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Hi SAAS NORTH Community,
If you don’t have the right operational model in place, you’ll falter on revenue growth. (You can’t just hire salespeople and hope they hustle.) This is something Jen Couldrey has seen in her time as a management consultant, nonprofit executive director, and now as a Professional EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) Implementer. Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Jen shared the three ingredients founders need to scale operations as they work to scale revenue.
- Good operations must be in service of a goal—that means you need to start by thinking about the ultimate outcome (Sale? IPO? Lifestyle business?) you want for your company.
- Founders must give themselves permission to step back and let their teams step up.
- Focus on 3-7 priorities total and be disciplined enough to say no to everything else.
Co-Founder/Producer, SAAS NORTH Conference Editor, SAAS NORTH NOW
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If you want to grow SaaS revenues, you need to think about your process as much as your people. As a Deloitte consultant and later Executive Director of the Upside Foundation—a nonprofit that helps startups give back to charity with equity—Jen Couldrey saw this firsthand. Now, as a Professional EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) Implementer, she helps startup leaders implement the systems they need in order to scale revenue.
Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Jen shared three ingredients every SaaS company needs when it comes to scaling operations to set the stage for revenue growth.
UNDERSTANDING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL OPERATING SYSTEM (EOS)
In Jen’s words, the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is about helping entrepreneurs build a foundation for growth. The EOS process involves strengthening six key components that help entrepreneurs scale up their operations and get results: vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction.
“You need your house in order before you try to grow,” said Jen.
Jen said the system is primarily built for companies with 10 to 250 employees whose leaders want to scale further. However, she added that the system is flexible as well. With over 140,000 companies using EOS tools, Jen said it has worked for companies with one employee looking to build a foundation all the way up to companies with 10,000 employees looking to improve their operations.
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1. IDENTIFY YOUR VISION
Growth is the goal for most SaaS companies. But how you grow and where you’re heading is up for individual definition and interpretation. The only thing common across all growth strategies is ensuring operations run smoothly.
Jen said defining your vision first starts with self awareness. In particular, what the founder and leadership team ultimately want out of the company. You want to ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of the direction the company is heading, so that you can all align your efforts towards achieving those goals.
“Do you want an IPO? To sell the company? To build a great lifestyle? These are considerations every founder needs to think about,” said Jen. “Then you have to think about what role you want to play as a founder. Maybe first you want to be all in, but then slowly back off, for instance.”
One specific area Jen said to consider is defining the ‘right’ amount of work for you: what EOS refers to as your “work container.” For example, a founder might want a classic experience for their employees: 40 hour weeks, 50 weeks per year (give or take). Or maybe they believe in a work-hard, rest-hard lifestyle that involves 70-80+ hour weeks for only 30 weeks per year. There is no best practice, said Jen, only what the founder and leadership of a company think will lead to the best results.
2. TACKLE OPERATIONS IN THE RIGHT ORDER
Jen said a key mistake she sees founders make is trying to do too much. The other problem is doing all the right things at once, thus reducing the effectiveness of your efforts. Instead, Jen explained there is a specific order that leadership should leverage in order to go from complexity toward simplicity.
Here’s what Jen explained as the order of operations, based on the EOS process:
1. Accountability chart: The most important thing is to get the right people in the right seats first, before you tackle strategy. Document everyone’s roles within the organization, noting who is accountable for what. Jen added that this is also an ideal-state tool for the next 6-12 months, meaning you can add future desired positions or new hires onto the chart as well.
2. “Rocks”: Within EOS, “rocks” are the priorities that you need to focus on for the next 90 days in order to make progress toward annual goals.
3. Meeting Pulse: Ensure that your team is meeting on a regular basis to stay on top of what’s happening in the business, stay aligned on your priorities, and tackle your most pressing issues.
“After you have clarity on roles and your rocks, you can begin to think about key processes to help you get to your goals,” said Jen.
3. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO STEP BACK
Founders often stay too involved in too much, for too long, said Jen. When that happens—founders wanting to take part in everything (because at one point not too long ago, they had to do a bit of everything)—the business will suffer.
Jen sees this as a symptom of a deeper problem that can’t be solved by org charts and hiring: founders often won’t let themselves stop doing all that work.
Sometimes it’s fear that things won’t be done to standard or the sense of guilt for becoming an executive versus working in the trenches with your team. Other founders simply love doing the day-to-day stuff because it brings them excitement and a sense of progress.
Regardless of the reason why, a key thing Jen cautions is that founders have to give themselves permission to step back. Permission is not about letting standards slip or giving up work you love. Instead, it’s about realizing your talents are likely needed elsewhere.
“To some degree, there’s ego involved,” said Jen. “But you have to let that go and give yourself permission to step back from doing everything so you can step up into your unique ability—and do what your business needs you to do.” EOS calls this “delegate and elevate.”
INTENTIONAL SIMPLICITY BEATS AGGRESSIVE COMPLEXITY
As organizations grow and add employees, they inevitably become more complex. With that inevitability in mind, a key principle of all operations is to bring what Jen calls “intentional simplicity” to the table. Intentional simplicity is not about ignoring complexity but instead finding the simplest way to accomplish a task and not letting complexity run rampant from inertia.
From Jen’s perspective, the real culprit of organizational complexity is wanting to do too much. And solving this problem requires a little discipline to say no to the extra stuff so you can focus on the core stuff.
“Founders need the discipline to name their top three to seven priorities and then say no to everything else so you can get those priorities done,” said Jen.
Editor’s Note: EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System, Professional EOS Implementer, etc. are all trademarks of EOS Worldwide.