The Six Essential Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur—with Gino Wickman

By , May 4, 2020

Gino Wickman, founder of EOS Worldwide, joins Meny Hoffman to discuss how one can know if they have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

You want to start your own business. But there’s a lot on the line. You have to ask yourself difficult questions.  Do I have what it takes? Is it worth it? And how do I do it?

This interview has been months in the planning, and I’m so excited I can finally share it with you all. I had the honor of interviewing Gino Wickman, creator of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and the Founder of EOS Worldwide. He is a bestselling author of several books, including Traction and most recently, Entrepreneurial Leap: Do You Have What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur? Gino founded Entrepreneurial Leap with the mission to give people the tools to decide whether entrepreneurship is the right path for them and how to go after their dreams.

In our interview, Gino and I discussed his journey in developing the EOS system and what he has learned is the most important mind shift a leader must make to make their organization successful. We discussed entrepreneurship—the six essential traits of every entrepreneur, how to identify whether entrepreneurship is in your DNA, and the different ways that one can pursue the entrepreneurial path.

If you’re currently an entrepreneur, thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, or wondering if entrepreneurship is right for you, I encourage you to give this one a listen!

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The Six Essential Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur—with Gino Wickman

I’m excited to share with you our guest, Gino Wickman. You’ve probably heard me speak about EOS in the past. We interviewed Mike Paton, the Visionary of EOS Worldwide. Now, we speak to Gino Wickman, the Founder of EOS Worldwide. He is also the author of the award-winning best-selling book, Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, Rocket Fuel, How To Be A Great Boss, What The Heck is EOS and Entrepreneurial Leap: Do You Have What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur? He also created Entrepreneurial Leap with the mission of finding all the entrepreneurs-in-the-making at any age, wherever they are, to help them realize the purpose and live the life they will want to live.

In our interview, Gino and I discussed how we identified in their family-owned business that systems are needed which became the EOS system. We also spoke about leadership, how they could identify the real core focus that will drive them to success. We also spoke all about entrepreneurs. First of all, it’s understanding, are you an actual entrepreneur? We went into detail about the six essential traits of every entrepreneur and what happens if you’re missing any of those traits. We spoke about the glimpse and then a path forward. Identifying exactly what you’re meant to do and are you the true entrepreneur? We spoke about the importance of finding a mentor, some practical tips and how to find a mentor. Last but not least, we spoke about being patient but still taking action. There are many great pieces in this interview. If you are self-employed, if you think you are an entrepreneur-in-the-making, you’re working at a company and you want to create a side hustle or use your skills in your current company, this episode is for you. 

Gino, thank you for joining me on the show. I’m honored and excited to have this interview with you. We scheduled this months ago and this is for our audience to understand that it’s not like, “Can we get on a phone call and have a conversation?” I want them to understand who I’m getting in this interview and also to value the content that we’re going to be discussing. In particular, I love interviewing people that are close to the content. As the founder of EOS, we’ll get in a little bit of EOS in the beginning and then speak much more about your latest venture. As somebody that has implemented EOS in our company, I have seen a lot of companies and our clients that have implemented EOS and I’ve seen tremendous growth. It’s an honor to speak to you.

It’s a pleasure to be here and I look forward to this conversation, Meny.

For our readers, Gino Wickman started at an early age in the family business. At the age of 25, you had this pivotal moment where you said, “We’ve got to create systems.” For those people that follow me on LinkedIn, my email and my events, whatever we do, they didn’t hear enough but every single time they almost hear about systems, creating processes and scalability. One thing about growing a company is something different about managing the growth and scalability, which is the fundamental of what you had that pivotal moment to say, “I’ve got to create a system if we want to take this to the next level.” I don’t want to go into every detail, but high-level. If you could give us a little bit of that thought process to set the ground for the rest of the conversation.

I’ll give a high-level context like you said and a little bit of history. For years, I have obsessed about what makes companies great and entrepreneurs successful. I wish I could tell you that at eighteen years old, I set out to create an operating system and it wasn’t that perfect. Through my twenties, I took over a family business. I did a turnaround and we successfully sold it. I then realized my calling in my early 30s and set out to help entrepreneurs with everything that I learned. I had great mentors. All that said, I am a fanatic about going deep into the content. I have OCD and ADD. I’ve got them all. What I did for five years in taking that leap to help entrepreneurs, I did 500 sessions with 50 companies and kept asking them, “What are your problems?” Testing, honing and refining a bunch of ideas and tools that ultimately evolved into an operating system.

It was about a year or two into those five years that I saw the patterns and the trends and realized that there were six key components. As I put that model together and saw that context in that holistic approach of remedying and making a company healthy, that’s when the idea clicked that this is an operating system. It was once known as the business accelerator in blue. Once I renamed it using a marketing company, that’s when it became orange and became EOS because that’s when all the pieces came together that this is an operating system for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organizations. It hit me through obsession over five years not this idea I had one day that I went to work on putting it all in place. It’s almost a pure evolution and a journey of obsession.

