Literally Duck Taping the business back together with Mike Kotsis

Mike joins us on the podcast to chat about what it is like being part of a family business and how we can learn to be proactive instead of reactive. As an EOS implementer, he has walked the walk and understands why it can be hard to get to where you need to go, but it is possible to do strategically.


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Full Transcription below (May contain typo's...):

[00:00:00] Mike: [00:00:00] There was, everything was urgent and important all the time or at least that's what it felt like.

We had about seven family members involved, at the time through various points of that journey. So I had three, I had my father three uncles. I had my cousin, my brother, and then ultimately I didn't feel like that was enough. So we hired my wife, in the latter parts of it as if it wasn't complicated enough at that point.

And so there was a lot of blend in mixing of. you have ownership, you have leadership, you have employee, then you have family member. Like all those dynamics were just intermixed. And so you never knew where you were coming from and who you were talking to in the way, it was all intermixed.

And so that created a lot of confusion. In hindsight, when I look back at it, because there were certain assumptions that in our family business, Hey, your family, you're dedicated. You're [00:01:00] gonna, you're gonna be here all hours, day and night. And you're gonna make sure you're opening and closing.

there was like these assumptions that would go on among all of us. And then if certain family members didn't do that, it was like looked down upon, There was no intention of that, of that happening to look down upon it. But that's a feeling like an underlying current that was there.

Keerstyn: [00:01:48] welcome to the podcast, Mike. Kotsis. I am really excited to talk to you today about EOS and entrepreneurship and how you help your people grow. Can you just give us a brief background [00:02:00] of how you got involved in your work and then what you do now?

Mike: [00:02:03] Sure absolutely first, thanks for having me here today.

Excited to be on the podcast and to connect with you and to share the message with, with others. Yeah, so a little bit of, background, for me, I won't go all the way back, but just before becoming an EOS implementer, I was running my family's business, Atlas wholesale food company in Detroit.

So ran it for seven years. my grandfather started, the company came over from Greece and. we're Greeks and what do you do? You get in the food business? and so we, had service specialty items to a Greek town and. family diners around Metro Detroit. And man, I learned about my family and a whole new way.

being a Greek and ethnic family that, there was a lot of screaming and shouting and, I had come from the corporate world before that, and it was just a culture shock. I was wondering like, what the heck did I get myself into? and, I quickly realized like, Hey, they're just, [00:03:00] everybody's excited.

Whether it's something meaningful or not, we would just get really excited. And I just found myself in this place that, that I just knew, we had to get some agreement of where we were going to take the company and how we were going to do that. I didn't know how we were going to do that or what we were going to do at the time.

It just knew we had to agree. And over time we were able to generate that agreement and be able to develop that plan of where we were going to go. And, made some key people changes around the team. And at that time I wish I knew about EOS. I didn't, but it would have helped us to do everything.

We went through so much faster and simpler than the way we did it on our own. But ultimately we grew the company during the last downturn in our economy. Seven two Oh nine timeframe. And, the best part about it was is that we had a team of accountable people in place. We were profitable, we were growing and, just realized at that time that everybody else is going through that same type of thing, whether [00:04:00] you're a family business or not.

And I just felt this calling within me to help others. And I. I didn't know how I was going to do it at the time or what I was going to do. I just started doing it through a Walsh college at the time, had peer groups for family business owners in Southeast Michigan. So this is in the Troy area and I started helping some other, friends and colleagues of mine to navigate through some of the challenges, similar to what I had gone through.

And that's when I had discovered EOS. And I, I realized that was the vehicle that, that I could use to help do instead of sitting down, talking about what we might do, which I felt like we were spending too much time doing, rather than actually doing it. UOS was a framework that, eliminated all that.

what are you going to do? How are you going to do it to actually just doing it and being with the team and helping the facilitate their vision and plan. And so this was a little over nine years ago that I, ultimately made the plunge and became an [00:05:00] EOS implementer and started my own business.

Yeah.

