Gino Wickman | How to Make the Entrepreneurial Leap

Gino Wickman 3:03

Yeah, that’s for sure. But I can, I can speak to that if you’d like me to. But I would say that it was the antithesis of that as it is for most entrepreneurs. And I was petrified and scared and insecure and had no idea what the hell I was going to do. And had this these crazy set of traits that entrepreneurs do and just found my way and figured it out and faked it all out of the way. And ultimately figured it out about 30 years later, but still figuring out every day.

John Corcoran 3:31

And this book is really a labor of love based on all of your experience. So far. 25 years old, you take over the family business, which is deeply in debt at the time. And just to give everyone context for this book, the business was deeply in debt, you turned it around with your partner seven years later, you successfully sell it.

Gino Wickman 3:48

Yes, you got it.

John Corcoran 3:50

Okay. And then you develop the entrepreneurial operating system EOS, which has been really groundbreaking. I’ve talked to so many different people who’ve been involved with that book, who personally benefited from it or have worked with other clients using it and tell us a little bit about what that is.

Gino Wickman 4:07

Yeah, you bet. So again, after selling the family business, my dad and we had a third partner, we each owned a third of the business and decided it was time. And so through all that experience, I realized that my real gift, my passion, my knack, the reason I’m on the planet, my unique ability is, is helping entrepreneurs. And so I set out to do just that and found one after another that would let me help them. And through five years of trials and tribulations and testing and honing and refining, I created a set of tools that helps an entrepreneur and their leadership team run a better business that ultimately became Eos. And then we took it to the world. From there, I joined forces with a partner Don tinny, wrote a book around it called traction, and now have 320 EOS implemented all over the world, helping clients implement EOS into their business and another 60,000 that self implement Eos.

John Corcoran 5:03

Now I want to focus on the new book, because this new book is really a labor of love you say was 10 years in the making. And you’re really focused on helping people to one figure out whether they should become an entrepreneur in the first place. And if they’ve already started a business, whether they, whether it’s a good fit for them, or if there any changes that they can make to their current business to have it be a better fit. But it sounds like you wrote this book as much for those who are not a good fit, to be entrepreneurs, to talk them out of it.

Gino Wickman 5:33

Yeah, that’s a great observation. So you know, when you say it’s a 10 year project, what happened is, I am 51 now. And when I was 40, I kind of had an aha and realized that when I turned 50, I want to put my energy into helping entrepreneurs in the making, I want to go to the front end of the entrepreneurial journey. And so my life for the last 30 years has been spent. You know, on the back end of the entrepreneurial journey, what I do is help an entrepreneur that has survived startup. EOS is for an organization that has 10 to 250 employees privately held. And so this is after they’ve realized some level of success, and they’re managing growth. Well, this new project leap, I’m going to the front end of the journey. And and I love what you said there because you’re right. And it’s insightful that you caught that because it’s as much about, you know, having the traits to be an entrepreneur, as it is about making sure whether you even do and if you don’t my urging, and my caution is you probably should not take the entrepreneurial leap. And so two years ago is when I finally was closing in on age 50 sold the business. So sold EOS worldwide still kept 12 and a half percent. And that freed up my energy and my creativity to devote to this project. And so what it’s all about is there’s three parts to it. It’s Part one is called confirm Part two is called glimpse Part Three is called path. And they’re all very important because to what you’re asking, they’re the first part confirm is all about helping that person confirm whether they even are an entrepreneur or not. A true entrepreneur has six essential traits, you either have them or you don’t, you are born with them, they cannot be learned. Again, these are my beliefs. This is my experience. This is you know, the people that I’ve worked with, and

John Corcoran 7:21

I want to I want to dive into those six. But first, before we do that you take some time at the start of the book, to define what is an entrepreneur and what is not we kind of glorify entrepreneurs today in this culture with Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, you name it, you know, Jeff Bezos, but you have a very specific definition.

