The unsung heroes of EOS with Sara B. Stern

Sara Stern joins me on the podcast this week to talk about family businesses and how they can tackle EOS as organizations. Sometimes family businesses can be tricky, but they also can be creative and rewarding when using the right EOS tools to tackle their issues.

Links to find Sara:

Transcription below (some typos might exist..):

[00:00:00] Sara: [00:00:00] any company that runs on EOS, uses it, meaning, we get really clear about what their core values are and the core values in any company that runs on EOS. Are all about what makes you a unique place to work. And it's when you hire and fire and review and reward and recognize your people according to your core values that builds that culture.

Yeah. My favorite core value that a family business had was that they are seriously silly. That was one of their core values. And it was absolutely true. They were very good at the work they do. And they took it very serious seriously, but they're also completely hilarious goofballs. and that came directly out of the founder of that family business.

There was a third generation or a second generation getting ready to run it. And that came directly out of the personality of the founder of that. And that's one of the things that I think is really amazing when family businesses use EOS is that core values conversation. Isn't some sort of [00:01:00] weird.

Corporate culture, yucky thing it's looking at, who are we? Who have we always been? Who will we always be? And that almost always points back to a founder and the kind of people that dug in to help found that business and the kind of values that person has passed down through generations. That's really fun. Keerstyn: [00:01:56] Welcome to the podcast, Sarah. I am so excited that you're here today.

Do [00:02:00] you want to give us a brief intro of how you got involved in your work and what you do now?

Sara: [00:02:04] Sure. almost 20 years ago, I became a certified coach, back in the days when I would tell people I was a coach and they'd say, Do you coach tennis? what kind of coach are you? So it was very early on in those days.

The, reason I became a coaches because I wanted to have a huge, positive impact in the world. And once upon a time thought that way being a doctor or a teacher or something, and then realized working with business owners is the way that made the most sense for me, that over time turned into doing some work with coaching at target.

With leaders there and their headquarters, and then led to me working with the owners of family businesses. And from there, I became an EOS implementer and for five years have been doing that. And part of that work includes, teaching them. So back to the, being a teacher, I got to do that a little bit, but also coaching [00:03:00] them and facilitating really tough conversations that they have.

And I'm from that is from some new work I'm doing as well. Helping family businesses really understand the big picture of what it takes to have a strong family business, and bring in the advisors that they need. and that business is called the Sage pages.

Keerstyn: [00:03:19] So it's cool. I guess one of the first questions I have is what makes a family business EOS implementer a bit different than just a EOS business implementer?

Sara: [00:03:31] I'd say, I probably going to say it's just two things. I really implement EOS purely. I don't do it differently than any other EOS implementer. I guess the two things that make me probably different is one. I just have a big passion for family business. So that's where I spend my time and energy and marketing and the world I know the most about.

And then I might also say I'm probably a little more strict about, some of the tools. Then [00:04:00] maybe another EOS implementer. I think there's people in the world who think, Oh, it's a family business. We can be okay with it. The entire leadership team being family members, whether or not they're actually skilled, to be in that role.

And I'm probably a little bit. Less okay. With that. Maybe I'm guessing because I really take it seriously that the leadership team should be absolutely the right people in the right seat.

but I think I might bring a little bit more strictness or. Or confidence or stories I'm making the argument that really is the right way to do it for your family business, even though it might hurt feelings.

Keerstyn: [00:04:36] Yeah, absolutely. Do you want to tell one of those stories of why it's important to have different people in different seats instead of just your entire family on the top of the C suite?

Oh my

Sara: [00:04:48] gosh. Do we have all day? Yeah, I'd love to here's one of them, it was a family business. dad was third generation, two sons, two fourth [00:05:00] generation sons. In the business, working in the business, one fourth generation son had no interest in a fourth generation daughter was not interested either.

the kind of running assumption was that one of those sons would run the business. meaning he would sit in that integrator seat, as we started working on  their org chart, which we call the accountability charts, it just became really obvious that this other key leader in the business who was not a relative, not a member of the family at all, was the person uniquely skilled to take that role. it ended up being a very deep conversation, with that family member.

Actually being really moved and crying in the session being touched that the family would trust him in this case, him, to run that, to run their business, that had their name on the door. And what also came out of, it was a huge sigh of relief for the next generation members. Who'd grown up their whole [00:06:00] lives.

wondering which one would run the business. And wondering if they were really capable or interested in doing it. So it was a really powerful the day we decided that, and that was now almost three years ago, that business is thriving and the family members are thriving in the positions where they ended up being.