Keerstyn: [00:05:03] That's a fascinating background, especially with the family business and the downturn of. The recession basically. And then how you guys got out of that and on a more positive note too, that's very impressive. And, definitely impactful. I'm sure. I think I, you definitely, I'm sure I have a million stories about, how you guys got through that and why EOS would have been a positive.

they that in for sure. For sure. What was some of those things that you struggled with your family business and specifically, was it like one or two things that you could, just talk about and maybe how you guys went through it and then how it would be applicable now with EOS?

Mike: [00:05:43] Yeah, sure. There was, everything was urgent and important all the time or at least that's what it felt like.

We had about seven family members involved, at the time through various points of that journey. So I had three, I had my father three uncles. I had my [00:06:00] cousin, my brother, and then ultimately I didn't feel like that was enough. So we hired my wife, in the latter parts of it as if it wasn't complicated enough at that point.

And so there was a lot of blend in mixing of. you have ownership, you have leadership, you have employee, then you have family member. Like all those dynamics were just intermixed. And so you never knew where you were coming from and who you were talking to in the way, it was all intermixed.

And so that created a lot of confusion. In hindsight, when I look back at it, because there were certain assumptions that in our family business, Hey, your family, you're dedicated. You're gonna, you're gonna be here all hours, day and night. And you're gonna make sure you're opening and closing.

there was like these assumptions that would go on among all of us. And then if certain family members didn't do that, it was like looked down upon, There was no intention of [00:07:00] that, of that happening to look down upon it. But that's a feeling like an underlying current that was there.

And so that made it more challenging. And, just a funny story, just to give you the example of the types of issues that we dealt with. Like we, in an old building on the East side of Detroit, near the city airport and. There, this building was right off of the freeway. It still is still there.

And my cousins running the business today and doing a phenomenal job with it, but just the building itself had different roof leaks that would occur after the winter freeze and thaw every year. so it's like you're chasing all these different patches, this giant flat roof over the warehouse and freezers and all that stuff.

And so then you get a different leak and my brother at the time was, he was interning. It was he's younger. And so he was interning at that time. And so we imagined clearly just said, Hey, can you go fix the roof leak? He's never fixed the roof leak in his life. And, he went up there and, you went up and back a couple of times, and then he's said [00:08:00] roughly fixed, awesome.

And like, how did you do it? he said, I went, I took this bucket of tar and I went up there and, I did run into a little bit of a problem though. He said that, one of the first part when I was fixing it, I, I stepped on a soft patch and I made the hole bigger.

We're like, what are you kidding me? You made the hole bigger. that, how did you fix it? And so what he said is that, he ultimately showed us, he, we took this big olive barrel. So we used to import olives, back in the day in these 50 gallon drums. And he moved the olive barrel. Under the roof leak on the second floor of the offices and funneled a tarp with bungee cords.

So that any drips would, that would come through would go into the. Go to the olive barrel. And, and so Hey, in his mind, it's fixed in her mind. We're like, not fixed, but did we actually fix it? No, we went weeks with an even a month. I think a month went by when would, we would just consciously go in after every rainstorm, even on the weekends to go empty [00:09:00] that olive barrel.

So it wouldn't overflow. And you guess it, and it's only a matter of time that olive barrel. the big storm hit and that thing overflowed and it flooded the office and it leaked down to the first floor and it just created this big mess. And we're like this ridiculous, like the amount of time and energy we put into just patching over this issue, when we could have fixed it the right way, the first time, cause ultimately said, forget this.

We're going to bring in a contractor and go and fix it. And he fixed it for less than 500 bucks. Yeah, less than 500 bucks. And the moral of that story is that, that is the same type of thing that would happen throughout the whole business is that there were all these bandaids, or as all this patchwork that we were doing, because we didn't feel like there was enough time to fix it all.

So you just do what you can in the moment and just hope it shakes out our right. And that, caused us more work, more pain, more money, and more time. until we were able to make [00:10:00] a flip and really start driving alignment, with the leadership team and focus on what was truly most important.