Gino Wickman 7:39

Yeah, for sure. You know, and it’s I start with, you know, let’s, let’s take away the word entrepreneur for a second. And let’s use the term self employed, okay, because there are a lot of self employed people. Well, an entrepreneur and a self employed person is not one in the same in my humble opinion. And so in the book, I expect what I call the entrepreneurial range. And this came out of a fun and fierce debate with a college professor of entrepreneurship. And we’re having the conversation about this. And it was so clarifying, because I was creating this tool that I’m about to share with you real time as we’re having this debate. It was like a light bulb moment. And so there’s a difference is my point, here’s the tool. It’s, it is if you picture a range, and on the right side of the range is a true entrepreneur. And on the left side of the range is a self employed person. What what I’m speaking to with leap, and with these six essential traits, it’s defining someone who is on the right end of the spectrum, the true entrepreneurs, the visionary, and on the left end of the spectrum, there’s no shame, it’s admirable, but on the on the left end of the spectrum I call self employed. These are the freelancers, people with a side hustle, somebody that buys one franchise location, somebody has a lifestyle business, and that’s fantastic. And they have responsibility, and they’re certainly taking risk. All of those people on that spectrum are self employed. But what we’re talking about here are the the builders, the growers, the creators of things on this planet. And what I would say is, the further you are to the right, you know, you’re more of an entrepreneur. And then the last little point, I would say, with this whole confirmed point, is it this is a cautionary tale I am, I am not trying to break somebody’s heart, I am trying to save them from years of hell, because if they don’t have the traits, to go build 100 person organization, it’s going to be hell. And I’m just trying to, you know, help them realize that this may not be the perfect path. But and if you have those six essential traits, look out because I’m going to path for how to get there faster.

John Corcoran 9:53

And later in the book, you write specifically about how hellacious that can be. And for some people, like yourself, you hit a point where the business gets large enough that beyond that point, it’s no longer pleasurable. And you say that that’s part of the reason that you sold EOS worldwide, it hit about 200 employees, you didn’t want to go to 1000, you realized that that wasn’t your sweet spot. But you write about this, you said the six essential traits you also write about the characteristics of an entrepreneur. Typically, you say they’re a dreamer creative, the kind of rule breaker, maybe they sold stuff as a kid. So talk about the characteristics and also the six essential traits.

Gino Wickman 10:31

Yeah, you bet. So. So I’ll start by, I’ll just rattle all six off really fast. And then I’ll go a little bit deeper and just explain him which we’ll talk about characteristics and things like that. So the six essential traits are this. Number one is visionary. Number two, passionate, number three, problem solver. Number four, driven, number five, risk taker, number six responsible and so to quickly explain each one. Because as I explain it, I want your I hope that, you know, the listener is sitting here and literally doing a self assessment of themselves right now. But as much that potential listener, it’s also the listener that has one of these beings in their life. So if you’re, the parent of one of these, or the teacher of one of these are a guardian of one of these, it’s going to really help you help them. But with that visionary means that you have a lot of ideas, you are able to connect the dots, you have a sixth sense, you’re able to see around the corner, you know, in your bones, you have this unique, rare ability to just see things that others can’t and connect the dots. Number two, passionate is about the product or the service. So this is really important. This isn’t saying you’re a passionate person, because everyone has passions, this is a crazy passion for your product or service, your thing that you want to bring to the world a strong belief, you want to fill a void. And so Steve Jobs was always accused of having a reality distortion field. And so people that are passionate and they don’t they’re thinking is not normal. It’s it’s, it’s crazy, but they couldn’t beat it out of them, they are going to make their thing a reality. Number three problem solver. Is is a trait where you solve problems you creatively solve, solve problems, you lean into problems, you see solutions, any setbacks, you just push through them, you are an optimist. Every cloud has a silver lining. Number four driven is an internal fire, a sense of urgency, a competitive nature, you want to succeed, you are self motivated you you hustle, number five, risk taker is where you you don’t freeze when it comes to making the decision when you when it comes to taking the leap when it comes to solving the six problems a day that you need to as an entrepreneur, you are rebellious in nature, you are willing to fail, not that you want to fail. But you know that failure is part of the journey. And you’re comfortable with that. And then responsible, which sometimes catches people by surprise that how is responsible and entrepreneurial trait, but it’s responsible is the type of person that takes responsibility when there’s a problem and half the world takes responsibility when there’s a problem and half the world blames people. And so you just gotta decide what camp you’re in. Because a responsible person blames no one. And they always look in the mirror, when it comes when there’s a problem they look at. And they say How have I contributed to this? How have I caused this so they just kind of they take total responsibility. And that’s what helps a great entrepreneur succeed. And so that’s kind of a

