your roles are and how even more critical your relationship is.

My continued piece of advice for my Visionary/Integrator teams are to do those same page meetings! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you get those started.

This visionary-only post is also about introducing you to another resource Gino Wickman is about to publish called Leap: Do You Have What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur.

I know many of you coach other entrepreneurs, and I think you might enjoy this book. Take a look at Gino’s recent post introducing it.

Excerpt from post: EOS® is Adderall for Visionaries. 😊

EOS® for Integrators: Three Tools for Integrators

EOS® for Integrators: Three Tools for Integrators

This is a post for integrators only, to remind you of three tools you should be revisiting with the team annually as a way of proactively helping them reset some of the habits we built during the first two years of your EOS journey.

  1. LMA Review – The 10 things leaders and managers DO (see pp. 20-21 in the toolbox tab of your Leadership Team Manual) is something we asked each leader to self-assess as Yes or No when considering all the people they had LMA responsibilities for (often called direct reports). As a habit, once a year ask each leader to read through the list and reaffirm they are all Yes or recommit to changing all No answers to Yes.
  2. Core Process Review – Take a deep dive at a quarterly/L10 into one of the handful of core processes to make sure the leadership team SBA’s it, the metrics are clear, and flush out any issues with it. Ideally each should be reviewed once a year to make sure it is accurate and any issues identified should be solved.
  3. Delegate and Elevate – The continuous issue that comes back is having a leader doing work that should be getting done by their team. Remember my challenge to move away from $20/hour work to the $100 – $1000/hr work that members of the leadership team should be focused on?

The given is that each of you are still doing 3 quarterlies a year and a 2-day annual off-site. Whether you are graduated or not, as the integrator each of these tools helps you more easily manage the business and develop your leadership team. Do any of these need to be reviewed?

If there is anything I can do to help you/support you, let me know – I have some sheets and a few tricks for facilitating these discussions with your group.

EOS® for Human Resources: Development & Onboarding

EOS® for Human Resources: Development & Onboarding

This is a note especially for those in the HR Seat.

The two things I see the team needing you to own are: the development of new leaders and helping to onboard new leaders.

Here are a couple of tips for how to do this:

  1. Leadership + Management = Accountability (LMA): The book How To Be A Great Boss outlines the 10 key things people need to do to become a great leader AND a great manager. There are lots of things you could do to equip your leaders, but using these 10 is what we recommend. If you are looking for someone to help you think through how to translate these into a series of learning events in your organization or more of a program, I would be glad to help.** At a minimum, make this book required reading for all leaders.
  2. Onboarding: Studies have shown that 58% of new leaders hired into an organization fail within 18 months. In my experience, the simple act of creating an onboarding program for new leaders for the first 6 to 12 months can greatly increase your odds of success. Here is a recent post I created to outline what great onboarding looks like, and a guided experience you can sign up for that will give you weekly reminders of what to do and my offer to help you put a plan together. The good news – EOS provides many of the foundational elements that help new leaders succeed.

**I am also available to do an LMA workshop as a stand alone management training or one that could serve as a kick-off to a series of management training events. If that is of interest, just email me directly and we can talk about it.

The Biggest Barrier to Delegation

The Biggest Barrier to Delegation

I can’t let go of that; if I don’t empty the trash, who will?

These young people have no work ethic; if I don’t mow the lawn, who will do it?

People have to get paid around here; if I don’t double-check all the time sheets, how will it get done?

In my Delegating Greatness post, I share language to listen for and one action to start the work of learning to delegate. The reality is that there’s a first barrier I see leaders struggling with, and that is the fear of letting go. It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you won’t.

We need to be open and honest with ourselves before we even start the journey of delegating and elevating. The risk, if we don’t, is that there will never be any time to lead, or the world of “a genius with a thousand helpers” will continue to exist. If you have more than 5 people in your organization, you can. I will share a story later where I prove that even a seemingly “solo-entrepreneur” did not have that as a barrier.

Whether you think you can or you can’t — you’re right!

