Media Bridge Advertising is a Minneapolis, MN-based ad and media-buying agency.
The audience sat in stunned silence. A panel of Minneapolis ad agency CEOs had just been asked how long they expected to keep new employees. “One year,” “two years,” “three at the most” came the answers. Then it was Media Bridge Advertising CEO Tracy Call’s turn. “That’s crazy,” she said. “I want lifers! How can you feel any other way?”
It was a moment that told you everything you need to know about the successful entrepreneur and EOS® enthusiast. Call’s mission is “to inspire growth” both personally and professionally, and it shows. She commits to people and expects the same in return. She consistently applies her mission to her employees, clients, partners, and herself. And she’s not afraid to speak her mind.
Is it working? Media Bridge has quickly risen to become one of the Twin Cities’ largest ad agencies. It has been voted a Best Place to Work in Minnesota. And it just earned a place on the Inc. 5000 growth list for the fifth time in just 10 years of existence—a feat that might be a first for any American small business. We spoke with Call about how EOS has helped her agency and its clients achieve such phenomenal success.
When and how did you first hear about EOS?
Some of our clients were using EOS when I started Media Bridge in 2010 and I could always tell which ones. You could see the difference in their organizational structures. Their cultures seemed more organized, their energy more positive. And they didn’t have as many fire drills as my other clients. Eventually, I met an EOS Implementer® and had him deliver a 90 Minute Meeting to my leadership team. It was obvious right away that EOS was the right system for us.
What was your initial reaction when you started using EOS?
Ha! It was actually kind of a nightmare, but that’s because I tried to self-implement. Going from no operating system to EOS was jarring. Even having a weekly company-wide meeting felt like a lot to take on. I had a hard time committing to the Level 10 Meetings ™ and it was hard to work in and on the business at the same time. Bringing in an Implementer in 2016 changed everything. I learned that as a visionary and CEO, you can’t lead a meeting that you’re also supposed to be participating in.
Which of the Six Key Components™ did you struggle with the most before EOS, and how has that improved?
Process was definitely our biggest struggle. We were running and gunning, drinking from a firehose. There was no time for “process.” We had team members sitting in the same seats, but we didn’t know it until EOS exposed that issue. Putting together an Accountability Chart™ was huge in terms of mapping out our roles and responsibilities. Now every department has a clear process that’s meticulously documented and updated. Today, someone could practically walk in off the street, follow the processes in that book, and run the business without skipping a beat.
What was the hardest part about getting started or implementing EOS, and what’s your favorite tool now that you’ve been at it a while?
I’m a control freak, so “letting go of the vine” was a big challenge in the beginning. Now my favorite tool is Delegate and Elevate™. It has forced me to let go of my media-buying seat as well as certain management responsibilities. I’ve also passed on the integrator role so I can concentrate on being the visionary. More importantly, D&E has been huge in helping my team find their sweet spots. People who used to do things like social media are now doing video production, animation, and account management. One employee has now touched nearly every department, and he thrives a little more each time he moves. Another just discovered that she loves analytics, dashboards, and marketing calendars, which isn’t at all what we hired her for. I love those discoveries!
How has your business been affected by the pandemic, and how has EOS helped you navigate it?
We’ve activated every tool in the EOS Toolbox™. Even though we haven’t been in the office as a group for over six months, in some ways, we’re more connected than ever before. Between the cadences of the Level 10 Meetings, our quarterly meetings and Quarterly Conversations™, the State of the Company and each department doing its own quarterlies, there’s a rhythm that gives you a sense of calm.
When remote working started, we also implemented twice-daily team huddles, where each person has to state one thing they’ll get done that day and one way they’re going to help someone else. We had never done anything like that before, and it’s done wonders to keep us connected. We also did IDS™ sessions with our clients to help them through the problems they were facing at the start of the pandemic. They’ve never forgotten that we were there for them at a critical time — reaching out and being proactive when others were running for the hills. You can’t put a value on that. It’s priceless.
What have you learned about leadership throughout your EOS journey, and how would you rate yourself as a leader before and after starting EOS? The main thing I’ve learned is the importance of listening. I’m not always a great listener and we’ve had really bad leadership team meetings when I’ve tried to interject my point of view. Our Implementer, Dan Moshe, always asks if everyone feels heard. Before EOS, my team probably didn’t feel heard. I’ve gotten better at that, but I could still improve.
As for rating my leadership, that’s something my team should answer. I think it’s a fluid number. I mean, I can go from a 10 to a 1 in the same day! EOS has definitely brought me to the higher end more often, and it has made me a different leader. I’ve always cared and I’m empathetic. That hasn’t changed. But with EOS, I have the tools to check myself. GWC™ (Get It, Want It, Capacity to Do It) has been a huge help. I GWC myself as a leader. If the answer is no, I pass the task on. Before EOS, I tried to solve every problem whether I was qualified to or not.
What do you ultimately want for your business, and how do you want to be remembered as a leader?
I want my legacy tied directly to people’s personal and professional growth. I want to look back and know that I grew an amazing company, that the people on my team grew personally and professionally, and that we helped our clients reach their goals — whether it was growth, selling, or launching a successful IPO. I also want to stay true to our core values. I don’t want to lose sight of where I came from, where the company came from, and what got us to where we are.
When do you recommend EOS to other entrepreneurs and business leaders?
When they’re stuck. Meaning, they’ve plateaued in revenue, they can’t get the right team in place, they’re drowning in issues, or they’ve generally hit a ceiling. Every fast-growing company runs up against a lack of transparency and communication, and every entrepreneur eventually realizes that they can’t do everything themselves. I’ve also learned that sometimes there’s a misunderstanding about EOS — that it’s “corporate” or some kind of “off the shelf, one size fits all” solution. I tell people it’s neither one of those. It’s a roadmap. It doesn’t give you the answers; it helps you find them. Sometimes I call it “preventative business medicine”: It helps you identify issues before they become problems.
I also speak from personal experience. When I hit my own ceiling, EOS injected a new sense of purpose, energy, and excitement that spread from me to the rest of my business. My biggest fear was, “My team is going to hate this. They’re not going to be enthusiastic. And if they don’t buy in, it won’t work.”
The exact opposite happened. They totally embraced EOS, and we can’t imagine our lives without it. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to keep talented people for so many years. Hey, I might get lifers after all!
Key Takeaways – Leadership Lens
Leading a successful business means not only getting good people who are committed to you and your organization, but making sure you’re committed to them.