And I will say actually only one of the sons stayed in the business. The other one realized it wasn't the right place for him, but they're all now in careers and in jobs that they're thriving in. And the non family member who's sitting in that key role is also thriving. So absolutely the right choice for them.

Keerstyn: [00:06:38] Yeah, absolutely. So what are some of those things that. Get these family members or just these businesses in general from like we're really struggling. We should talk to an EOS implementer. What are some of those pains that they're feeling? And you mentioned a few already, but on average would I buy?

Sara: [00:06:56] Yeah, I would say most of the ones that come to me [00:07:00] are, the owning generation or the generation that's leading it, which might be first or second or third generation. Coming to realize, Oh my goodness, this next generation of my family wants to come in here and we don't know where they fit. Where should they be?

what should their role be? That's almost always a way a family business, comes to me other times. It might be, Oh, we're just not growing anymore. Profits are struggling. Of course, many businesses profits are struggling right now. it might also be that they've become a flavor of the month business where.

The leadership is like, Oh, read this book and then they try something for a little while and then read another book and we'll try something for a little while. And it's we just have to get focused, pick a direction. And they've heard that, EOS is a really valuable way to

Keerstyn: [00:07:46] absolutely.

Absolutely. That's really interesting. So I guess, Yeah, what's during this COVID thing, what has been some of the issues that family businesses in particular, we've never actually had a family business person [00:08:00] on

Sara: [00:08:00] the hub. So

Keerstyn: [00:08:01] this is a really interesting new topic that I bet a

Sara: [00:08:04] lot

Keerstyn: [00:08:05] dealt with before.

so I guess what are some of those things that people have been dealing with lately that. Shoot. They didn't know it was gonna hit them like a brick two months ago. yeah, sure.

Sara: [00:08:17] I'll share this. I would guess. according to research, two thirds of privately held company, and these are family businesses.

So I bet you do have a lot of family businesses who listen to this podcast, so hello to all of you out there. So glad you're listening and I love that you're out in the world. so here's, one thing, family businesses of course are experiencing the other things, the things other people. Are experiencing, how do we keep our people safe?

for some people, their industries are growing right now, or their businesses growing others, they're shrinking. They might be shrinking, in really big ways or in small ways and figuring out who are the right people, right? So those are a lot of the common things that I'm seeing, but I'll tell you this, historically, a family businesses, it does actually tend to fare [00:09:00] quite well in the challenged, challenging times like this.

And there's been research about why in the world that is, and some of the research is that family businesses tend to have family members who are willing to work for free. So that's one of the reasons family members will come in and pitch in and help when times are really tough. one of the other reasons that research has found is that they tend to have very loyal, .

Employees. there's so many stories of family businesses who've been around for a hundred years or 90, or, or more than a hundred, who, for example, maybe during the great depression didn't, lay people off and then that's just part of their history and then they didn't do it again. at when the.

When the bust happened, they didn't do it in 2008. yeah. And they're trying not to do it again. So they tend to have very loyal employees who stick around for it a long time, and trust the employer and are maybe willing to work fewer hours. so that nobody gets laid off. For example, that's something Marvin windows has done.

They did in 2008. They're [00:10:00] doing it again now. family business there. a pretty famous one, but lots and lots of family businesses take that same

Keerstyn: [00:10:07] approach. Absolutely. Why do you think that is that they are not willing to lay off people? Is that their great culture? Is it the way that they've set up the company?


Sara: [00:10:17] I think? there's a couple of reasons. some research has said this in some, it's just Sarah speaking here, but, a couple of the reasons are, and this is why I love working with family businesses. They tend to be looking, they have a very long horizon. Years wise, They're looking at how do I build a business, my grandkids can run, and they're also looking typically they are looking widely in their community, So how can I run a business and serve my community? So the community is still here to support the business. I think when you have those kind of, that kind of a viewpoint and that kind of thing. The horizon, you tend to want to do more creative things like, decrease hours or [00:11:00] work four day weeks versus just chopping, entire positions out of the business.

That's again, a little bit of research and a little bit of, what I see happening, in the kind of conversations I'm having, it doesn't mean family businesses. Don't run. Smart businesses and don't make those hard decisions. I don't want to suggest that. it just means, I think they have a different kind of horizon that causes them to be in a lot of ways, a little more creative, and certainly willing to maybe.

