EOS® Behind the Scenes: Clarifying and Protecting EOS Language

Behind the Scenes

In this edition of the Behind the Scenes blog series, EOS Worldwide Visionary Mark O’Donnell and Integrator Kelly Knight talk about language that’s unique to EOS®, why it’s important, and why efforts are being made to protect it in the marketplace.

Why are language and terminology so important to EOS?

Mark: Language is our intellectual property. When you take a step back, it’s an incredible achievement that we’ve created a common language in the world. The forklift driver in the warehouse of a business running on EOS is using IDS™. They have Level 10 Meetings™. They have Rocks. As a business, part of the value you create is your uniqueness — what you can’t get anywhere else. That’s what language is to EOS.

Kelly: Language unifies people. EOS is more global now than ever, so it doesn’t matter whether someone speaks English or Spanish. They have a common, unifying language with us. That’s one of the reasons people love the EOS Conference so much. Everyone understands the same language, so you can immediately engage with people. They know what a V/TO™ is, what a Scorecard is.

Mark: We’re very abundance-minded. We like people talking about EOS. We like people using our terms and tools. In my perfect world, you’ll soon go to a football game and hear the person behind you talking about “IDS’ing an issue.” That would mean that the lion’s share of small businesses around the world are using a clear and common language. With that language, we can trust each other at a higher level and solve problems faster. We just ask that when it comes to our language, people give credit where credit is due.

Kelly: Even with our recent transition to a franchising model, we’ve gone to great efforts to maintain our language and voice. For example, we refer to our franchisees as “EOS Implementers.” Being an EOS Implementer® means being part of a community that has a shared vision, set of core values and a unified purpose, while “franchise” is the legal framework that formalizes the relationship. The language around this keeps us all focused and clear.


Why is it so important to protect EOS terminology?

Kelly: The world wants EOS in its purest form, so when it gets diluted or modified, or when someone rotates the model 180 degrees, it causes more confusion and complexity. And we hear about it! When that happens, our target market can’t gain the full benefit of EOS, because it’s not simple anymore. Our niche and Core Focus™ is training toward EOS Mastery, with entrepreneurs and Implementers living their ideal life. If that’s threatened, then so is our ability to unify.

Mark: Another way to look at it is that Traction has now sold over a million copies, so people expect to get EOS in the way they read about it. When others try to modify and take ownership of that language and make it their own, it dilutes our ability to help both entrepreneurs and the EOS Implementer Community™ get everything they want from their businesses and live The EOS Life®.

Kelly: Traction is so apparently simple when you read the book that anything not simple stands out as awkward and confusing. Entrepreneurs are busy. They want things simple. So if you’re a cheap knockoff on Fifth Avenue that threatens the core of what we deliver to the world, we’re going to call you out! People could say, “Why care about this? It’ll work itself out.” The reality is that if you don’t defend and protect your IP, you risk losing it. You have to police your trademarks, content, brand, registered marks, copyrights, all of it. It’s central to a content-driven organization.


How specifically are some entities diluting EOS’s language and IP?

Kelly: This comes in all different shapes and sizes, and we have a process for marketing and feature reviews, so we see it every day. For example, we see third-party blogs that use our terminology and content without crediting us as the source. In some cases, they basically try to pass it off as their own ideas and concepts. Every blog and social post bites off a little more. So eventually it looks like they created EOS. Others have created new tools built completely on EOS concepts and ideas. Not everyone has a malicious intent, or even fully appreciates the implications of these uses, so we try to take thoughtful approaches to address these matters as we discover them — not just for us but for our community. As a unified brand, we need to protect and preserve that brand together.

Mark: You’ll see artful changes to some of our words. Instead of “EOS Implementer,” they’ll call them “EOS coaches.” In their blogs, they’ll always say “coach.” It really shows a lack of respect, trust, and appreciation for the gift that Gino gave them to build a business on the back of our brand.


Which EOS terms are the most abused?

Kelly: This answer has changed over the years. Most of the issues used to center around our core terms: EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System® and Traction®. As we continue to grow and there’s more awareness around the EOS components and foundational tools, we see many our other terms misused. For example, “Level 10 Meeting” now has one of the highest misuse rates.


What steps are we taking to protect EOS’s language?

Kelly: We continue to focus on processes designed to protect our language and intellectual property. We recently hired in-house counsel who’s working closely with outside counsel and our in-house team of IP analysts to help us navigate these issues.


That brings up a bigger question: What does this mean for how EOS approaches strategic partnerships and collaborations?

Mark: Dan Sullivan talks about the Free Zone Frontier, creating collaborations where you take one 10x company and another 10x company, put them together and get a 100x result. The first tenet is that both companies need to be in love with the same customer. The second is that they respect one another’s niche. Our niche is training toward EOS Mastery, so we can’t collaborate with someone who doesn’t respect that.

Kelly: There are people around the world who want to be connected to or affiliated with EOS because they love it, so we’re trying to find this balance of allowing people to fully support leaders and companies running on EOS. But we don’t want that program eroding our niche or Core Focus. We want to create value, which is why we have free downloadable tools on our website. But those who use our tools must take responsibility to use them appropriately within the parameters set out in our terms and conditions. People can’t create a business model around our tools and intellectual property, create confusion in the marketplace, or make themselves look like they’re us.

Mark: In nature, you’ll have a plant that bears fruit that’s healthy and good to eat. And then there’s a plant growing right next to it that looks similar, but if you eat the fruit, you’ll get sick or die. We’re the real plant. We don’t mind people “drafting” off of our success, but they have to do it the right way. We’re simply not okay with them trying to otherwise exploit our content or pass along our content as their own.


How do EOS’s core values play into the focus on protecting its language?

Kelly: Every one of our core values ties back into this: Be Humbly Confident, Grow or Die, Help First, Do the Right Thing, and Do What You Say. In general, it would be disingenuous of us NOT to focus on protecting our brand and language if we believe in training toward EOS Mastery. The stakes are higher, and we owe our community the greatest clarity in the marketplace about what we do, who we serve, and how we help entrepreneurs live their ideal lives. 

Mark: We ask clients a simple question: “Are you willing to become your best?” Before they answer, we say, “Here are some of the details on what that looks like.” One of them is “speak the same language.” One team, one system, one voice, a common language. That’s what we teach to every single client. That’s what it takes to be your very best, and we’re protecting their ability to do that.

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