Inspired by reading a book about the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS), Bernadette Bolton used her experience as a certified life coach and consultant to launch an EOS-based consulting company. She embraced her entrepreneurial spirit and founded Be Real Culture LLC June 1, 2017.
Bernie spoke with Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price about the passion behind her startup and why she is committed to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
NAN PRICE: Why you decide to branch out on your own?
BERNADETTE BOLTON: I had been a life coach and I missed the one-on-one connection. I was also a district consultant for an international networking organization. I loved being a sounding board and helping many different business owners find more effective ways to grow their businesses.
I was working in the corporate world and was getting the itch to interact with more than one business.
NP: How did you find your niche with EOS consulting?
BB: I’m a student of business management practices. I read everything I can. I stumbled upon the book Traction, by Gino Wickman, which describes a system and implementation plan for all the methods, disciplines, and tools I’ve been using with entrepreneurial organizations for the last 25 years.
I thought: Not a single company I know wouldn’t benefit from EOS. I’ve worked directly with entrepreneurs and business owners. I’ve seen their struggles and I’ve run my own business, so I know what it’s like to be pulled in a million directions and feel maxed out.
I connected so much with the EOS mission. I said: This is what I’m going to do. And then I jumped. I left my c-suite position and said: I need to do this.
I’m a little bit of a risk taker—and if I really believe in something I don’t mind going for it. I really believe in the EOS process.
NP: Risk-taking is an entrepreneurial trait. What other traits do you think make someone an entrepreneur?
BB: Entrepreneurs are people with big, creative thoughts who want to make a difference. They have a little more vision, initiative, and verve. Bringing that energy into some sort of project or niche market and making people around you better are traits of an entrepreneur.
Many entrepreneurs start out because they have a craft or something they’re exceptionally good at. They think: I can do this on my own and I can make it even better.
Often, they are successful so they start to grow and realize they need to sell and market and do finances—skills they may not necessarily enjoy. So, they pull in resources and end up building of a house of cards. Then they hit the ceiling and they can’t move on from there.
EOS kind of brings it back to ground level. It’s based on the Six Key Components™ you need to master in your organization: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction. Strengthening those six key components will help an organization increase its profitability and make it a lot more manageable and scalable.
NP: Who is the target market for EOS consulting?
BB: My ideal clients are companies with between five and 50 employees that have been in business five years or more. Their businesses are successful, but they’re finding it hard to bring the company to the next level.
I particularly like working with family-run businesses, helping them grow and develop while honoring their history and the values on which they were founded.
NP: How are you getting the word out about Be Real Culture?
BB: It’s really been networking and word-of-mouth. A lot of entrepreneurs in Connecticut already know about and are using EOS. Most of them have self-implemented. They have read Traction and are using pieces of it. It’s never quite as effective as using the entire system.
NP: How do you encourage a business to work with you instead of continuing to self-implement EOS?
BB: Owners and leaders of growing companies know how difficult it is to take time out of working in their business to work on it, so they understand the value of having someone who can facilitate the process, provide support and guidance, and hold them accountable for doing the work.
Usually a company that has self-implemented has applied the concepts they are pretty good at and skipped the more difficult concepts—which are, of course, the ones they need most.
I want to work with business leaders who understand the value of EOS and want to do the work. The important thing is to let them absorb the concept for themselves and realize I’m not going to go in and say: This is how you must do this. The structure and framework are consistent, but the dynamics and the tactics are unique to each organization.
Also, as a consultant, I can provide objectivity. Successful leaders know it’s challenging to view your own company through an objective lens.
NP: Tell us about the importance of launching your startup here in Connecticut.
BB: I’m the only implementer in Connecticut. Some companies fly in EOS implementers from Boston or Atlanta. So that’s created an interesting niche for me.
I was born and raised in Connecticut. I love Connecticut. Yes, I could do this anywhere and I could do it with any kind of organization.
One of the concepts I try to instill in companies is that you don’t need to cast a wide net. Get super-focused on who you love to work with—what type industry, what type of people. Find out their demographic and geographic location. Because there is abundance. You just need to be laser focused on the people you want to help and the market for the customers you want to serve.
I want to help other companies here in Connecticut. It’s so difficult to start a company and be successful. There’s a 90% failure rate. If we could up that by a couple percentages it would make a huge difference.
NP: You’re an entrepreneur who enjoys supporting other entrepreneurs.
BB: That’s a nice way to put it. I want to impact as many companies as I can and teach them the EOS tools so they can help themselves—even if it’s just making them aware of Traction and letting them do it themselves. I just want to give people the tools to be successful and let them use them however they see best. Education is my primary goal.
NP: What’s your one takeaway after reading Traction?
BB: My one takeaway is: Be authentic. It’s great to listen to consultants or experts, but you know in your gut what you want to do and what you’re going to do best. Don’t be afraid to stick to that and know that you already have everything you need to be successful. So just be true to yourself and don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not.
NP: It’s no coincidence that ties into the name of your company!
BB: Right! With regard to that, culture can be just one person. That’s always where it starts. Whether it’s a solopreneur or someone at the head of a mega corporation, that person needs to know what’s important to them. They need to know where they are willing to compromise and what they perceive to be good business practices. And then they need to create that consistency within the organization.
But whether it’s a leader of one or a leader of many, if that person doesn’t have the self-awareness or courage to be authentic, it’s difficult to maintain an enduring culture and enduring success.
NP: Anything advice for business owners?
BB: I would like to see more business leaders be mindful of these sorts of business practices earlier on in the game, before they need to know about them. Going into your company with your eyes wide open and knowing ahead of time what your next steps might be—I think that makes for a stronger foundation. It also makes you less apt to create something you then have to undo in the future.
Also, business owners should know that to grow, you must let go. And the biggest piece of that is confidence. You must have the confidence that what you pass along to the next person is going to be done with a consistent level of integrity and quality.
EOS helps document that process by asking questions such as:
- How do you want to interact with your clients?
- How do you want to do business?
- What are your core values?
When a business owner can articulate those things to the next people, it makes them more comfortable and more confident to “let go of the vine” as we call it in EOS. It helps them to delegate and elevate. And then everybody wins. If we can have more successful businesses with more vibrant growth it will create a good trickle effect.