Henry Ford

First, I challenge leaders, when teaching the Assistance Track™, to look at their time as being worth somewhere between $100 and $1000 an hour. The next step is to take an open and honest look at all the work they are doing and identify all of the $15 to $30 an hour work. The latter list is the work that someone else needs to do. The aha! for most leaders, if they are open and honest with themselves, is that the people they delegate to are better than them at doing it and they LOVE doing it! The other aha is that when we thank them for helping us and really helping the company stay on track with their work, they feel rewarded because we trust them with something we have always done.

My delegation story had to do with email/scheduling and balancing my checkbook. One requires 1 to 2 hours a day and the other 1 hour a month. In the first quarter of this year, I gave both away — one to my admin lead (Emily) and one to my accounting team (Simply Counted in Holland). The impact was 20 to 30 hours of work per month off my plate. My first action: breathe a little more, work a little less between 6pm and 11pm. My second action: focus on higher value work of spending more time in one-on-one conversations helping clients and building tools to guide leaders through changes the EOS® Journey asks them to make. (FYI — I thought the latter would be the immediate result, but I learned there was a middle step. 🙂 )

Hear yourself say won’t or can’t, and change it to will and can. EOS gives you the tools, and if you need a guide you know where to find me.

Note: If you are not familiar with EOS® or the tools I mentioned, they are all free on the EOS Worldwide website. Here is a little more about me and the EOS® journey, and if you want to learn more let me know and I will send you a free copy of Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman or I am happy to give you ninety minutes of my time to walk you through it.

Delegating Greatness: 8 ways your team will tell you how great you are

Delegating Greatness: 8 ways your team will tell you how great you are

He had a big product launch coming up, and the feedback from his team was clear – you direct me too much and don’t let me do my job. It hurt, and yet it was exactly the nudge he needed because he respected his team and wanted to become more strategic in his role. He made the decision to change, and invited me, as his coach, along for the journey.

Think about yourself as a leader and imagine what you would hear if you asked everyone to give you feedback on the effectiveness of your leadership? Would an issue around delegation emerge?

In my experience coaching leaders and working with leadership teams to implement EOS® in their business, I am invited into the conversation where feedback is given and received. This is a common story in any leadership journey where organizations strive to achieve something more from their business. In all those conversations, delegation is one of the most common barriers that emerges for leaders.

So how do you know if you are delegating effectively? You could do a survey, but I challenge you to take a bolder step and just watch and listen to your team for a week using the Ladder of Control by David Marquet as a lens. The analogy Marquet presents us is a ladder, with the bottom rung being high control by the leader with a corresponding low control by the team member, and the top rung being low control by the leader with high control by the team member.

Words most heard from your people and the corresponding control you are being given or you are exerting:

  1. “Tell me what to do . . ” (high control from the leader)
  2. “I think . . .”
  3. “I recommend . . .”
  4. “Request permission to . . .”
  5. “I intend to . . .”
  6. “I am about to . . .”
  7. “I just did . . .”
  8. “I’ve been doing . . .” (low control from the leader)

Your experiment will take a week of normal work with your team. Make a list of all your people and the statements from Marquet (maybe a matrix). At the end of each day, reflect on what you heard from them that day. If a person used multiple statements/rungs, document which topics they seemed to want more control over and which ones they want to give you control.

Finally, think about your default style and how you responded in your conversations with them.

  • What rung are you most comfortable operating on?
  • What rung does the behavior of your team indicate is how you manage them?
  • Where is the opportunity to shift as a leader to help your team take on greater control and you to let go of control?

In my work with leadership teams implementing EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), I equip them with tools called Delegate and Elevate™ and the concept of Hitting the Ceiling™ to help navigate this critical leadership change. When it does happen, it becomes such a powerful event for the leader, for the team, and for the business. My passion is “Maximizing growth and minimizing pain, helping people move to and past the tipping point of success.” Let me finish the story I started above to illustrate what this tipping point of success looks and feels like.

