- Decoding Business Growth: Unpacking the Distinct Approaches of Scaling Up and EOS Traction
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May 20, 2023

1. An Introduction to Scaling Up and EOS Traction

Scaling Up and EOS Traction are recognized frameworks that aid entrepreneurs in managing daily operations effectively while also offering a comprehensive guide for fostering business growth. Both systems have a solid foundation of educational resources, primarily books, and a network of certified coaches, referred to as Implementers in EOS.

EOS Traction: Primarily designed for small to mid-sized businesses (with revenues ranging from $2M to $20M), EOS Traction emphasizes refining people management and execution strategies.

Scaling Up: An evolution of Gazelles, Scaling Up typically serves larger and more complex middle-market businesses (with revenues between $10M and $500M) as well as hyper-growth startups. Its emphasis is on more holistic growth, targeting not only people and execution strategies but also cash management and strategic development.

2. The Founders and Their Vision

Verne Harnish, the founder of the globally acclaimed Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) and chair of EO's renowned CEO program "Birthing of Giants" for 15 years, established Gazelles Inc., which rebranded as Scaling Up in 2019. His book "Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm" (2002), became a beacon for entrepreneurs seeking to implement these Rockefeller Habits into their companies. Subsequently, Harnish and his team wrote "Scaling Up: Why Some Companies Make It and The Rest Don’t" (2015), introducing the Four Decisions™ framework (People, Strategy, Execution, Cash) essential for scaling a business.

Gino Wickman, an original member of the Detroit chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, founded EOS a few years later while attending Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach® program. EOS, standing for Entrepreneurial Operating System®, emphasizes managing and strengthening six critical components to excel in any industry, irrespective of a company’s size. Wickman's book "Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business" (2007) laid the groundwork for EOS, and several other titles followed, including "Get a Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business", "How to Be a Great Boss", "Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business", and "What the Heck Is EOS?: A Complete Guide for Employees in Companies Running on EOS."

3. Shared Foundations, Differing Approaches

Scaling Up and EOS Traction share a common vision of empowering entrepreneurs and have established a certification process for their coaches to maintain the consistency of their methodologies.

EOS Traction offers a simpler yet robust set of 20 business growth tools, capable of managing a steadily growing mid-sized company. The EOS philosophy is about simplicity; the implementers adhere strictly to the EOS growth tools ecosystem and guide businesses through the process in a methodical manner. EOS prides itself on being a closed-architecture system, akin to Apple, not incorporating tools, ideas, or thought leaders outside their system. This focus results in a set of easily accessible e-books, books, and pamphlets designed for leaders and managers, devoid of extraneous reading material.

In contrast, Scaling Up provides a broader toolkit, incorporating strategic and cash management tools, and openly acknowledging the thought leaders contributing to their system. Scaling Up is an open-architecture system (think Google), with over 35 growth tools. Harnish’s two books include numerous case studies and company examples to engage readers. Scaling Up Coaches often incorporate materials and content from other thought leaders into their consulting engagements. Despite being a more comprehensive system, Scaling Up might require more time for leaders to read, study, and apply the principles in their organizations.

Companies Using EOS Traction

a. Image One: Image One, a leading facility management company, adopted EOS Traction and witnessed a drastic transformation. The system helped the company to streamline their operations, clarify their vision, and enable more effective communication within the organization.

b. Restoration 1: A well-known property restoration company, Restoration 1, also implemented EOS. The company used EOS tools to enhance team communication, solidify company values, and maintain consistency in their operations across multiple franchise locations. Their effective adoption of the EOS Traction system played a significant role in their national expansion.

c. Longacre Construction: This construction company used the EOS Traction system to clarify their vision and improve communication and productivity within their team. With EOS, Longacre Construction was able to address issues that hindered their growth and enhance their service quality, leading to substantial growth in their business.

2. Companies Using Scaling Up

a. Atlassian: An Australian software giant, Atlassian, implemented the Scaling Up framework, which contributed to their focused on a people-centric approach, a crucial aspect of the Scaling Up framework, which has allowed them to build a strong team culture that fosters innovation.

b. Infusionsoft (now Keap): Infusionsoft, rebranded as Keap, is a private company that offers an e-mail marketing and sales platform for small businesses. Co-founder Clate Mask has spoken about the impact of the Scaling Up framework in their business operations, specifically about how the People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash decisions helped them grow significantly. He credited the methodology for aiding in managing the company's rapid growth and maintaining alignment across the expanding team.

c. Rackspace: Rackspace, a managed cloud computing company based in the U.S., applied the Scaling Up methodology in their business operation. Lanham Napier, the CEO of Rackspace at the time of Scaling Up implementation, has openly discussed how the book and the principles laid out in it were instrumental in helping the company maintain steady growth. With the Scaling Up framework, Rackspace managed to uphold its customer service quality, known as "Fanatical Support," even as it scaled rapidly.

These examples provide concrete evidence of how the EOS Traction and Scaling Up systems can be applied to businesses of various sizes and across different industries. It is important to remember that while these systems provide the tools and framework for success, it's ultimately the effective implementation and adherence to these principles that drive significant growth and improvement.

4. The Decision: Scaling Up or EOS Traction?

Ultimately, the decision between EOS Traction and Scaling Up rests on the specific requirements and growth stage of the business. For smaller businesses that need to get a grip on their operations, EOS Traction, with its more straightforward and easier-to-implement tools, could be an ideal choice. On the other hand, larger, more complex businesses aiming to scale up significantly, or those looking to solve challenges beyond operations and people, might benefit more from Scaling Up, due to its more comprehensive approach to strategic development and cash management.

To make an informed decision, leaders should consider the distinctive features, strengths, and areas of focus of each system. Regardless of the choice, both Scaling Up and EOS Traction have proven their effectiveness and potential to drive business growth and success. 

Ultimately, I decided to lean towards coaching Scaling Up over EOS Traction, mainly due to the inherent flexibility of the Scaling Up approach. It is my belief that the strength of Scaling Up lies in its adaptability to various business sizes, a feature I've personally witnessed and facilitated numerous times. By selectively using certain tools from the comprehensive Scaling Up toolset, I have successfully customized and scaled the methodology to suit the specific needs of smaller companies. This experience reinforced my conviction that a more tailored, adaptable framework often proves more beneficial to businesses at various growth stages, hence my preference for Scaling Up.

author avatar
George Morris
I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world. I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.