John Corcoran 13:47

fast, but I like how you balance those last two there, the risk taker and responsible because, you know, some will argue that, that entrepreneurs are our risk avoiders because they want to diversify, because when you’re an employee, you can be fired any day, right your company could go under. And so you know, pursuing multiple different clients, product lines, that sort of thing is a way of avoiding risk. Some people will make that argument What do you think about that?

Gino Wickman 14:15


I’m not quite sure I understand the question. So so just just re ask it and restate it because I’m not quite following

John Corcoran 14:24

yet. So I’ve heard some people argue that entrepreneurs are risk avoiders because they are pursuing something that diversifies their risk, you know, the argument is that if you’re just an employee, that you are subject to the whims of your boss, your boss could wake up in the morning and just decide that they don’t want you anymore. versus a when you build a business, you have greater control, you can diversify your risk, because you can have a lot of different clients, if any one client wakes up in the morning and fires You are a product to product based business. If your product stop selling, you got other products. It’s an argument. I don’t know if I buy it.

Gino Wickman 15:02

No, and I love it. Because actually, I didn’t misunderstand the question. The question does not compute. So this, so I want to share something that maybe will indirectly answer your question, because I just I don’t get the question. Quite frankly, I understand the question. But you know, it’s fascinating that you say that, because, you know, you’re right. When I look at somebody who’s employed, you know, I feel like they’re taking more of a risk than me. Because why on earth? Would you take that risk? So it’s fascinating, you say that you’re saying that, because maybe that makes you an entrepreneur? Because you see that as a risk? You know, most of it is kind of put that it’s kind of flip sides of the coin. Yeah. So I can see where someone would see it that way. But, you know, I mean, again, just doing the simple math over 30 years, and knowing the world, the world, the way that I see it, you know, it’s a heck of a lot more risk that an entrepreneur is taking, and we could go through sure all the things that they’re putting on the line. So compute for me, because it is a it is risky, risky business, no doubt. Yeah, no doubt. everything on the line.

John Corcoran 16:12

Let me ask. So what if you’re missing one or two of the essential traits now? And now you say, it won’t work? And you are not an entrepreneur?

Gino Wickman 16:21

Yeah. And I’m, and I’m fanatical about that. Because again, going back to the cautionary tale, and just trying to help people not, you know, live years of hell. And so what I actually do in the book is I go through, you know, what, if you don’t have this trait, what if you don’t have that trading week, so so it would take too long to explain each one. But if you’re missing any one of those trades, the odds are a little more stacked against you. And so, you know, the statistics are out there. And, and they’re all a little bit different. But in a nutshell, what it shows is that 50% of all businesses a little more than 50%, are out of business in their first five years. And so the odds are already against you, even when you have the six essential traits. And my goal is to hopefully, you know, improve that success ratio going forward. And so every trait you don’t have increases your risk. Again, my strong opinion is, even if you’re missing one, the odds are stacked against you that you shouldn’t do it. So you know, one example that I give is, you know, let’s pretend you have the five of the trade the last five trades, you’re passionate, you’re a problem solver, you’re driven, you’re a risk taker, you’re responsible, but you’re just not visionary, that makes for one heck of a great salesperson, you know, so you’re not going to invent the next iPhone, but man, whatever you go into promoting to the world, you are going to going to be incredibly successful. And so again, it’s just entrepreneurship is just not for you. Because you don’t have that you’re not that idea machine, you don’t have that ability to connect the dots. Right? Hopefully that

John Corcoran 17:54

your question you also write about second and third generation entrepreneurs of which you are. And you’re not, you’re very particular, you say that you’re not talking about a son or daughter just inherits the business and either, you know, runs it into the ground or arrives it out, but you’re talking about someone who actually grows it. And you this is really kind of a cautionary tale, right? Because you’ve seen so many times when a non entrepreneurial son or daughter takes over the family business.