We met after the launch was complete, and he reflected how much work it was and how his team had really done some amazing things to get the product out on time and with relatively few issues. In the second set of feedback, his team told him that he had made great improvement in delegating and trusting them. He was not perfect, but our journey had been successful. His smile told me he was proud of himself for becoming the leader he wanted to be – his actions finally aligned with his heart. Smiles with real pride behind them always seem bigger to me.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! ~ Scott

Do you want to explore this topic more deeply and start your own leadership journey to become skilled at delegating? Here are some of my favorites:

  1. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L Wass
  2. Management Time: Who’s Got The Monkey by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass (Harvard Business Review Article)
  3. How To Be A Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene’ Boer
  4. To explore a process to make delegate and elevate a cultural norm, read Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.
12 Nuggets of Wisdom from the EOS Community

12 Nuggets of Wisdom from the EOS Community

I believe all leaders should find a group of people outside their business to help them learn and to keep them grounded and away from the head trash thinking of “it is only me that struggles with this.”

My practice as an implementer is to always attend a QCE (Quarterly Collaborative Exchange) with 200+ other implementers from around the globe. Here are some quick quotes that I brought home which I think you will find helpful and maybe funny as you lead your teams. If any trigger a thought for you that you want to kick around, call me or email to set up a time to talk. As my EOS partners, you are my priority!

  1. Remember to explain what LMA means to all your leaders – especially your younger leaders. The reason is that the urban dictionary defines it as Leave Me Alone!
  2. In the absence of data, the brain makes up a story.
  3. If things are happening in a session that aren’t feeling right, the mirror is a good place to start.
  4. You are as young as your future is bigger than your past.
  5. The last 7 years were the greatest 4 years of my life.
  6. What are the 3 things that I love to do?
  7. A lot of entrepreneurs have a fabulous delegation system, it just goes the wrong way.
  8. Entrepreneurs don’t get freaked out about goals, they get freaked out about deadlines.
  9. It is rare that a company hires to replace a visionary.
  10. Lens for your website: What do you want me to do when I come to it? (then evaluate it)
  11. If you are committed to your customers, you make time to call x each day. (What if x=5 for you? – I met an implementer that does this every day!)
  12. The European countries of Belgium and Italy struggle with the open and honest part of EOS because culturally their conflict style is more indirect, so it takes more time. (If you have operations in Europe, I met an implementer that works all over the continent and could help you roll it out well if you need some advice.)

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

We get busy.

The ‘To-Do’ list on Monday often starts with what was left on Friday. Then the messages start coming in from the people that depend on us for things — boss, peers, customers, kids, spouse, aging parents, our team, and friends. Then we respond like we have on every other Monday — we get to work.

If you stood back and considered your day, how confident are you that you are working on the most important stuff? How confident are you that you are successfully balancing the competing priorities in your life?

I was coaching a highly intelligent and capable leader who was struggling with this feedback: “You are not following up with some of your peers on key work, and are getting the reputation of not following through.” Her life was much like what I described in the first paragraph. I simply asked the question, “How do you prioritize your work when the list gets long?” Her response: “The list is always long, so I just get to work.”

The good news — she did not need marriage counseling, a spa weekend, or even a job change. She just needed to practice managing herself.

For this practice, I asked her to set aside an hour a week to step back, reset her priorities, reset herself, and THINK about the work/business that was being entrusted to her. The result? The top 2-3 priorities started getting done every week, her follow-up was more timely with key peers, and she made time for the important things while letting a few other things go. The feedback from her leader three months later supported the impact: “The sales team is feeling more connected to your work and the impact you are having on our business is exactly what I expected when we hired you.” Her feedback was: “I feel like I am having an impact and I worry/think less about work when I am not there.”

This is a practice Stephen Covey called sharpening the saw, and Gino Wickman calls a clarity break™. The people targeted with this solution are leaders who have big goals, many resources to get focused, and a world that wants a great deal from them because of their position, personal capability, personality, and power. The simple solution? Spend an hour or two a week to reset yourself and make sure you are focusing on the things that matter to you, so the barriers that are getting in the way of your own focus and joy get removed. Is your life more like this last sentence or the first paragraph of this post?