Put off having profits for a year or two in order to continue to maintain their culture and the loyalty. And of course the health of the community that they're in.

Keerstyn: [00:11:38] Yeah, absolutely. So I think culture is a really big part of family businesses. How do you use EOS to build that culture?

Sara: [00:11:47] that's a great question.

So yeah, we use it in the similar ways that any company that runs on EOS, uses it, meaning, we get really clear about what their core values are and the core values [00:12:00] in any company that runs on EOS. Are all about what makes you a unique place to work. And it's when you hire and fire and review and reward and recognize your people according to your core values that builds that culture.

Yeah. My favorite core value that a family business had was that they are seriously silly. That was one of their core values. And it was absolutely true. They were very good at the work they do. And they took it very serious seriously, but they're also completely hilarious goofballs. and that came directly out of the founder of that family business.

There was a third generation or a second generation getting ready to run it. And that came directly out of the personality of the founder of that. And that's one of the things that I think is really amazing when family businesses use EOS is that core values conversation. Isn't some sort of weird.

Corporate culture, yucky thing it's looking at, who are we? Who have we always been? Who will we always be? And that [00:13:00] almost always points back to a founder and the kind of people that dug in to help found that business and the kind of values that person has passed down through generations. That's really fun.

Keerstyn: [00:13:13] That is fun and it's different and it makes it. Not as awkward or uncomfortable. I know that can be a really hard conversation in a long conversation. I remember hearing a story about a man who he went and said, I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this big core value book that was two inches thick and they never opened it once.

But getting away from that and actually having specifics that are not just. X, Y it's bigger than that.

Sara: [00:13:44] So way bigger than that. And it's a, it's also about who have you always been? Who will you always be? but it's also not about picking core values that are stating who you wish you were or who you accidentally are.

and it's not about saying [00:14:00] core values. I hope if a family business in particular has been in business for 80 years, they probably are trustworthy. They probably do have integrity. they probably do take good care of their clients or customers, but we don't want those kinds of core values. We want the core values that specifically say, what is integrity in your business?

Is it, you do the right thing. Is it, you do what you say you'll do. is it that you're so honest, you're willing to lose a client over it, right? That's the kind of stuff that we want to be your core values and then it resonates with employees and it also is incredibly valuable for recruiting, right?

Cause if you say these are our five core values, they'll be at a. now, at a party in the, driving at a gathering in the driveway, and they'll know when they see it person who fits and who would make sense to say, come over here and work with

Keerstyn: [00:14:51] us. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So another question I had is how do you implement EOS when there's a transition from [00:15:00] generation to generation?

What does that look like? Obviously, an EOS, they talk a bit about seats and what the right seat, where the person fits and all that jazz. And I know that you mentioned a little bit, but what if that transition is. Transition is happening in the midst of EOS. It's

Sara: [00:15:15] the perfect time, to have yoga in your business, if you're either in the middle of a transition or one coming soon, the reason I say that is when you have that accountability chart or org chart, it becomes really obvious who it is.

You need to replace the people who are transitioning out and it stops being things that are squishy, Oh, I'll think of one family business here. Instead of saying things like, Oh, they have to be like uncle George, which of course everybody knew what. Being like uncle George was, they actually wrote it down in four bullet points on the accountability chart and it was this, they needed to, create key relationships in the industry.

They needed [00:16:00] to see the future of the industry. That's what uncle George was great at. He could always see the future. He was great at the really big relationships. and three, he cared deeply about the culture of the business and he was all over that. get rid of it. That person, they don't fit with the culture, talking to people about when they should, it didn't fit.

and I'm sorry, I can't remember the fourth thing. But anyway, those were three of the four things that it be like uncle George. That's what it meant. So then they could go out and replace them, the person who was like uncle George, that in that case, that person did happen to be a family member.

But it's not always that, It's not always a family member who replaces them, but it's basically, I like to say EOS gives you your map for how to do that transition inside the

Keerstyn: [00:16:42] business. Yeah, absolutely. And likewise, I guess another question similar to that is what if a non family member is starting to head up the whole

EOS process and they aren't going with what the family really wants. What?

Sara: [00:16:59] Oh [00:17:00] gosh. Yeah.

Keerstyn: [00:17:00] I have a story about that or how you've accomplished that or. What you've done about that.

Sara: [00:17:09] You know what? I don't have the, an example from a family business. That was my client, but I can tell you about a family business.