We’re not going to go into all those different pillars that make EOS implementation within a company. For our readers, we did a great interview with Paton, which is now the Visionary of EOS and we went into deep. For those people that are not familiar with the EOS system, that interview will be for them. Before we speak about Entrepreneurial Leap, I want to ask you some high-level questions on EOS. With your experience, you’ve seen it firsthand as you developed it and you saw it in your own business and the family business. For years, in the hundreds and thousands of businesses you’ve seen EOS implemented. If I would ask you for that one thing, although I don’t like saying something to one thing what changes in that leader or that business mindset before EOS to after EOS? If you could give it that one-liner or that one sentence?

I’ve been asked that question 1,000 times. I wish I could give the perfect answer because everybody says, “What’s the biggest issue people bring you?” It’s a variation of the question you’re asking, but I do have an answer for you. I don’t know that my answer changes every time and I think it’s consistent. In its simplest form, at the end of the day, what happens is that a leadership team gets 100% on the same page. Let me say it in a different way. What we do is we work with leadership teams with EOS. We take them through a specific process. I created a specific set of tools. We help them implement it into their business. With that work, what’s happening is that the leadership team that we’re working with, the 3 to 7 people at the helm of the organization, are getting on the same page, getting in total agreement with how this company is going to run and getting them speaking the same language.

While that visionary entrepreneur that owns the business is at the helm and is getting out of their head and into the heads of their leadership team, the vision for the organization. That’s a lot of words to say, one simple premise and that is it’s getting that leadership team 100% on the same page. Rarely do we go into a company and they lack vision. It’s always that they have too much vision. I’m sure Paton said that exact same thing. The way I always say it is it’s not that you don’t have a vision, it’s that you don’t agree. I’m looking at these seven sets of eyeballs and if I took them all into a separate room and said, “What’s the vision and plan?” I would get seven different variations of the vision and plan for the organization. There can only be one. Imagine those 3 to 7 leaders at the helm of the organization, all being 100% in unison rowing in the same direction, that gets cascaded down to the rest of the organization. That organization is unstoppable. If you made me pick one thing, that’s one of the biggest byproducts and I could probably rattle off twenty more secondary ones.

Would you say that what you said, if you have to say it in one word is clarity?

Yes, but clarity is only one piece of the formula because once you have the clarity, we’re helping that visionary entrepreneur get clear on their vision. One of their biggest challenges is articulating that vision and plan. We’re pulling it out of them. Clarity and same page more importantly. If you start with getting everybody on the same page, that begs the question, what do we have to get on the same page with? That’s a clear vision. I would suggest it’s a little longer answer, the same page regarding that clarity.

[bctt tweet=”A more common problem with leadership teams is not that they lack vision, but they have too much vision between every single member.” via=”no”]

It reminds me that we have a Leader’s Forum where we teach similar concepts, more high level. We always say clarity is the most important skillset for a leader. One thing which is above clarity is not casting it through the team. Meaning to say, it’s one thing having clarity and it’s different level if you’re able to cast that clarity to the team because if you don’t, your people are going, “What the heck is happening in our company?” This decision, that decision, it doesn’t make sense to them.

Let me take it one step further because here’s the other reality. Let’s use a simple number of five. That’s the average size of our leadership teams that we work with. When we walk into an organization and we help that company implement EOS, they’re rarely on the same page. By the time we get them on the same page, we smoke out the people that don’t want that vision and that plan. Eighty percent of the time, the leadership team we start with is not the one we end up with. I’ve taken 134 companies through the process myself personally. I’ve now had seven clients where the owner replaced everybody. Everybody’s gone but 80% of the time, at least one person is going. Everybody wins in that because the person that didn’t want to be there, who doesn’t like the vision, they were part of the reason the company has been stuck, they’re now gone. They’re off doing something they love, they’re working with an organization that they love or they’re stepping down off the leadership team. Getting the leadership team on the same page with that clear vision, that whole statement, there’s so much that then comes out of that. One of which being turnover on the leadership team.

I want to ask you one follow-up question which is on my mind for a long time and I’ve heard it from other business owners as well. It’s EOS-driven, but it’s even how you look at it in general, which is one of those steps that we do in the EOS is getting clear with your core focus. What’s your opinion or how do you go about knowing that when you did this exercise, you’re arriving at the core focus that’s something that you could take to the bank or implement with a new company. It’s not the shiny object that, “Let’s focus here because digital is happening in the world. Let’s focus here because I have some passion.” Is it not something else that’s driving you and rather this is the core focus and this is what meant to be? If you could shed some light, a lot of our readers will appreciate it.