In working with and coaching leaders who live that first paragraph every week, and ironically becoming that person, the only habit I have found that allows us to be our best is to stop doing and spend some time thinking. To work ON our life and take a break from being IN our work. Try it — get away from your desk to a quiet place, turn off your phone, and spend time to review your priorities, think about the people that matter, solve a couple of big issues you or your team has placed in your hands, and plan your return to work with new focus.

I am still working on being 100% successful on that one hour a week,  so expect it to be hard.

Here is a short video where I explain the form I have created for myself to use during my TRU time. This is named after my focus of generating TRUst and facing some of my important TRUths that I want to live by.

Our work as leaders starts with us working on our own clarity, confidence and energy/joy for our work. Start making that a priority this week by practicing a clarity break!

Extra resources to learn more:

Matt Jung: Finding a Better Way | Part 3: Culture Guest Blog Series

Matt Jung: Finding a Better Way | Part 3: Culture Guest Blog Series

I was introduced to Comfort Research before I ever met Matt Jung. The first time was when I moved to Holland more than 20 years ago and heard about these poof chairs being made by some Hope College students. The next time was through their support of a charity event that I was part of. I experienced their commitment to community.

The most recent connection was when I learned that a human resource leader whom I had a lot of respect for joined their team. I believe that great companies attract great people, so I knew they had something special going on at Comfort Research. More recently, Matt stood out to me because of his tireless efforts to talk about culture and leadership through his frequent blog and LinkedIn posts. Describing Matt with the normal business titles would not do his passion justice, which is why you will hear words like “culture-catalyst” and “disrupter” used to describe his role. I will let Matt tell you the rest of the story.

Thank you, Matt, for your willingness to share your wisdom.


My name is Matt Jung, and I am an entrepreneur, business owner, leader, culture-catalyst, disrupter, and industry-leading producer of the Big Joe Brand, the coolest consumer products in the universe.  Founded in 1996 with my college roommate Chip George, our company — Comfort Research — is a lifestyle, product design, engineering, and manufacturing company based in the heart of West Michigan. We have evolved from selling foam beanbags (the patented Ahhsome Fuf Chairs) out of our college dorms to selling disruptive products through the likes of Wal-Mart, Meijer, Amazon, and Costco.

I am a big believer that culture and strategy go hand and hand, and we live that mantra at Big Joe. We have worked tirelessly to recognize, reward, and repeat those that are living Big Joe values. Our Core Business Values include:

  1. Finding a Better Way – this is not a ‘suggestion box’ company!
  2. Expect the Best – of yourself, of your peers, our vendors, and our customers.
  3. Do the Right Thing – not just at work, but also in life.

We believe that simple messages and thoughtful products create strategic alignment. In order to achieve these things you must rethink everything. And that is what we do on a daily basis. Through the principles above, we do our best to lead the company and the 200+ amazing Ambassadors that make up our team. All of our hard work is paying off, as Forbes added us to the Forbes’ definitive list of the nation’s best small companies for 2018. Forbes highlights Comfort Research as a philanthropic company that donates 10 percent of our profits to local charities.

Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

I started the business in 1996 with my good friend and current business partner Chip George. We were attending Hope College when we came up with this concept for a huge foam-filled beanbag we called the “FUF Chair.”

We thought this beanbag thing was pretty cool, and everyone around us had a similar reaction. All of our classmates wanted one, and we’d have tons of kids crashing in our room and hanging out. It really opened our eyes, and we knew then we were on to something. We were obviously far from a serious business at the time, but the FUF Chair was a pretty good start.

I came from a family filled with an entrepreneurial history. I was always writing down business ideas from a young age. Some were decent, but most of them were pretty bad. With the creation of the FUF Chair, Chip and I saw an opportunity to start something big while we still had nothing to lose… and it didn’t hurt that we thought it was awesome and the most comfortable chair we had ever lounged in.