Gino Wickman 18:22

Yeah, I love that you’re bringing that up. And so I read an entire chapter on next generation businesses. And, and this one, you know, we talked about a labor of love and a passion project. I’m so passionate about this, because 40% of my clients in the last 20 years, our family businesses, and like you said, I’ve seen the great ones, and I’ve seen the not so great ones. And the statistics are, you know, the the second generation, the survival rate is 32%, third generation 13%, fourth generation 3%. And so those are the horrific odds that a business is going to survive multi generations. And one of the reasons and I want to say a big reason, but I just say one of the reasons is that the son or daughter that take over, that takes over, they don’t have the six essential traits. And so what I teach in that chapter is a way for the parent and the son or daughter to really assess does this person have these traits, because if not, they probably should not take the reins of that business, because they have a very high likelihood that the business is going to fail. And that’s assuming they want the business to continue to grow and evolve with the times if they want the business to just maintain status quo, cash flow it, you know, hold on to it until it you know, runs into the ground and listen, any kid can take it over. But if they want it to continue to be successful, you got to have those six essential traits.

John Corcoran 19:44

Yeah, and I will just say the reason you and I connected was because I wrote an article that was about Eos. And I talked to 15 different facilitators, implemented, who had worked with clients and I heard so many stories about that about working with family businesses, were your system help them out of that morass. And it was just amazing to hear those stories. But you also write in the book, a couple of amazing stories about Jay Feldman Feldman automotive, I’d love to hear you share that, Mike, I think it’s you usually, usually, yes, yeah, you want to share some of these stories. So there’s amazing stories of second generation on entrepreneurs who just come in, and what the trade is just so far beyond what was there to begin with,

Gino Wickman 20:28

then credit, yeah, incredible. And so at before I share those two, I want to start with a painful story, because that’s sometimes that makes it a little more sense. Or makes the point. So

you know, one son that took over one of my one of my clients, the sun took over, and they were right in the middle of the transition a year or two into the transition. And the sun, you know, unfortunately, did not have all six essential traits. And in every time, it was decision time, so here’s this leadership team of six people. And you know, you got to make tough decisions all day, every day. And every anytime there was a tough decision to be made, he would say, Okay, let’s vote. And, and so the business was run on consensus management, because he did not have the ability to make those tough decisions, and was running the business by consensus. And any business run by consensus will go out of business very quickly, you can’t do that. So that’s just an example of that the poor guy was just petrified. And and they just kind of maintained status quo for, you know, another 10 years that was excruciating. Again, on the other side, to your point, and these stories are spelled out, you know, in the book in much greater detail, but at a high level, you know, you mentioned Mike, usually, usually health and nutrition, a supplement business. He took over the family business, he bought his dad and his uncle out, when the business was doing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million. And he completely reinvented the business, they’ll do somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or $60 million 12. short years later, just an incredible story. And and Mike, you know, red lines, you know, that that that entrepreneurial range we talked about and exhibits every one of those traits. And then and then Jay Feldman is the exact same story, where he took over the family business got involved in the dealership, he was the top salesperson at 15 years old. So that’s your driver’s license. People with these six digital traits. I mean, it’s showing up when they’re six 810 years old. And And so anyway, he took one dealership and basically grew it to nine, they’ll do a billion dollars this year. It’s amazing. absolutely incredible. And this guy, just an incredible visionary entrepreneur with the six essential traits. Amazing, amazing. We’re running a little short on time, and we’ve hardly gotten through the book. But you have the entrepreneur and the making assessment in there, which is a test whether you have the traits of an entrepreneur, which is super helpful, you want to tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, I’ll try and get the glimpse and path sections as a you bet yet, I’ll just maybe give you one quick nugget in each one of those since our time is tight, but you know, your listeners can go to eat dash leap calm and take an assessment. So there’s an assessment there, it’s free. It’s available to everyone, just to get you know, get a check up on do you have the six essential traits and they can also download a free chapter of the book, it’s the first 30 pages of the book, see if it kind of sucks you in and then they can certainly preorder it, the book comes out in October, not sure when this will launch. But all things leap are at E dash, leap calm. And then to jump to glimpse and path, you know, I would give the one nugget on glimpse, I would say cuz you said something that was really important. And so in glimpse, what I’m doing is I’m showing a glimpse to that reader, once they confirm they have the six essential traits, I’m showing them what is possible for them. I’m showing them what the life of an entrepreneur looks like. And I call it the day the nightmare and the dream. So just a day in the life, I give the both sides so they can clearly see what it looks like many stories. And then what I do is show them all their options, businesses, sizes, industries, are they a product person? Are they a service person? Are they a B to C type of a person? Are they a b2b type person? How big do you want to grow the business? Are you a high volume, low cost type of a person or you premium price, low volume. And if you look at all those factors, there’s so many options for an entrepreneur, and we’re all drawn to something and it’s going to help them figure out what they’re drawn to. But what you said that was interesting is, you know, I chose to sell the family business with my dad. And I chose to sell EOS worldwide because I don’t have any desire to build a billion dollar company with thousands of it’s just not fun to me. And so the reason I say that, and in this this part of the book, it’s helping that entrepreneur in the making decide what is the right business for them, because we’re not all cut out for a billion dollars businesses and it helps you before you get into this thing. Realize that you know what a $10 million company that throws off a $2 million profit. That isn’t such a bad life. And so it really helps going in to know and I just I know what I am. And so I know when it’s time to sell and and now I’m moving on to this next thing to build this. I’m a builder. I’m a creator, I you know, so I love growing things. myself a mad scientist,