I hope Paton answered that to a certain extent. Let me first start by selling your audience on Mike Paton. We all call him Paton. He was my successor in EOS Worldwide. I was the Visionary for EOS Worldwide for several years and then Paton took the reins and he’s been visionary. I did what they say couldn’t be done and that’s replaced myself as a visionary. He’s a rock star and he’ll answer this question better, but I’m going to give you a simple answer. When you say core focus, what we’re talking about is many different terms. You can call it a mission statement, a vision statement, the company’s unique ability, lots of different terms, and the company’s sweet spot. We could keep going. The point is in my discovery, my learning, all of my research, all of my work, it’s two pieces coming together. I always look at it as a yin-yang model or two hemispheres coming together to create a whole.

What is the organization passionate about? What is the organization’s niche? To say it another way, why does the organization exist? What does it do in the world? They are two different things. One is intangible and one is very tangible. You have to separate the two for the answer to this question because the first question that has to be answered is, what is the purpose-caused passion? We always say and I’ve always said, it’s going to take you somewhere between fifteen minutes and ten years to figure out your core focus. The beauty is we’re able to help a company do it in about 45 minutes but there are no guarantees. If the leadership team and the visionary business owner, the entrepreneur is being honest with themselves, they’ve got to go to the root of what gets them out of bed every morning. It’s typically 1 of 4 broad categories. It’s about the customer or client, it’s about the entity, the company, it’s an internal thing, it’s about winning competition, crushing competitors, or it’s about innovation ideas and problem-solving.

There are 10,000 different ways to say the variation of those four things but that’s what I’ve discovered. The idea is that visionary has to do some soul-searching and say, “Why do I get out of bed every morning?” Using me as an example, the reason I exist for years is I am all about turning the light bulb on for entrepreneurs. That is what gets my blood pumping. That has energized me for many years. There’s an answer. Here’s the beauty. The answer is there. It’s not like you’re making something up. For anyone that’s struggling out there, you’re trying to make shit up and you got to stop, be honest. I would say a third of my clients are about the customer, the end-user of the client. A small percentage, maybe 10% it’s about crushing, winning, whatever terminology they use. Nike’s was to crush Adidas. There’s no shame in saying you want to crush your competitors. I’ve got clients that they want to put their biggest competitor out of business. That would not be my way of doing it. I’m not particularly fond of those but who am I to judge? Be honest with yourself, what gets you out of bed?

If you are this fiercely competitive entrepreneur and that’s what gets you going then that’s the passion, the purpose, and the cause. You surround yourself with a leadership team that wants to do that. On the second hemisphere, the what, it’s getting tangible. What is it that you do in the world? What is your niche? What’s that place you want to carve out for yourself? With EOS and that end-user, it’s simple. Vision, traction, and healthy. We help that leadership team gain traction. That’s what we do better than anyone else on the planet. You bring those two things together and that is the core focus. The sweet spot and the idea is to then stay true to that sweet spot and align every process, system, and person around that core focus with absolute consistency. Until you exhaust every opportunity in that core focus, there’s no reason to look anywhere else. That’s the kiss of death for many companies. The more successful they get, the shinier stuff appears and they find themselves doing a whole bunch of stuff that’s not in their core focus. There’s the fastest answer I can give you. Talk to Paton for anything more.

It’s helpful. Let’s speak about your newest book, Entrepreneurial Leap: Do You Have What It Takes To Become An Entrepreneur? There’s a lot to cover in that book and our audience will love every single piece of information. We could speak on that topic. Before we get there, what motivated you going from the EOS World, which is a little bit further in the process of going back and re-identify the entrepreneur?

A quick history here is as I said, for years, I’ve been obsessing about what makes organizations great and entrepreneurs successful. After the turnaround and selling of the family business, I then spent twenty years building and selling EOS Worldwide. For those that don’t know, I sold EOS Worldwide. I’m still on 12.5%, still, on all the books, I’m still the EOS guy, I still have clients, half of my working time is still EOS. I love EOS. It’s in my blood. It was time to sell it because it got so big. There are 400 people in that organization and that’s not fun to me. I’m a creator and a builder. Anyway, long story short, this was in the midst of building EOS Worldwide, I said, “I’m going to shift my energy and I’m going to go to the front end of the entrepreneurial journey. I’m going to help entrepreneurs-in-the-making.” There’s an old saying that says, “We teach what we needed the most,” by Daniel Kennedy.

What I’m doing is I’m teaching my eighteen-year-old self who was a lost, confused, insecure, mislabeled derelict but I was an entrepreneur and I had no idea. I didn’t know I was an entrepreneur until I was 29 or 30 years old. What I want to do is I want to give these beings on the planet, these balls of energy that possessed these six essential traits which I’m sure we’ll get into. I want to help them know what they are as early as possible so that they can get a huge jumpstart on taking their entrepreneurial leap and greatly increase their odds of success. The last little point as we transition into the project and the content. For your audience and your readers, I know there are people in the audience that someday want to take an entrepreneurial leap and this is going to be an amazing opportunity for them to scan their body and decide if this journey is right for them.