Keerstyn: [00:10:06] Yeah, absolutely. I love that story. I think that's so applicable. And that's so a in parallel with all the issues that might be going on in businesses that we just patch them up and they're wood in the olive barrel. And I hope it lasts for two months or so until it blows up again, for sure. What would, They one of the tools that you would then prescribe to someone who is feeling these type of things with an EOS, what's the number one tool that, you would ultimately say, Hey, this is going to be, where you should start or, this is really gonna help you get aligned or whatever that may be.

Mike: [00:10:42] Yeah. So the number one tool, I think for people to be able to get their heads over and at least start is, through the level 10 meeting. the level 10 meeting is something that's easy to get your head around and start using as an agenda framework every single week [00:11:00] to start. Processing issues as they surface.

if you just use that standalone yeah. Without everything else for a long period of time, you won't get a ton of value from it. But at the beginning, just to start communicating, getting on the same page with what's important and what's not, and helping to align everybody's energy around the same things any given week.

And that's just a great tool way to do that. I remember, when I was running meetings, Early on. I, so I make, I made every mistake that I see my clients making too. I, we didn't start on time on our meetings. We didn't end on time. They just went for a long time. It had a huge, massive agenda.

We never get through everything. And, I would try and I would rope everybody in to try to nail it out. And then we'd all be exhausted. We wouldn't have the clear accountability and action actions coming out of it. And, That level 10 meeting and getting the leadership team's heads around that really eliminates all that [00:12:00] distraction and noise and really helps you to hone and focus and drive everybody's energy forward faster. how I said the most valuable thing in the business is The level 10 meeting, at least as a starting point, I believe that's also true in your family and having, having a weekly family meeting. And so it seems really weird at first, Because people are like, okay, Our family is not a business, right? So we talk about family and family, business and business, but we talk about home life in, if we're putting so much value in the business world of making sure the right people are connected at the right intervals at the right time, with the most meaningful stuff and business supports our life.

In life is more important. Why aren't we doing that in our home life in? And so in our home life, we do a Jill and I do a weekly meeting. And then we do a weekly meeting with our kids too. [00:13:00] And so every week with, I'll talk about. Our kids meeting is that 30 minutes. Once a week, we connect on a, same day, same time, same place, because we all can look forward to that same time and place to do it.

and we check in just like you do in a level 10 meeting with some good news to help get everybody's mindset in the same place. We have rocks in our family, most important priorities that we all agree upon. and we review those to see if we're on track or off track. We also have a habit commitment, a daily habit commitment that we all commit to.

And, it's different for each of us and it changes every quarter, but we say, are we on track with that? So we need any help. and, we do value shout outs. so with our core values are up on our wall in our house. And we, just, this is our opportunity to recognize each other.

So my kids are younger, right? So nine, eight, four, and 20 months. And so the nine and eight year old are the most involved in this whole thing. And [00:14:00] so we recognize each other for demonstrating one of our family values. In the recent week. And when we do, we have these little poof balls that we put into a poof ball jar.

And when that jar fills up, so the top we do a family fun events. We do something cool and exciting as a family together. The only key is that you can, you can't recognize yourself for using one of the values. You have to recognize somebody else for something they did that day or that week.

And that helps us to really live in align with those values and then we process issues. So any issue, any idea that, we want to have friends over, we want to do this, we want this is what we have coming up. We process those together and we do a calendar review just a week out, get everybody's heads in the same place about what's going on over the rest of the week.

Can, over the weekend. And it just aligns everybody so much. No, I'm not going to lie. The first several months of this was excruciating trying to do it with our kids because I would run away, but they look forward [00:15:00] to it now because in their most exciting part of the whole meeting is the calendar review.

They just want to know what's happening, what's coming up and they just get so eager and excited by that. Wow.

Keerstyn: [00:15:08] Awesome. That's so cool. I love that. That's it? I feel like initially it would be a little bit odd just because you have to get over the hurdle of. Of Elton meeting within your family and your parents or your kids.

but I could see that really working and really, getting you all together and being excited about being a family and, being in the same house and what life looks like and how you guys have been going to continue to grow together. That's awesome.

Mike: [00:15:37] Yeah, absolutely. it's been a huge blessing for our family and, And several other friends that we have shared that with two that have adapted, did it for, and their households.