Unknown Speaker 25:25

different points. Yeah, I

Gino Wickman 25:27

am Yeah, I prefer to just be in the lab, then and then the on path just to just to touch on something with path, you know, path is then all about showing them a path, I really believe that I can eliminate half the mistakes they’re about to make. And and they still need to make the other half because it’s all part of the learning experience. Some things you have to learn through hard knocks and all that wonderful stuff. But in path, what I’m doing is I’m just showing them all of the milestones and awareness is on the journey. There is no perfect path. There is no system there is no process for for starting a business and growing it if somebody tries to tell you that, with all due respect, I think they’re lying to you. But what I do talk about is depending on what age or if they’re college age people I talk about college or not.

John Corcoran 26:13

Yeah, that’s a really interesting discussion, you You said that you came into that chapter thinking you were going to write about how people shouldn’t go to college and you didn’t go to college. But then you’d kind of change your mind as you were reading it.

Gino Wickman 26:27

Yeah. And what I realized I would ask every one of my entrepreneur clients or entrepreneurs I met, you know, did you learn anything in college that you’re using as an entrepreneur? Or did you have in every case, they say no. And so that makes me think, Why on earth would you go to college as an entrepreneur, but then what I started doing is asking a follow up question and saying, Would you go back if you knew everything you do now? And if so what would you take? And they said, yes, they would go back, and they would do it again. But they would go back, because what they said they got out of college was the relationships and the social experience. And so it wasn’t about the education, as much as it was about the interactions and the relationships, and the ability to practice and test and hone and refine. So but with that said, it’s still an important decision, because going to college, not a lot, you’re going to learn academically, they make you a great entrepreneur, some of these colleges are starting to really develop some great entrepreneurial programs. But it’s a really important decision for somebody with these six essential traits, because you don’t have to go to college to become a great entrepreneur. And it’s a really important decision. And you know that I then get into the power of passion, how to find your passion, and get into how to find a mentor. Mentoring is so important on the journey and so helpful. And I did want to ask you about that. Because way in the beginning of the book, you write about Sam cup and your father, do you want to share? Talk a little bit about them? Yeah, you know, just at a high level, I describe my dad and Sam, my dad, they’re both they were my mentors in my 20s. And my dad, dad was what I call my people mentor. He taught me everything about how to communicate to people be at one or 1000. He’s incredible leader, incredible visionary entrepreneur, and

John Corcoran 28:10

speaker, and yet you didn’t even see him speak until you were like in your 20s or so. Yeah, you bet. You bet. What was that, like?