There’s also a lot of people that are reading this blog that are entrepreneurs that are passionate about helping entrepreneurs. This project is a passion project of mine called Entrepreneurial Leap, also the name of the book, is designed to help those entrepreneurs-in-the-making decide. It’s also designed to help to do 80% of the heavy lifting for anyone out there that’s helping entrepreneurs-in-the-making because I’m giving my content away. If some of you out there are mentors to entrepreneurs, I created something called the MentorTrack that does 80% of the heavy lifting for you. That’s how I’ll set the stage and that’s how this all came about. The next years of my life are focusing and obsessing on this project and the game plan is to impact a million entrepreneurs-in-the-making.

We spoke before about everybody’s why and their passion. On my wall in the office, my mission statement is, “I believe every person should be given the opportunity to succeed in life.” If somebody will ask me what is the one thing that’s broken in our society? We have so much talent going to waste because they don’t know how to take advantage of their talent. This is exactly the entrepreneur figuring out what they’re good at or where they can make a difference in their world which is the community or the world depending on what resources they have and how they could get there.

LTB 45 | Entrepreneurial Operating System
Entrepreneurial Operating System: With an entrepreneurial operating system, a leadership team can get on the same page.


Meny, that hits me right in the heart because that is what I’m all about and what this is all about. I call it 4%. I believe 4% of the population is cut out to be true entrepreneurs and a true entrepreneur possesses six essential traits. My goal is to find them wherever they are because most of them don’t even know what they are. This could be people trapped in the corporate world, at college, in college, in the inner city, somebody who does a regular job, unemployed, homeless, or in prison, wherever they are but 4% of the population are entrepreneurs. I intend to find them. As you said, show them what’s possible. Give them this opportunity to succeed.

Before we get into the six essential traits, that’s important. That’s a core focus of the book itself. What is your definition of an entrepreneur? I know we could google it, get to the dictionary and see what they explain what an entrepreneur is. I want to hear your definition. If somebody asks you, what is an entrepreneur? What would you say?

I’m going to give you two definitions. The first one is a sweeping sentence or two, which is an entrepreneur is a person who has an idea and then takes a risk to start a business to bring that idea to the world by creating something brand new or improving upon something that exists. That’s the first definition. I want to give a little context around that because I teach something in the book that I call the entrepreneurial range and this will help clarify for your audience what I mean by the entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial range, if you picture a spectrum or a range where on the right side of that range you have a true entrepreneur and on the left side of that range you have self-employed people. A self-employed person is anywhere on that range and a true entrepreneur is on the right side of that range.

If we look at the red line, true entrepreneurs, the greatest in history, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Oprah Winfrey, Sara Blakely. On the far left side self-employed, if you picture one-person shows, somebody with a side hustle, someone who’s a freelancer, someone who buys a franchise location, that’s the spectrum. What I’m speaking to are the people on the right side of that spectrum that range. While no matter where you are on that range, it’s respectful. No matter how you slice it, you are taking a risk but not every self-employed person is cut out to be a true entrepreneur with 10,000 employees. There’s no shame in that. You may not have all of these six essential traits we’re going to talk about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and start your own business and have a one-person show. As I always like to say, somebody who’s handy that wants to be self-employed, go become a handyman or a woman because you can make $60 an hour, a six-figure income, and if you do great work, you’ll be busy for the rest of your life. It’s that simplest business to get into but you’re not going to build a 100-person construction company. You’ll probably remain that handyman or woman.

I appreciate that. Once we get into the six essential traits, a lot of those things will clarify for our readers. The reason why I wanted this introduction to the word entrepreneur is that in my life, dealing with many business owners, wannabes, people that are thinking, constantly having those ideas pop-up, and not knowing where to go with this. More people are using the word entrepreneurs as an excuse which means they almost start something recklessly, not calculating the risk, all of those things, or who knows what else. They’re saying this is the entrepreneur, 1 in 7 ventures succeed and all these statistics. Based on the book, you have to be able to identify first are you the true entrepreneur on the right? Only then know that you’re arming yourself with what’s needed to be able to develop that to the finish line versus being that self-employed person.

As we get into the content, the next context I’d love to create is how I wrote the content because it’s going to come right back to what you’re saying. There are three parts to the book and it is linear. Part one is to confirm, part two is glimpse, part three is path. If you follow that, what I’m doing in the first third of the book is, first and foremost, confirming whether or not you’re even an entrepreneur in the making because it’s only 4% of the population. I’m as much trying to talk people out of doing this as I am trying to clarify for them whether they are and this is the life for them because I want to single-handedly improve that success rate that you talked about and reduce the failure rate. I’m going to do that two ways by finding true entrepreneurs and by talking people out of doing this and preventing them from spending ten years in sheer hell, I’m doing a service. That might break a heart or two but I feel I’m saving someone ten years of hell. That’s the whole first third is what you’re talking about is do you have this DNA?