And, it really works. It helps us to communicate. And, it helps us to get in the right frame of mind when we can communicate. because the last piece of that is the why it works is that, most of the time when we're trying to make decisions [00:16:00] in our family life or in our households, is that man, if it's at the end of the day, We're usually pretty exhausted, right?

Maybe your spouse comes in and your spouse is excited and wants to make these decisions. And then, you meet, I'm just checked out. I don't want to make a decision, but we do make a decision. And it's usually not a very good one because we're not in the right place to mind. When you have that.

When we realized that the family meeting ends up. Replacing that we realized that we both bring our energy level up. We both realized like, Hey, we're both getting in the right head space to be able to tackle this stuff. And, and to be able to sort it all out in, and that makes a world of difference that in itself.

Keerstyn: [00:16:41] Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that's a really important part of Vos, especially just to get that initial starting base and. Actually having a discussion that's wrapped around concepts, such as issues or, different rocks or goals, you might say that, you actually need to achieve in the 90 days. I think [00:17:00] that's another thing that you mentioned in there that there were so many different ideas and really a lot of excitement around.

A ton of stuff, but you can't spread yourself thin like that. And I think that's sometimes something that a company just doesn't understand. They think that they have enough, a willpower and manpower just to make it happen, but it's, you can only do so much. so you can't wear a thousand hats at once, basically.


Yeah. I think that's a very valuable thing. Absolutely. I would love to talk about the VTO too, and how your organization almost, make shifted a VTO at the time, and now how you help your clients with that. Because I think that it's a really valuable tool with an EOS.

Mike: [00:17:41] Yeah, for sure it drives the alignment and energy, or especially if there's more than one owner, more than one family member and it gets everybody's heads going to one place.

And so that VTO is the vision traction organizer, and that's what really starts aligning at the core. do you share the same core values? Is the business [00:18:00] focused in. The same area from everybody's mindset. Is it really, do you, have you really identified that sweet spot and ultimately are aligned around the big goal that you want.

And then from there, everything works backwards back to the point that today to decide, are we doing the right things that are leading us closer to that are pushing us further away? And what would I find if you don't mind? I want to take a little bit of a personal tangent on this with the, with that VTO, that vision alignment.

What I found in our own lives and in several of my client's lives is that they really have to understand the why they want that big goal. Why do they want it? Over the longterm. It's not about the bunny. It's something bigger than that. And it's something very personal to them. And so I believe every, founder, owner visionary, and ultimately every employee has to be clear on their why and their own [00:19:00] why and their own goals.

personally, professionally all get wrapped into one in the clear you are on your own. Why. And your own goals in life. You can then, speaking from an owner or a visionary or a leadership team member hat, you can then figure you're out. The business goals need to align with that to help you achieve what you want in life.

and that. Wine meant so many people gloss. They get into the business for one reason, and then it just overwhelms us over time is what I find. and then we lose that, that initial Y or that Y changes. And we don't even, we don't even notice it because we're so buried with everything else going on.

We feel this is my thing, and I just have to, and you almost lose your identity. I know I did in running our family business, I. I had didn't have a separation in my mind of whether, me being different from the business was didn't exist at the time because I was so committed [00:20:00] to upholding our family legacy and really helping take that business to the next level, all that, I did whatever it took, whether it's, whether it's talking to the biggest customer or going down to.

our biggest customer to go, to collect a check, create a new contract, or, there'll be plunging toilets, later that day, if whatever it took and so in all that noise, you end up losing. You ended up losing that bigger picture, you lose your own. Why? And so when you're clear on your own, why it helps you to really align the business, why, and then that gets everybody else involved so that they can align with that as well.

Does that make sense?

Keerstyn: [00:20:39] Absolutely. How did you get back to your why?

Mike: [00:20:43] what, what I did is, It was actually at the time, I, in a core reason why I selected to become an EOS implementer was, in there. Yeah. Transition time when I was searching of finding how I could help other businesses and other, other leaders. [00:21:00]

I was searching for the right vehicle or right path. And I didn't know what that was going to be. And I, and through this search, we had so many different options. it was over overwhelming of the past that we could possibly take. And it had dawned on me, don't ask me why it dawned on me.