Gino Wickman 28:18

When I saw that I just said, holy cow, I need to be around this guy. And I want to run his company someday. And so he I set a goal for myself to do that. And he didn’t want his kids in the business wouldn’t let me and it was his partner that talked him into letting me in. And, and this is something else I teach with the second generation entrepreneurs, my dad said, I’ll consider it but go be successful somewhere else. And I happen to be selling real estate at the time. He said go sell $5 million in real estate and then come talk to me. So I went and sold $5 million in real estate then he talked to me. So then we talked about so so incredible mentor and then Sam Cooke was my business mentor, he took me under his wing when I was 25. Doing that turnaround of the business this and taught me everything he knew about business. He’s a man that built his companies up to $300 million incredible entrepreneur, unfortunately passed away, way too young. He’s not with us anymore. But those two guys made such a huge impact on my life.

John Corcoran 29:16

And that’s great. That’s great. Well, I’m gonna wrap things up as a long time here. Final question, let’s pretend or at the Oscars or the Emmys, or an awards banquet of some sort. You’ve been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything up in this point. Who do you think? Who are the relationships? Who are the mentors of their friends, many of which you’ve mentioned already, but who are the people you would acknowledge in your remarks?

Gino Wickman 29:35

Yeah, I just I find that such a fascinating question for a podcast. That’s so interesting. You ask that because I sit here and I go, what the heck is in it for your listener? To hear the answer that question? So selfishly, I love and thank you for asking that. Because it gives me an opportunity to acknowledge those people, but I just I’m dumbfounded as to how that’s valuable to your audience. But here’s, here’s the answer. You know, the first one, right at the top of the lyst is my wife, Kathy, who has been an incredible partner in this journey. You know, I am a wild and crazy entrepreneur, and it is not easy. And so she has been so incredibly supportive, and a great partner. The next two is the are the two I already said my dad and Sam cup, I mean, it’s it, the impact they’ve had on my life, as a business person, as a leader is is is second to none. And then they’re there. You know, I there are probably 50 people that should be on the lesson. So I’m just thinking of who would, you know, come to mind first, and maybe be at the top of the list. And next is my partner Don tinny, you know, he and I built EOS worldwide together. And he came into my life at the perfect time. And we joined forces and for 15 years built something pretty incredible. And I couldn’t have done it without them. And then the next person is the person that actually connected down and I and so the gentleman’s name is Mike Palin, and I call him my guardian angel, because he has come into my life three times, and introduced me to something that altered the course of my life. The first was he gave me a book called The monk in the riddle, which is a story about a guy that helped entrepreneurs. And and when I read that book, I realized exactly why I am here. And that’s what led to creating Eos. The second thing he did was just before that five years before that, when he talked me into speaking to the real estate industry, about business and how to run a business. And I was terrified. I told him no, he talked me into it, I did it and that the whole teaching people about business since 25 has been in my blood. And then the third thing that he introduced me to was Don tinny. So he’s the one that connected Don tinny and I so we’re mutual friends, and he thought Don would be perfect for me. And he was and then the last one on the list in terms of did for this call, like I said there could be 45 more is is Dan Sullivan Dan Sullivan. I’m a 23 year student of his Strategic Coach program. And and he has shaped my thinking and, and and and moved me closer to my unique ability as he calls it every day for the last 23 years. And he’s been just so incredibly helpful. He’s a genius

John Corcoran 32:29

that that was great. And then I think everyone will enjoy hearing your inspiration. So people love to hear that I get great feedback on it. E dash leap. com is the website for the new book leap. Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur coming out October 15 2019. You can pre order it through Amazon now. I read it. It’s a great book. I read a lot of these types of books. And this is a great one. So please go check it out. You can also be sure to take the quiz at E dash leap and explore all the other entrepreneurial resources on the website. Gino, this has been a pleasure anywhere else people should learn more about you.

Gino Wickman 33:04

Now that’s it. It’s all there at and I hope to impact and help a lot of your audience. I’m confident you will. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Thank you