What could you share on the confirm side?

What I do is take them into the six essential traits of a true entrepreneur. I take them on this soul-searching journey of self-discovery to decide do they have them. The six essential traits are visionary, passionate, problem-solver, driven, risk-taker, and responsible. I go deep into those six essential traits. There’s also an assessment that they can take which is available on the website for free E-Leap.com. They can go there and take the assessment. If you score 90 or higher, you’re an entrepreneur-in-the-making but it’s on you to answer that honestly. As I share those six essential traits in vivid color, it’s on you to scan your body and look at your history and say, “Am I those things?” The worst thing you can do is kid yourself, take this leap, and be in hell for ten years. It doesn’t mean you can’t be self-employed, buy a franchise, be a sole proprietor, or have a side hustle. This is about are you equipped to be a true entrepreneur?

What would you say on those six traits of an entrepreneur? If you want to go deeper a little bit on 1 or 2 or whatever you feel it’s important for our readers, what would it be?

I’ll do you one better. I’ll do a two-minute riff because the other little side benefit I never would have guessed about this book is when an existing successful visionary entrepreneur reads this book, it lights them up. It’s their life story and it reinvigorates them. As I share this, I want your readers to scan their body, do a checkup from the neck up, and is this you? Here they are. Visionary means that you have lots of ideas. You’re able to connect the dots. You have a sixth sense. You see things others don’t. You see around corners. You put things together. Passionate means that you have an undying passion for your product or your service. Your thing, this thing you want to bring to the world. You have a strong belief. You want to fill a void. You want to put a dent in the universe.

Problem-solver means that you are a creative problem-solver. When setbacks happen, you lean into them. You’re an optimist by nature. You see solutions when everyone else is seeing problems. Driven is that you have an internal fire, a sense of urgency, you’re competitive, you want to succeed your self-motivated, you hustle and you love working hard. Risk-taker is you don’t freeze when it comes time to make a tough, scary decision. You are rebellious by nature, you’re willing to fail, you beg for forgiveness instead of asking for permission, and responsible means you blame no one. There are two types of people in the world. Those that blame everyone for their problems and those that take total responsibility for their problems. You’re 1 of those 2. If you’re responsible and you have the other five, then you have the six essential traits required to be a truly successful entrepreneur.

I encourage the readers to not only read the book but also take the assessment. Question is if you’re a true entrepreneur, you light up, you say, “This is me.” What happens if there might be a missing 1 or 2 of those?

[bctt tweet=”Being an entrepreneur isn’t the ultimate pinnacle; it’s one of many career options.” via=”no”]

You’re not a true entrepreneur. I’m sorry to say. This is not multiple choice. It’s all or nothing. If you don’t, you could still be self-employed as we’ve talked about or going and getting a real job is okay because the other important point is being an entrepreneur isn’t the ultimate pinnacle. It’s one of many career options. It’s one of many things to do in life. I get nervous that if people think that it’s like some of a peak that you reach when in fact, I’m convinced it’s a psychological disorder. We’re all freaking crazy. What we’re doing is borderline crazy and thank God for entrepreneurs, they create most of what’s on the planet. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s 80% hell and 20% fun but the whole thing is a blast to us. It’s hard. I wouldn’t do anything else.

I would ask for our readers, some people think, “I’m not an entrepreneur?” If you are truly not an entrepreneur and you’re going through this journey, you’re going to fail and you’re going to get into stumbling blocks that you cannot recover. For our readers, to assess and scanning your body, you have to know if you’re made of that chemistry to pull through. It’s not a pass to 100% success, but at least you have what it takes to be able to go down that path.

I would also add if you’re someone who is passionate about entrepreneurship and wants to be surrounded by entrepreneurship but doesn’t have the six essential traits, then by all means, attach yourself to a true entrepreneur. Become their integrator, work with them and become a partner. There’s still that option for you but you’re simply not a true entrepreneur. That’s an opportunity as well.

Let’s get into the second part of the book which is understanding the glimpse, which is understanding what you’re good at or how do you get to the next level? You could explain it better.

Once we’ve confirmed you are an entrepreneur-in-the-making, what I then do is I feel like I have an obligation to paint a vivid picture of what the life of an entrepreneur looks like and what an opportunity for somebody to see this? The reality of it is when a true entrepreneur sees this glimpse, it motivates them to move. I do three things in this part of the book. Number one, I give countless real-life stories of entrepreneurs who were where you are and how they built their businesses. Number two, I share a vivid picture of a day in the life of an entrepreneur, both the dream scenario and the nightmare scenario. Most entrepreneurs are living the nightmare. Many are living the dream. I’m happy to say with EOS, we help entrepreneurs live the dream while the reality and that is there are eight common mistakes every entrepreneur-in-the-making makes. That’s why they’re living the nightmare.

