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By Mike Abercrombie

To state the obvious and put it simply, 2020 was a tough year for many businesses. Earlier in the year – Q2 – one would have thought the world was going to end.

Business cycles and the cadence of society came to a screeching halt because of COVID-19, leaving many businesses with an existential drop in revenue or at least questioning their own viability. Business plans and playbooks were quickly thrown out the window, cash was now king, and available time to react was counted in hours not quarters.

Come Q3, businesses started to breathe again. What had to be done was done and there was acceptance and some comfort in “the new normal.”

I worried a lot about many of my clients during this time. I checked in during Q2, but their availability was limited and a few did not proceed with their usual EOS® sessions which would have provided me an opportunity to fully understand the scope of what they were experiencing.


As we went into Q3, everyone began calling to confirm their EOS quarterly sessions and I was stunned and amazed at the stories they had to share. No better point of pride in my own EOS journey than these catch-up conversations.

The best summarization of the sentiment in all their stories was what one client said to me:

“I’m not sure we’d still be in business if we had not started EOS before the pandemic hit. We simply didn’t have the discipline to focus and do what we needed to before EOS.”


That was good to hear and reaffirmed my commitment to the work I love doing. But it got better in the quarterly sessions.

After several EOS sessions in Q3, I detected a clear pattern. It wasn’t just implementing EOS that helped get them through, it was their core values.

In an EOS quarterly session, we start by reviewing the prior quarter. This is where their amazing stories poured out. Then we review the company’s vision in the V/TO™ to reconnect to who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish before setting rocks for the coming quarter. The first item on the V/TO to review is ‘Core Values’ and listening to them, this is where I made the connection.

As we walked through each of their core values, what I heard was this clear pattern: Their core values literally described the stories they shared. The core values they had committed to aligned perfectly with the behaviors they described of what their teams had done.

The harrowing stories of Q2 2020 would be amazing enough if you didn’t know what their core values were. But if you had seen their values in advance, they clearly predicted the outcome.

All of them had crazy-making days and weeks. All had to right-size their cost structure. All of them took a financial hit. All had to instantly pivot to working from home for the first time and learn to keep customers happy via virtual meetings. All of them were outside their comfort zone with no policy manual on what to do.

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Here are some of the examples. Can you see how these values would get a team through in a crisis?

Business Success Story #1:

Consider a manufacturer of consumer goods with retail stopped suddenly and supply chains disrupted. They rapidly restructured and pivoted to online sales. Some of their core values?

  • We win as a team
  • We get sh*** done
  • We are curious learners
  • We value each other

Business Success Story #2:

Another client in telecommunications had brought in an equity partner just before things shut down. Instead of reporting bad news to their new partner, they quickly got their new partner engaged and ramped up their marketing. Some of their core values?

  • Ownership
  • Action biased
  • Embrace the adventure
  • Invent and simplify

Business Success Story #3:

An entertainment company had just completed the build-out on a newly expanded studio facility just as stay-at-home orders were issued. They moved everyone’s equipment into their homes, downsized the workforce, and ramped up checking in with clients via Zoom. Some of their core values?

  • We are driven
  • We are kind
  • We are ego-free

Business Success Story #4:

A food processor and distributor with an entire payroll of “essential workers” – subject to inspection and regulation – had to reinvent scheduling, processing, and food safety procedures for hundreds of workers to keep things moving. Some of their core values?

  • We are relentless in our pursuit of excellence
  • We care about our business like we own it
  • We bring energy and a great attitude everyday

In most organizations, more of what gets done is defined by the culture than by goals and objectives. Culture – intentional or accidental as it may be – is defined by values.

The companies running on EOS that I have observed did what they needed to do and have all come out stronger from the work they were forced to do in Q2 and Q3 in 2020. Not one of them had a policy for pandemic management.

All their people leaned in, took action first, asked questions later and demonstrated their core values. It was their core values that produced the necessary behaviors. And, it was when they needed those behaviors the most because there was nothing else to fall back on.

Do your values support a culture that will get your business through?