Together, we had always wanted to have a thriving business that was willing to do things just a little differently. And we wanted it to be big… like one billion dollars big. We thought, since we “obviously” had this cool product, it would be very easy to grow a huge business. Who wouldn’t want a FUF Chair? But, like most college kids, we had a lot to learn. It was much harder than we ever could have imagined, and we eventually adopted the “Rule of Three”: Everything took 3X as long, was 3X harder to do, and took 3X the amount of money than we thought it would. In spite of all this, we just really wanted to make cool things and lounge.

Now, more than 22 years after the first iteration of our chairs, we‘ve gotten pretty good at pushing the boundaries of what is possible, all the while building the Big Joe brand. In doing so, we focused on:

  • creating a great workplace where Ambassadors can thrive by building an infectious culture of passionate and empowered people
  • minimizing waste to lessen manufacturing’s impact on the world by being lean and green
  • investing 10% of company profits back into local and global communities
  • engineering awesomeness from the product core to the factory floor
  • sneaking in bonus design elements that surprise and delight
  • designing affordable greatness

We have a unique approach toward strategic planning. Instead of vision statements and mission statements, we have a Why/How/What statement:

Why do we exist? Comfort for All.
How are we doing that? Delivering Unexpected Awesomeness.
What are we doing? Revolutionizing Affordable Branded Consumer Products.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

We were pretty lucky to be blessed with so many helping hands, guides, and mentors along our journey.  It seemed like whenever we needed help, someone (anyone) was willing to pitch in and help us take the next step. After three years of running our business, we were fortunate to partner up with George and Jason Julius. George had had tremendous experiences at his previous company, where culture played an important part of its growth story. We had always talked about culture together, but we weren’t actively engaged in sculpting an awesome one.  As we grew our business, we decided to change that. Very early on, we decided that we wouldn’t just make great products, but we would work hard to craft a great place to work. We were hiring these awesome people to lead different parts of our business. So our roles changed from being hands-on co-founders to having to figure out how to lead without doing the everyday stuff.  I realized that if we wanted the business to be a billion-dollar enterprise, then I had to transform as well. So I shifted my daily routine to leading through strategic planning and alignment, focusing on I&D (Innovation and Internal/External Disruption), and, of course, building an environment that amazing people would want to be a part of. That is when things really shifted for us.

It was through George’s guidance that we really got serious about focusing on culture. But even then, there wasn’t exactly a handbook on culture that you could read and quickly follow. It was more of a pie-in-the-sky idea.  But, I decided that I would find a solution, and eventually started a “culture system,” because good systems are often the foundation of great business. If you can implement a system to run a business, you can surely do it in a way that creates a kick-ass culture.

I started by creating the FAB award. This award recognized someone in our business who implemented our core value of Finding a Better Way. The idea behind the FAB award was, we wanted our Ambassadors living the culture each day to be part of suggesting and introducing the idea of Finding a Better Way to do EVERYTHING.  We didn’t want to be a suggestion-box company where someone offered their written feedback and then just walked away relying on management to implement their “great idea.” NO chance!

We wanted our team to be part of making it work or finding out that it didn’t work, but learning from the experience. We really don’t care either way, so long as our team is an active participant in the process. We started by creating a form where Ambassadors make a suggestion on Finding a Better Way to do something.  We’d put the idea in front of a panel on a quarterly basis. We’d then award $2,500 to the participant with the idea receiving the most votes. But, that wasn’t enough. We then added an annual “FAB Idea” award, and shelled out $10,000 to the best company-wide idea. We announce the winner at a monthly all-company meeting, and share the idea with every employee so our entire team could see a real-life example of how just one team member was working to improve and shape our culture by actually living it.

We present the $2,500 or $10,000 payment in the form of an oversized check, take pictures, and then post the picture and a description of the idea on the “Wall of FAB” for everyone to continue to see the person who represents our core value of Finding a Better Way. Over time, we rolled that out to our other core values and added more awards, like celebrating the core concept of Expect the Best with the Awesome Award, a peer-to-peer award where one Ambassador brings up another in front of the entire company and shares why this person Expects the Best and is generally awesome. They receive a one-week paid vacation, and their picture — along with why they are awesome — on the Wall of Awesome.