I show you how to correct that and headed off in the past. The third thing I do, which I’m excited about, is I show the entrepreneur-in-the-making all of their options. Because it’s maddening to me that every entrepreneur, most of them think that becoming a tech billion-dollar unicorn is the only entrepreneur that exists on the planet. What I do is I show the thousands of options for you as an entrepreneur-in-the-making because the idea is I take you on this journey of self-discovery to see what you’re built for and what you’re drawn to. What is the right industry for you? What is the right type of business? Are you B2B or B2C? Are you a product person or service person? How big do you want to build this thing? Are you a $1 million entrepreneur? Are you a $1 billion entrepreneur? Everything in between. I created a tool called MyBiz Match, free on the website, where you go on that self-discovery. It’s a ten-minute exercise after you read the book and out pops the perfect business for you. That’s all of what’s in a glimpse. By the end of that chapter, you see it clear that you are ready to leap and ready to run, which is where we then take them to the path.

Let’s talk about the path.

In path, what I address here and as I take you through it, you pick what you feel is best for your audience or what intrigued you the most in terms of what you want to drill down on. In that third part, what I do there is I write an entire chapter called College or Not. If you’re at an age where you’re trying to decide on a college, it gives you all of the facts as to whether you should go to college as an entrepreneur-in-the-making. I take them through how to discover their passion. I take them through in the next chapter how to find a mentor and the power of mentoring. I share with them the power of tenure thinking. I share the eight disciplines to increase your odds of success greatly. I wrap up by showing the nine stages when building your business to greatly increase your odds of success and avoid half the mistakes.

I want to drill down to 1 or 2 of those. One is something I know that you’re passionate about everything we discussed, but it’s close to heart because early on you had a mentor. You had your father and yet you also had a mentor that helped you think out of the box, so to speak. As an entrepreneur when we started our business, we tend to think that we know everything. What will that mentor teach us? Even though they might have success but they have lifelong experience. Speak to our audience because I can’t stress enough how important a mentor is.

I’m going to say a couple of things leading to the point of mentoring. What’s important about this discovery is I describe the reading of this book as taking the reader on this emotional, psychological, philosophical journey of self-discovery that is custom-designed for them. In this, it’s getting them to look back on their life because they’re going to see that they’ve been exhibiting these signs all their life. As I said, these balls of energy that everything that I teach in the book, every tool, every stage, every discipline, I’m simply harnessing their energy and giving them another advantage and increasing their odds of success. One of those many things is the power of mentoring. What’s important to understand is if you don’t have a mentor or can’t find a mentor, you’re going to be fine.

You’re going to figure it out. I am trying to give you a speed pass to success. I wish I had all of this at eighteen. I didn’t find it all until I was 30. I would add a twelve-year jumpstart. I’m trying to give you out there a twelve-year jumpstart. Mentoring is that speed pass. Let’s pretend you fill out MyBiz Match that we talked about. You find the perfect business for you and you know the business you want to build. Let’s pretend you decide you want to build a $10 million heating and cooling company with 80 people. That’s your dream and you want to do that over the next ten years. The mentor you need to find is somebody who’s doing exactly that. Step one is to look out into the world and find somebody who’s where you want to be, another successful entrepreneur.

You ask them and you’re going to have to ask a lot of people because you’re going to get a lot of noes. These are busy people but mentors want to help. They want to pass on their legacy. The point in all of this is to find a mentor who is where you want to be. You’re going to rapidly increase your learning process. I was blessed at 25 years old when I took over that family business to have an amazing business mentor in Sam Cupp and an amazing entrepreneur mentor in my dad. I’ve got ten years of knowledge in a year or two from those two amazing men. That’s the opportunity that’s out there for somebody who’s aggressive enough, driven enough to go out and find their mentor. It takes work. It drives me crazy when unambitious young people are giving all the excuses for why they can’t find a mentor. They’re out there. You’ve got to work your ass off. It’s one of the biggest sell jobs you’ll ever do. You’ve got to sell yourself to somebody. If they keep telling you no, you’ve got to look in the mirror. There’s a reason they’re telling you no.

LTB 45 | Entrepreneurial Operating System
Entrepreneurial Operating System: If you’re passionate about entrepreneurship but you don’t carry the six essential traits, you can attach yourself to a true entrepreneur.


People reach out to me all the time especially through LinkedIn where you could connect easier to different people. You could see different types of messages. You could see those people that are mass messaging a bunch of people without understanding what that mentor could bring the value to them. There are people that might follow you, get to know you, might comment on your stuff, and then saying, “Could we have a conversation? I have some challenges in my business.” Relationships get built that way. For our readers, when you do a lot of outreach and you’re not getting anybody responding, ask yourself, are you outreaching the right way to those people? Are you being respectful of their time and their knowledge? Be actionable of what you want from them. They could say, “This is a young person starting the business.” If you might want to have 1 or 2 phone calls first and then you develop that relationship, that person should become a mentor. We’re not talking about consultants coming in for money. We’re talking about mentors that want to do this for the legacy.

