Tom Bouwer | What the Heck is EOS?
Tom Bouwer-What the Heck is EOS
Smart Business Revolution

Tom Bouwer is a seasoned entrepreneur and business advisor who has founded and operated three of his own companies. Tom has worked with a diverse range of organizations from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. He has nearly three decades of global management and consulting experience across multiple industries which helps him quickly identify and solve chronic issues that keep a company from achieving optimal success. 

As a teacher, facilitator, and coach, Tom spends most of his time as a Certified EOS Implementer, helping leadership teams administer EOS in their companies. He is co-author of the books, What the Heck is EOS? with Gino Wickman and Profit Works: Unravel the Complexity of Incentive Plans to Increase Employee Productivity, Cultivate an Engaged Workforce, and Maximize Your Company’s Potential with Alex Freytag. He earned his BA from Hope College and MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Tom Bouwer, an entrepreneur and Certified EOS Implementer, to discuss the elements of EOS and its benefits to organizations. They also talk about Tom’s experience working in Turkey and India and his entrepreneurial journey.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Tom Bouwer’s experience selling automobile insurance in Pakistan
  • How Tom navigated religious and cultural barriers to succeed in the Middle East and South Asia
  • The metrics Tom used to double the insurance company’s revenue in two years
  • Tom talks about starting a coupon business, an import business for women’s shoes, and an export business for Turkish carpets while in Istanbul, Turkey
  • Tom explains what EOS refers to and explains how he found out about it 
  • How — and why — Tom partnered with Gino Wickman to write a book
  • The peers Tom respects and those he acknowledges for his achievements
  • How to get in touch with Tom Bouwer

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14 

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40 

Welcome everyone, John Corcoran here, the host of this show. Each week, I get to talk to really interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies ranging from Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lending Tree, Open Table, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And before I introduce today’s guest, I want to give a big thank you to Chad Gill, check out the This is Concrete podcast. He is a client of ours, doing a great job with that. And he introduced me to today’s guest, Tom Bouwer. He’s a seasoned entrepreneur and business advisor. He’s founded and operated three of his own companies and worked with a diverse range of different companies, from startups to Fortune 50 companies. His companies include, get this, a women’s shoes import business, a coupon and direct mail business, and he also has even exported Turkish carpets at a huge market into the US. Nearly three decades of global management and consulting experiences across multiple different industries. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about some of the things that he looks at in different companies in order to find gaps in the market. 

He’s also a Certified EOS Implementer, helping leadership teams to implement EOS in their companies. And he’s the author or co-author of the books What the Heck is EOS? with Gino Wickman and Profit Works: Unravel the Complexity of Incentive Plans to Increase Employee Productivity, Cultivate an Engaged Workforce, and Maximize Your Company’s Potential. And also he has his BA from Hope College and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Got it right. Okay, cool. It’s not an easy one. Alright, so we’re gonna launch into it. Tom, thanks so much for being here. And you got such an interesting background, you grew up in Michigan, got your degrees, and then often see the world and you worked in Israel, you worked in India, you worked in Istanbul, all these different places. And you said, of all the different things you’ve done, one of the hardest things you’ve done is selling automobile insurance. In Pakistan. I don’t know how you got into that. But um, what are some of the unique challenges to selling automobile insurance in Pakistan?

Tom Bouwer 2:50

Sure, so first, John, thank you very much for having me today. It’s a pleasure to be with you. And thank you to all your listeners for, you know, listening to me for a little bit here. You know, Pakistan’s an interesting market for a couple of reasons. First of all, in a lot of Muslim countries, they don’t really believe in insurance as a product. And there’s a lot of religious and historical reasons behind that, that I won’t get into. But secondly, in a lot of developing countries, the legal system, and the police systems are not set up to really help, if you want to call it that with insurance clients. And so we had to figure out one how to overcome those historical, religious and belief factors. And then secondly, you know, you’re selling something that the invisible, right, insurance is an invisible product, you can’t put your hands on it. So culturally, again, they’re that huge, you know, obstacle to overcome. And then finally, from a policing standpoint, you know, it’s very easy to steal a car and drive an hour to another police jurisdiction, and one police jurisdiction didn’t talk to the other. And you see that all over the world in developing countries. And in fact, there’s even some of that in the US, believe it or not. And so that’s why it was difficult, overcoming those cultural barriers, and then also just the system barriers that are there. But you know, I loved living in that part of the world. And as we talked about earlier, I doubled revenues in that region of the Middle East and South Asia, to 200 million in two years. And a lot of that was by identifying the differences in cultures and the gap. So why did people actually need insurance? Could we convince them that it was important for them to have this intangible product that will help them down the road.

John Corcoran 5:06

How did you become this American to I assume you didn’t have any background or upbringing in Pakistan, you from Michigan, you come into this part of the world part of a larger company overseeing at all? How did you engage or interact with the boots on the ground staff that were there and navigate those cultural or religious waters in order to sell them on a product that they weren’t accustomed to?

Tom Bouwer 5:38

You know, the obvious answer is very carefully. And with a lot of patience, for example, I grew up in a very Dutch household. So for those of you who can’t see me, which is everybody, you know, blond hair, blue eyes, six foot two, so I didn’t exactly blend in very well in those countries that I was working in. And it was really about connecting with them on a human level. And letting them know that I was really no different. I have the same concerns, the same worries, the same fears. And so I learned to get really good at our dinners. And you know, when I grew up, and I referenced that kind of Dutch background, Sunday meetings were the longest dinners that we have, and they were meetings. We had a half an hour to report on what we did that week. And what we were going to do the following week. And during that time, you had to gather your sustenance and get it in your body. When I went to that region, you know, I really learned the importance of talking with people and getting to know their family and their friends, and sitting down for four hours and really having an enjoyable time. And once I got to know them, I realized that they were no different than we are. And we make that assumption that people from different cultures are very different. They’re not, they just have different habits and practices. And so it was learning what those were, and then adopting my own actions to fit in with those as well. Like before our dinner.

John Corcoran 7:24

Right, right. And you also bounced around. You are in different countries, you are in India, which is different from Pakistan, obviously very different Israel, very different. So is it picking up a whole new culture every couple years when you’re in a new country?

Tom Bouwer 7:40

Well, you know, I had two years to pick up all those cultures. So as a bit of a crash course. And one of the things that I kind of looked for was, what are some of the key cultural differences between the different countries? And so, in India, for example, it’s very hard for them to say no, or to give you a negative answer. And so I had to really work at my question. Israel being very opposite, they’re very direct, very in your face. And so how do you deal with the fact that every taxi ride is a negotiation? And so you just have to get into that mode very, very quickly, and go on, not from here. I need to accept how they’re different. And I need to adapt to it and change myself to be good for them. In other words, I had to meet them where they were, I didn’t try and push them to meet them or for them to meet me where I was. Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s kind of the key.

John Corcoran 8:45

You said, one of the keys to growing and you took the business from 100 million to 200 million in two years, which is just phenomenal, insane. But one of the things that was the key to that was figuring out a metric, a KPI key performance indicator that worked across the country. Explain to us what you discovered.