I know of, they had a nonfamily president, who was he essentially doing a great job of delivering what the vision had been for the business, maybe a decade ago. Okay. the family business ownership had changed. It had changed from multiple. siblings owning the business to just one sibling owning the business.

And right around that time, they engaged in EOS implementer and started using EOS. And what happened then in that process is the direction of the business. Of course, for one, it became much more clear when it was one owner. Rather than five. So that happened. but [00:18:00] they got much more clear about what the vision is that wanted and what the core values really were.

And whereas before it looked like that president was serving the needs and the desires of the family quite well, it became very obvious once they had a clear vision, traction organizer, and a clear accountability chart that non-family member. Did not make sense. And that person was replaced actually fairly recently.

and it looks like the relationship between ownership and the people, the person running the business will be absolutely aligned now instead of two different roads.

Keerstyn: [00:18:32] Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a hard transition to make in stone. but especially hard when they're not aligned, but you're not quite sure where to go.


Sara: [00:18:43] Yeah. Really helps. Cause you have to have that conversation of agreeing on this is where we're going and this is what we need to get.

What if they don't

Keerstyn: [00:18:51] the families that an agreement are not on the right path, but the owner is the

Sara: [00:18:57] nozzle for that river. [00:19:00] Yeah. Okay. Yeah. A situation where the family members are done the right paths, but the person running the business is on the right path.

Yeah. that is a supremely. That's the best question I've ever been asked.

That's awesome. that is a really important thing. There's a tool, in EOS that gets no airtime what's well, it doesn't get enough air time. In my opinion, it's called the partnership rules of the game. And what that tool talks about is the importance of the ownership team getting absolutely on the same page about what they want from the business.

It talks about some other things. Like you don't have the right to be employed at the business just because you're an owner and you have to earn your job and stuff. But that's one of the things that talks about is you have to be clear as an ownership group and what you want and what are your expectations.

And you have to be on the same page and you can't take it, your fights that you might be having as owners I'm into the business. and sadly that is a not uncommon thing for the owners [00:20:00] not to be on the same page. And it might be that they're. In complete disagreement and have conflict. what I see that's more as they just don't even have the conversation and they're not even sure what they want.

There's just so focused on the day to day that they're not thinking big picture about what they want as owners. And that can be very tricky if there's this a non-owner non-family member trying to run the business. In, potentially a really productive direction. And then the owners are over on the side, fighting about it, super tricky.

And that's where I think it's really valuable. Some companies use, they implement EOS on their own without bringing in someone from the outside and some are quite effective at it. But certainly if that's an issue, that's where you need that outside person, I would say to help you really have that tough call about where are we really going in this

Keerstyn: [00:20:46] business?

Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's where implementers come in a fantastic way, our third party, but it doesn't happen necessarily opinion about anything, but rather than

Sara: [00:20:58] exactly.

[00:21:00] Keerstyn: [00:20:59] Absolutely. That's. I'm glad that you said that a little bit more about the, the partnership rule, the game. I've never heard of that concept before AOS and I'd love to learn more about it.

Sara: [00:21:11] Yeah. So there is this awesome part, for any company running on EOS. Especially if they have an implementer and outside person like me, they'll have their leadership team manual and way in the back. So in that manual, all the, notes and stuff, where you take your notes in your sessions, but it also has the EOS toolbox in the back.

And there's 20 tools in that toolbox. There's also a few additional tools and that's where the partnership rules of the game live. I often, talk about the partnership rules of the game,  I have a lot of friends who are fiscal priests, which is a long story in and of itself.

And I had one that was asked to come in and do an exorcism. Which was interesting. And that my friend went to the prayer book. So their version of a leadership team annual and under exorcism, it said, see your Bishop or something like that. And there's the separate [00:22:00] book that a Episcopal priest would use, This whole separate book that has the exorcism in it.  I think of the partnership rules of the game as this tool over in the separate book where the exorcism would go, that's the whole point of my silly joke. That was long, but anyway, it's like the exorcism.

So it's way in the back. It's one of the additional tools and it just sets the, The rules of engagement, if you will, for owners. And it's all about getting clear on what you want, understanding that you can be fired, understanding that when you're not talking about ownership, but you're in the business.

That integrator is the one who breaks, ties the owner. Can't just come in and push people around and say, I'm the owner. No, it's the integrators running that business on behalf of the owner's needs.

Keerstyn: [00:22:43] Yeah. Interesting. That's cool. Yeah. I think that's something that we need to all know about an EOS, especially if you're implementing it and be able to say that for sure.