We do the same with our core value of Do the Right Thing. The DiRT Award goes to someone who is doing the right thing at work and in life. Ambassadors nominate participants who are really walking the walk. The winner gets $1,500. To dive even deeper, we now have a rhythm where, each month, we feature one of our core values and use real life examples of people living it. With only three fundamental but crucial core values, we feature each core value once per quarter. We are consistent in this practice, and our people have an opportunity to be recognized on a monthly basis for living the culture and our values. You just cannot escape all the fun.

Q: Can you identify some key successes and a failure or two in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

Using our Core Value Awards as an example, we have implemented a system focused on Recognize, Reward, and Repeat. This is our biggest key to success in driving the culture for which we strive. It almost becomes second nature, and part of a routine. There are numerous other things we do to reinforce our culture, including specific messaging on Ambassadors’ uniforms in the plant, messaging on walls and handouts, hiring for culture and other thoughtful practices that can really plant the seeds of a positive environment.

We aren’t perfect, and have made plenty of mistakes along the way. But we learn from our challenges, and we’ve found that we also needed local awards so that people from each of our three locations are winning and no one ever feels left out. We also do a listening tour where we ask 12 participants to tell us what we should stop, start, and keep doing. One mistake we made during the first listening tours was to get defensive when someone was critical. We have learned over time that the most important thing was that we were listening to them, regardless of how we felt about their comments. We have now changed our response to meet criticism with a simple “thank you.” It is powerful when someone knows that you are listening, even if it is just for them to unload or complain about something that has been bothering them.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through your business today?

We work very hard to have signage and messaging throughout the plant reinforcing our culture, strategic plan (the actual plan is posted on one page throughout all of our facilities), and the walls celebrating our awesome Ambassadors living our culture. But the real, obvious proof of culture in action is just how each of our Ambassadors interacts with one another and care for their specific responsibility or job description within the business. Everyone takes pride in what they do, and it shows by how they do their job and interact with their colleagues. You’ll notice smiles, mutual respect, and a common alignment towards exceeding our goals. You don’t just see it; you really feel it.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

We use NPS (Net Promoter Scores) to measure our culture and find out if we are moving in the right direction. We ask everyone to rate us on a scale of 1 to 10 with regard to how likely they are to recommend Comfort Research as a place to work for friends and family. We then track that score over time. If we are seeing lower than normal scoring, we start to dive deeper and work to find out how we can improve the environment to increase the score. We aren’t satisfied with an average culture. We want the best.

Simultaneously, we do a Start, Stop, Keep survey so we can gauge why things are moving in one direction or the other. As one could imagine, we have seen both. Over the long term, we have seen trends rise and fall, so we adjust accordingly, based on the feedback we receive from those surveys. This constant measurement affords us some pretty helpful insight into ebb and flow with regard to the challenges and obstacles any business could face. In the end, we just aren’t happy with anything below cultural excellence. Over time, we have learned that a happy and positive culture builds a great business model that can face the rigors of everyday business. We are built not just to survive, but to prosper.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business?

Keep your core values simple, and interject them into the foundation of your business. Have only three to five core values, and make them personal to you. If you believe them and live them every day in everything you do, your team will respond.  No doubt, it will show if you are half-assed in your core values. Choose memorable principles that carry through your business. Don’t over-complicate them, because they will have the opposite impact on your development. Your organization doesn’t need to be a place for everyone, but it should be an amazing place to work for a select few who fit within your culture. Once you find those people, snatch them up and do all you can to keep them.

Systematize your culture. Create processes and rhythms around recognizing, rewarding, and repeating your core values. It has to be something that is part of the very heartbeat of your business, and not just fly-by-night ideas you talk about every now and again. Honor those who are living it publicly and openly. Don’t hide great ideas. Rather, make them part of your daily rituals. Be consistent and you will be able to drive and align your organization around your core values.