I would offer up two tools and disciplines to help this. I created a tool called MentorTrack. For anyone out there that wants to mentor, that’s available on the website, E-Leap.com. That helps the mentor to mentor better and does 80% of the heavy lifting. For a protégé or a mentee that’s looking for a mentor, it’s a great tool to watch the video, understand the dynamic, and send that off to a potential member. A mentor will show that you’re doing the work. Number two is once you find that mentor and after that first meeting, it is vital that you follow up by expressing your appreciation, show them how you’ve applied what they taught you. A mentor is mentoring you because they want to pass their knowledge on. They want to leave their legacy. Those two things are what is going to fill them up. That’s the food for them and you got to do the work.

I want to dig into one more which is in the book, it’s Chapter 13: Take Action and Be Patient. This is something that many entrepreneurs quit before they even started. It’s not just a question, people could read the book but I want to get your opinion about how much is action? How much is patient and at which point do you decide, “This is not working out?”

I had fun with that chapter because it truly is a contradiction but you’ve got to be able to manage that contradiction. First and foremost, what I’m teaching there is the power of ten-year thinking. I’m trying to shift the mindset of whoever you are out there because this content isn’t just for young people. It’s for anyone aged 13 to 83 and everything in between. Even somebody who’s 65 years old, mathematically you still have a good twenty years left. ≠

Even if the goal has to change at some point, it’s okay, you got to have a goal. Know where you’re going to land in ten years and then take action. It’s taking action and be patient. Action means a move towards something whether that’s going and finding that mentor and working for them for free for six months or getting a crappy job that’s going to get you some experience that pays very little. When I look back at age 18 to 22 for me, I worked in a machine shop. I did mail order. I invested in real estate. I was going to start a corporate travel agency. I look at everything that I did and I was terrified in those years. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I did but when I look back now on those things I did, I can’t tell you how many of those things shaped the entrepreneur that I am. You have to do and move towards something all the while, knowing you’re going to achieve your ten-year goal. I urge you to think about it and see it in vivid color every single night and it will happen. You need to keep moving toward it, bobbing, adjusting, weaving, and evolving but certainly knowing where you’re going to land and working hard toward something. The answers will come as opposed to sitting around for a year planning. Get to work and do something.

I always say that not every stumbling block is a reason to quit. Find a way. A challenge comes up in our business or people speak to me about challenges in their business and say exactly the same. If you had a good day, somebody didn’t share some news with you yet because that’s the mindset you have to have as an entrepreneur. We are the entrepreneur’s journey, so to speak, and we want to bring them to that success, but at which point would you say that you’ve exhausted all the options, the path is not bringing you to your destination and you need to pivot or move on to something else?

That decision is different for everyone. We have to be careful with this answer because there are some people that need to give up and throw in the towel. There’s a good chance that they don’t have the six essential traits and they’re living in those ten years of hell I described. They want to be an entrepreneur so bad but they’re not and you got to throw in the towel. Everybody has a different answer. Using myself as an example, I am an incredibly high-risk taker. When I started on my EOS journey, I lost everything a year into that journey. Here I am helping these companies looking to build this new thing and the dot-com crash happened. I lost everything. I had these crazy risky investments. I went from millionaire to $200,000 in debt, but I stayed the course with a 5-year-old and 8-year-old, thank God, a supportive wife and an expensive house.

Most should have quit but I wasn’t going to quit. Five years into it, I put the finishing touches on EOS. I found a partner in Don Tinney. We joined forces to build EOS Worldwide but it wasn’t working. We weren’t making any money. Many should have thrown in the towel but we decided to completely reinvent the whole business model, which we did and that worked. A guy like me, I’m going to be on my deathbed before I tap out but for others, let’s pretend for whatever reason you don’t have a supportive wife or you have life expenses that are necessary and you’ve got to generate some level of income. I can go through all the lists. For somebody like that, it’s a different answer. You can’t do something stupid, but the answer is different for everybody.

I would add that based on where we started that you could be entrepreneurial and running your business for years. If you find yourself in that situation, go back and see if you have the trait of an entrepreneur in the first place. It’s never too late. It’s not just for somebody getting out of high school or going to get out of college starting their journey. If you’re in it and not making it or not making progress you need to make, reevaluate yourself and scan yourself to see if you are cut out to do it. If not, sometimes it’s a partner or it’s bringing in somebody that would give you the extra trait. I want to end with something that I’ve known about you and we have that at least one thing in common which is the pen and paper when conducting meetings. Yours is the yellow pad and for me, it’s always my PTEX pad. My team knows it that if they come into a meeting, even it’s a one-off meeting and then I’m bringing that pad, it’s almost like I don’t start talking.