I think visionaries oftentimes have grandiose ideas [00:23:00] and integrators help reign those and especially in that. Yeah, absolutely. That's huge.

Sara: [00:23:06] Yes.

Keerstyn: [00:23:08] Cool. thank you for going through that. That was.

Sara: [00:23:11] Yeah, this is I am. I like to talk about the unsung heroes of the EOS toolbox, and that is absolutely at the top of my list and ensemble.

Keerstyn: [00:23:19] Is there another one that you feel are valuable that people might not realize exist

Sara: [00:23:25] or hush? Can I tell you two more,

Keerstyn: [00:23:29] please do

Sara: [00:23:30] unsung heroes of the EOS toolbox. One is called be personal issues, solving session. And it's technically not in the toolbox. What it is a part of what we teach around team health.

And whether you run on EOS or not, whether you're a family business or not, you've probably run into a situation where there's two people. We have so much conflict that they're making hard for everybody else to say what they think, and be truly vulnerable with each other. When you run into [00:24:00] that situation, you use the personal issue solving session.

And what it is let's say the two of us are the people having that conflict. We find a third party to come in and help facilitate the conversation. we both come prepared with what we see as the other person's top three strengths and top three weaknesses. And then we make a list of issues that we're having between each other.

Meat might be ways we, things we don't like about the other person or things we don't agree on. And then we solve those issues. create a set of action items and come back and check in 30 days, it's so valuable to really try to bring health to that relationship. Usually that's all that it takes.

And the two people can stop having toxic conflict every once in a while. One of those people needs to leave the business.

Keerstyn: [00:24:45] Yeah. Interesting. So it's valuable and productive and. Process driven, which is extremely sad.

Sara: [00:24:54] And I'm finding, during COVID-19 of course conflict is [00:25:00] high. and sometimes conflict that hasn't been addressed is coming to the top up and other times there's just brand new conflict and that tool is incredibly valuable in any time.

But particularly now. So that's an unsung hero. the other unsung hero is something we teach when we teach about ethics, which is lead manage and accountability. And it's just how to be a great boss. And a, this is part of being a great leader. We say that being a great boss, being a great leader and a great manager, and it's called the clarity break and it's literally.

All it takes to have a clarity break is a pen and a piece of paper and look out a window and just sit in quiet, put your phone away and let all those thoughts that are running out, running through your head all the time. Come out of that pen onto paper. I'm not easy to do. It's like stretching, you get up and I've heard if you get up and stretch for even like three minutes, it does has all this huge benefit, but it's free.

And it's not hard at all, but people don't do it. The clarity break is like that. It's a huge value and people often [00:26:00] don't take that time. I try to take about 20 minutes, four or five times a week. That's what works for me. Other people might take an hour or two.  Other people, maybe every other week, you have to find your right cadence. But there's huge value in that as far as settling your mind and getting more clear, that tends to lead to you being much more confident and clear and direct as a leader. And that's what your team needs from you is for you to be confident and clear and direct.

Keerstyn: [00:26:27] Yeah, thank you for sharing those two. That was

Sara: [00:26:29] awesome.

Keerstyn: [00:26:31] I really liked the clarity break though. That's beneficial for everyone. I think not just leaders and bosses. Everyone. Everyone needs to get their mind. Not rolling. It's nice. The normal ways

Sara: [00:26:45] that we do sell. It's just so powerful it alone to put your phone in another room for 20 minutes or an hour.

Really powerful. Yeah.

Keerstyn: [00:26:54] Awesome. thank you so much, Sarah. This has been really fascinating to hear about us and then tools [00:27:00] within, and also some stories that people might be feeling. if they want to access you in any way. Where can they go to either find more about you, maybe contact you, to work with you potentially?

Sara: [00:27:11] Oh, sure. I would love to hear from anybody happy to have conversations and help anybody who's interested in helping their family business. probably the easiest way to get ahold of me is my website, which is family business. M N like Minnesota family business. M N LinkedIn. I'm Sarah B stern, S as in Sarah, Beth stern.

My name is a sentence and I think that's pretty funny. So you can find me there.

Keerstyn: [00:27:39] Awesome. Sounds good. thank you so much. Do you have any parting words before we, depart from here today?

Sara: [00:27:45] Yes, please take a clarity break. You will not regret it. Please. Please take a clarity break and thanks for that.


Keerstyn: [00:27:52] problem. Thanks for coming on.

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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