Most importantly, don’t settle for anything less than excellent culture. You can achieve it. Sure, it takes time. And energy. And a bunch of bullshit you might not particularly enjoy. But, as you work hard each and every day to align your business with your core values, you will start to see a monumental shift not just in the way you do business, but in the way people feel while doing business. Whether you’re manufacturing beanbags, running a restaurant, building a tech company or even coaching a sports team, it is your culture that acts as the glue that holds it all together. Don’t forget that when the times get tough. And when they get easy — which they will with a great culture — celebrate the people who helped forge the path.


Thanks, Matt, for sharing your journey from startup to successful company and how culture played such a huge role in making that happen.

If you want to learn more about Comfort Research, I recommend:

  • Signing up for a culture tour
  • Reading Matt’s blog (Mold Your Own) = this has the appropriate tagline of “inspired strategies and insights for anyone working to build an employee culture that endures”
  • Considering Matt when you next need an engaging speaker = take a look at YouTube for a sample of the energy, excitement, and easily implementable steps that Matt brings when he speaks

The next time you are visiting one of the retailers he mentions, make sure you take a seat in one of their products. You are guaranteed to stay a while! Thanks, Matt, for sharing.

Mandi Brower: Be Kind | Part 2: Culture Guest Blog Series

Mandi Brower: Be Kind | Part 2: Culture Guest Blog Series

The Quality Car Wash story was first revealed to me at a local chamber event when the business received a small business award. I have since become a frequent guest at one of their locations, and after hearing Mandi talk about their culture, I have seen firsthand how it translates to their team members. Their car wash team is always warm and kind.

When it came time to think of leaders to share their wisdom, I thought of Mandi. She graciously agreed, and I am excited to share her thoughts with you.

Mandi has also just been awarded Small Business Person of the Year for 2018 by the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. In accepting her award, Mandi brought up all the people from her team to share a little about the company and help everyone get to know the organization from some different perspectives. I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Mandi and everyone at Quality Car Wash for this well-deserved recognition.


Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

We are a third-generation business that was started by my grandfather and great uncle in 1969. They were entrepreneurs who already ran a bowling alley and saw the need in the community for a car wash. Innovation is a big part of what we pride ourselves on, and it really started at the beginning.

Before building their car wash, Grandpa watched the process at other businesses. In those days, a car wash was just a pull-in stall that you had to back out of when you were done. He realized how inconvenient it was for the customer, so when they built their first location, he removed the end wall and put in a garage door to create a drive-thru car wash. Even then, he was focused on the customer experience. My father joined the business and really became the innovator around the technology we use in our car washes. When you drive through, you see round arches. These were my father’s innovations, and you can find his innovations at car washes globally. Both my grandfather and father are still involved in the business.

From the beginning, my grandpa used a pretty simple phrase to guide everyone: “Be kind.” It wasn’t a fancy vision or mission statement, but it started everyone being focused on treating people the right way, and that continues today. The other key concepts that we have formalized over the years are warm, friendly service and an exceptional guest experience. Personally, I have grown to see the business as my personal-mission field, and see our business as a tangible way I can serve others.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

From the day our grandpa started talking about “Be kind,” it has been the heart of our business. In the years since the business started, we have added definition around our culture. One of the transforming events for us was the purchase of two new locations in 2012. At the time, I had just joined the company and we only had three locations. We were suddenly faced with having to integrate new teams into our culture and hire new people into locations that were not as close to our original locations. This helped focus our energy into defining our culture and being very intentional about building it at all our locations.

This resulted in us formalizing our hiring process, bringing all of the teams together for Rally Nights twice a year, creating a vision statement, and defining our values. Our vision is: “Enriching Life, Adding Value, and Serving Communities.” Our core values are centered around the acronym, “WE OWN IT!”

  • Wow Factor
  • Exceptional Guest Experience
  • Outstanding Team Work
  • Winning Attitudes
  • Never-Ending Pursuit of Excellence
  • Immediate Call to Action
  • Training

Q: Would you share three successes and one failure in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

The first success we have had is to integrate our culture into the hiring process so that we are bringing on new team members who are the right people for our organization. We implemented a four-step interview process that starts with a phone call, moves into a first interview and tour of one of our locations, a personality profile, and a final interview to ensure that the future team member and management both see the match. All new hires also go through an onboarding process where our culture is a big focus. These steps have really transformed our ability to hire the right people and get them making positive contributions to our culture from their first day on the job.