In my opinion, when you have a good meeting, the first thing is showing respect that you are going to be taking notes of what people are discussing and what’s being discussed at the meeting. Second of all is as you mentioned, science and if you want to make that into your to-do list, you have it straight up. Some people go from meeting-to-meeting and then all of a sudden, they forgot what they discussed at those meetings. I want you to share for entrepreneurs in particular when those ideas are popping into your head every few minutes, those additions or how to perfect their business model, whatever it is. What could you share for those entrepreneurs about note-taking in general and organizing their thoughts, to-dos and so on and so forth?

All I can do is share how I’ve done it for years. A little bit of this is I learned from my business mentor as well as I think about the answer to the question. I walk around, I always have my legal pad and my pen. I like to have my Waterman pen, which is a $60 or $80 pen. It’s not too crazy expensive. It’s a gift from my daughter. It’s funny because my friends and some coworkers are laughing at my legal pad because it’s archaic. I laugh back because it is one of the secrets to my success. A couple of important points why and how it works well. If I would walk into the meeting with an iPad, then I would look like a technical genius.

This is what makes me laugh because you could take the same notes on an iPad, it might even be more efficient and you’re writing to your point. It’s all the same. I like to do it on a legal pad. Number one is writing is incredibly powerful. There’s so much science on the power of writing from the standpoint of retention, creativity, and what it does for your brain. You couldn’t beat out of me the belief of writing. Point two is every night before I go to bed, I have pre-prepared for the next day and I’m doing that on a legal pad. I lay out my entire next day on a legal pad the night before. That’s anywhere between finishing the day to going to bed. Somewhere in there, I will layout the next day. What that does is while you’re sleeping, you sleep better. Your brain’s going to work the next day because you’re prepared for the next day, as opposed to waking up and then figuring out what the hell you’re going to do for the day.

[bctt tweet=”The more peaceful you are, the faster it takes to get where you want to go.” via=”no”]

The last piece as you go throughout the day, that legal pad is with me and all of my notes, ideas, commitments and to-dos, anything that comes up throughout the day, it gets written on that legal pad. It’s all in one place so that at the end of the day, when I go to prepare for the next day again, I’m compartmentalizing and debriefing all of those notes. The ideas could go into an idea file, the commitments I’ve made, I might compartmentalize those in my calendar and honor that commitment then. At that point, that’s when I’m organizing everything. The alternative is you have these people going throughout the day, making all of these verbal commitments, having these ideas, putting them nowhere or putting them in six different places.

Sticky notes, in their phone and on their notes and they’re a disaster and disorganized. Most of it gets forgotten, they’re not delivering and following through on all of their commitments. The disciplinary call is to put everything in one place. Pick your one place. I’m not selling the world a legal pad. You can do this on an iPad. You can do this with technology, understand the power of writing certainly. I happened to do it on a legal pad. When anybody laughs at me, I laugh back because I am incredibly productive. That’s the yellow legal pad that people talk about that I carry all the time.

Let’s close with the four rapid-fire questions. Number one, a book that changed your life?

Think and Grow Rich.

Number two, a piece of advice you’ve got that you’ll never forget?

This is from my dad, with every decision in life, you have 1 of 2 options. Live with it, leave it or change it.

Number three, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

Not a damn thing.

Last and final question. What’s still on your bucket list to achieve?

I want to spend a month in Australia.

For leisure or business?

For leisure.

LTB 45 | Entrepreneurial Operating System
Entrepreneurial Operating System: If, for whatever reason, your business isn’t working and you’re thinking of throwing the towel in, don’t. Instead, try reinventing the business model.


Gino, thank you for joining us. I know your time is valuable. That is why in the name of our audience, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.

It’s my pleasure.

Links Mentioned:

About Gino Wickman

LTB 45 | Entrepreneurial Operating System An entrepreneur since the age of 21, Gino has had an obsession for learning what makes businesses and entrepreneurs thrive. At 25 he took over the family business, which was deeply in debt and in need of help. After turning the company around and running it for seven years, he and his partners successfully sold the company.

Gino then set out to help entrepreneurs and leaders get what they want from their businesses. Based on his years of real-world experience, he created the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a practical method for helping companies achieve greatness.

He has personally delivered more than 1,800 full-day sessions for more than 130 companies, helping them implement EOS. He is also the author of the award-winning, best-selling book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, as well as Get a Grip, Rocket Fuel, How to Be a Great Boss and What the Heck is EOS?

Gino is the founder of EOS Worldwide, an organization that helps tens of thousands of businesses implement EOS with the aid of an international team of over 300 professional and certified EOS Implementers and online support. There are more than 70,000 companies using the EOS tools worldwide.

Meny Hoffman

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