It dawned on me at one point in this, in the midst of all this noise that. Way back in college, I had written a life plan, play paper in an entrepreneurship class. It was a brand new thing at the university of Michigan at the time. And I pulled it out. It was a 10 page paper. I read it. I was blown away at how many life goals that I had written about in that paper actually came true.

like when I'd be married, How many kids I'd have. there, it was just, it was more mind-boggling and I shared that with my wife and I'm like, this is unreal. We've never done this together. Why have we never done something like this together? And when I was researching becoming an EOS [00:22:00] implementer, the VTO for the business side, I had stumbled upon the family plan template.

And that is a family version of the VTO, that us worldwide has created. And I said to my wife, Jill, we've got to do this. It's a two page template. It's not going to be a 10 page paper, cause, Oh my God, she would not have gone for that. And it just, it helped us to come back and just our own family core values, our family passions.

What is our big goal in life? And then it helped us to develop our dreams list. Like we always would dream about big things that we wanted to do, but actually taking the act and getting them down on paper made them way more real. And we created a three year picture or one year plan and we had family quarterly rocks.

and so when we did that exercise all the sudden yeah. Those opportunities that we were looking at became so much more clear [00:23:00] that we realized that. I was able to immediately say no to a lot of those opportunities because it didn't fit. It didn't fit part of the plan in, and type of life that we wanted to build together.

And then when I had really dug into EOS, I realized that was a path for me in terms of, in my professional path, in our family path, that could be a vehicle from the professional side to help. Satisfy a life of purpose where we're making a meaningful, chronic contribution. It satisfied a life of financial independence that we could be potentially achieved through a lot of hard work and a life of flexibility.

So that. You know that we could be home. I could be present at the time. We had only, we had one child at the time with number two on the way. now we have four and, we wanted to create a path where Jill could be home [00:24:00] full time. That's what we both wanted. And so that we could both, raise our family and be, be home and present together.

Yeah,

Keerstyn: [00:24:07] absolutely. That's awesome. I'm so glad that you shared that and how you got to that realization. That's really cool and really impactful. I'm sure. Especially for you. Absolutely. If you had one piece of advice for a family business, what would

Mike: [00:24:23] you tell them? One piece of advice?

So one piece of advice would be.

To clarify their own passions. And if they don't align it's okay. Life is too short. You don't have to work together. That's ultimately what I realized with my cousin and I and our family business too. He was way more passionate [00:25:00] about the business and God bless him. Thank God he was because he's carried that business to a whole nother level.

And he it, yeah. At his core, he loves that. And I'm doing what I love to do now, too. But if we were forcing each other to stay together, to do that, to take that, that company on a whole nother level in we're both really not committed in our core for the right reasons at the same time, then. then that would have caused way more damage in our relationship and in our extended family.

And that's, it's not worth it. Life's too short. You all have, I believe we have individual gifts, the gifts and talents to use in the clearer. We can be on that and be true to that, the better off we are. And then ultimately the contribution to the world that we make will be.

Keerstyn: [00:25:51] Yeah, absolutely.

Thanks for that. I'm sure that family businesses and businesses alike will be able to, be able to take that away and actually, realize that [00:26:00] they don't have to always be together or, might not align perfectly. Absolutely. Awesome. Mike, is there any place that people can contact you if they want to get in touch with you?

Mike: [00:26:10] Yeah, sure. You can visit my website. It's www.gpsforsmallbusiness.com and my phone number email is all right on the website. Sweet.

Keerstyn: [00:26:23] thank you so much, Mike, for joining us today, this has been fun to hear about your family business and how you got involved in it, and then how you are an EOS implementer now.

Mike: [00:26:32] Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate the time. And it's great connecting with you.




Teams also need to get away and have time to think together and reflect together. Be able to spend just an hour to be curious about each other. -Denise Van Eck, Owner of Thought Design

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