The second success is focusing on doing all the steps in our hiring process, especially when time-pressure to hire someone creates situations where people want to skip steps. The talent shortage we are operating in has created that pressure, and I really watch for this and remind our leaders that we can do steps quickly and efficiently if needed, but skipping them is not an option. That discipline is hard to maintain, but it has really helped us in continuing to get the right people, even in this labor market.

The third success is Rally, which is an all-company event that happens twice a year. We hold one in the summer where we have had an Olympics competition, speakers, team-building and talent shows. We always share the vision and have a meal together. Our other traditional Rally event is held at Christmas.  We are a much bigger company now, and these events help us feel smaller because team members get to know each other and meet people from other facilities. The other benefit is the training we can provide each of our team members. We focus on topics that they can use at work and at home. I love the stories we get back from them on how things they learned at work have impacted their life outside of work.

The one failure was a realization that if you went out into our business today, I don’t think all of our team members know what the exact values are behind “We Own It.” The lesson we have learned is that it’s easy to get bored after repeating the same information. We got to a point where we assumed everyone knew it. Since that realization, we have gone back to do a better job of making our core values visual everywhere and reviewing them often with our team members.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through your business today?

When you walk into any of our facilities I would expect you to be welcomed and feel a warmth in our business. You should also meet team members who are helpful and appreciative.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

On an ongoing basis, we meet with 10-person focus groups each summer to get their input on a variety of topics like marketing, our fundraising program, and operations. It’s a great way to help them inform us on ideas that could help us improve as a business, and we get time to just listen to our team members. This has proven to be both helpful and energizing for our leadership team.

We also do quarterly reviews for everyone in which each team member must answer three questions. We roll the answers up across the organization and review them as a leadership team. This helps us to keep a pulse on the business, because we know everyone is getting feedback from their manager quarterly, and we get to pause to see what messages our teams are sending us through the questions we ask.

Another thing I personally watch is which teams are getting volunteers for their extra projects. We offer extra hours for team members to come in outside of their scheduled shift and do things like replace carpet in a dining area, painting, and other projects that help us keep our facilities in great shape. Volunteering to fill an extra shift for a special project is a great measure of engagement. I can look at the lists of people who sign up (or don’t) and tell you which facilities might have a culture issue that needs to be addressed.

I also do a lot of management by walking around. I make time to be in every operation biweekly and use that time to talk to people and just observe team members and interactions with our guests. One thing I look for is body language, another good indicator of engagement. I also listen to responses to guests, and expect to hear warmth and kindness. It’s a great time for me to personally catch people doing something right, and to model and remind people of the behaviors we expect that create a great guest experience.

This past summer, we also hired an intern to have conversations with more than half of our people around the health of our culture and to get input on what we could do to make Quality a better place to work. The survey provided us with valuable feedback on what was working and a few things that we needed to change.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business? Are there any people you follow who have been a source of inspiration or guidance?

Creating a great culture takes grit. You have to commit to repeating yourself often and leading by example. In the journey, it’s also important to recognize your team for every positive step they make in living it out each day with their teammates and our guests.

We believe in training our leaders. In 2018, we sent 41 people to watch the Global Leadership Summit from Willow Creek Association. We also frequently use the learning events through our local chamber (Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce) and share books from Zig Ziglar and John Maxwell.


Thank you, Mandi, for sharing your wisdom and experience around culture and how to intentionally sustain and grow it as a business opens multiple locations.

If you live in West Michigan and want to learn more about the people at Quality Car Wash, visit one of their locations. One of the innovations at a couple of the newer locations is a conveyor for your car as you go through the car wash. It’s very cool! I also want to put in the plug that we are close to the holidays and car wash coupons make great gifts. 😊