Elena Volnova: Why I Helped Found the New Profit Recipe & Became an EOS Implementer

Entrepreneurial Operating System® tools build and align strong teams. And The Shift Positive® method takes this to the next level, unleashing each individual’s unique strengths.

Deciding to become an EOS Implementer happened after a long educational and business journey. But circumstances and an epiphany about how I could apply my education to help enterprises led me down this path. And it’s undoubtedly been fulfilling.

My Why is to “inspire others to learn and grow so that they have more opportunities.” Working with entrepreneurs through The Profit Recipe fits this purpose perfectly, allowing me to make a real difference for leaders and their teams.

I do it by leveraging both Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) tools and my background in positive psychology, which my alma mater sums up as “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” 

We all have strengths that can be identified and enhanced to improve our effectiveness—and everyone is searching for meaning and a better quality of life. Applying the principles of positive psychology enables business owners to better themselves and their teams by unleashing the strengths of each individual. EOS sets the stage and establishes the building blocks necessary to create a quality team—but positive psychology takes things to the next level.

That isn’t the only knowledge or experience I rely on as an EOS Implementer, however. Like every entrepreneur, many of my most valuable lessons came from learning things the hard way.

The pursuit of education and climbing the corporate ladder

I’m originally from Moscow, which is where I got my first Master’s degree. After obtaining an MBA in operations management, I moved to New York to start from scratch. I continued my education with an MBA in marketing strategy, followed by that life-changing Master’s in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s pioneering program. 

Those early years were difficult. I had to support myself without any family here, so I started working as a sales associate on the floor of a Lord & Taylor store. This “temporary job” evolved into a position in the corporate HR department, followed by a move into the finance department as a manager of profit improvement. I learned a great deal about working with teams and structuring processes from these jobs.

After detouring to work in finance for Ralph Lauren, I returned to Lord & Taylor to take on a newly established e-commerce position, gaining knowledge that would come in handy when I started my own company. But though this corporate experience was great, something was missing. Making an impact at a large company—or, at least, seeing the impact you make—can be difficult. 

And after getting my degree in positive psychology, I was eager to apply it in business. But even though big companies could probably use these tools the most, they are often slow to embrace change and weren’t interested. I decided that I needed to work at smaller organizations to make a genuine difference.

Entering the startup world

I went to work for several startups over the next few years, and each one was a different, eye-opening experience. I finally got a taste of being a part of small teams in a fast-paced environment. Aspects of it were rewarding, especially seeing how my efforts could directly contribute to the bottom line. But while I was eager to help build positive cultures from the ground up, some of the same barriers I’d previously run into existed in startups.

I’d moved away from the corporate world because I didn’t have enough ability to effect significant change. But the startups I worked with weren’t too different in some regards. I realized that when you aren’t the owner—or a member of a carefully constructed leadership team with a participatory culture—you are still playing someone else’s game.

I decided to build my own company and culture and control my own destiny. 

Taking the entrepreneurial leap

In 2013, I founded a company with my life and business partner called Dog Fashion, which we soon moved to South Florida and evolved into PetStore.Direct. Initially, it was designed as an e-commerce venture that supplied pet care products to consumers. But we quickly pivoted focus after receiving a flood of requests for larger-sized products from dog groomers. B2C became B2B. This was an early lesson: the product or service you design isn’t always targeted correctly or completely, and entrepreneurs need to adapt fast.

The other lessons came fast and furious. I learned that when you sign checks from the front instead of the back, you have a lot more trouble sleeping at night. And developing consistent processes and systematizing the business early—something I did not do—can alleviate some of this worry. 

Then, there were the issues that stemmed from running things with my life partner. It can be done well, despite those who say, “never work with friends or family.” But we had to learn how to get out of our own way, build a proper structure, and assign an integrator role.

Finally, I made a classic, mistaken startup assumption. I thought I was too small to hire outside help to address these issues—I tried to solve all of them on my own.

Enter EOS and some invaluable help implementing it

I joined EO Accelerator after moving to South Florida, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I gained a set of mentors and colleagues who provided valuable feedback on the business and held me accountable, including Cesar Quintero. I was also exposed to the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and, after some encouragement from Cesar, I started training on the system.

I quickly attempted to use these tools to improve my business, taking a stab at defining an accurate vision and core values, putting the right people in the right seats, and improving our processes, KPIs, and accountabilities. But I didn’t follow one piece of advice I often give people today: sometimes, it’s better to have some outside help. An external perspective from someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the business can make all the difference in the world.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant to hire an EOS Implementer, even though Cesar offered. I thought I was too small and didn’t have the resources. “You’re too busy,” I told him. “I’d be wasting your time.”

If you know Cesar well, you’ll probably guess his response: “Nonsense. Of course I’ll help you.”

He became my EOS Implementer, and the difference was astounding. The concepts I’d tried to execute took on an entirely different character—the way my team reacted to an outside party was different from the way they’d responded to my efforts. Cesar quickly helped us solve many of the issues we’d experienced and we vastly improved our structure. In retrospect, after becoming an EOS Implementer myself and assisting other people with their businesses, it’s obvious why this happened.

Part of it is Cesar’s talent for communication and implementing EOS, of course. But the biggest benefit was not having to do it alone. I could sit back and let a facilitator lead the sessions while I was fully engaged as a participant. Cesar helped us finally build the organizational culture I’d wanted to create for years and put us in control of our business.

This is the value of bringing in an EOS Implementer to improve your company. And when I tell people about this benefit, it’s not just a sales pitch. I’ve lived it and experienced both sides of the coin. I witnessed a talented Implementer make a surprising, immense difference in my business. And I’ve also leveraged my outside perspective—call it “passionate detachment”—to improve other entrepreneurs’ ventures as an Implementer myself.

How EOS and positive psychology can build stronger teams and businesses

I remember the excitement of thinking of how I could apply positive psychology in business, followed by the disappointment when corporate bureaucracy wouldn’t buy into the idea. I recall the painful struggle of starting a company and making mistakes, and the difficulty of structuring a team correctly and getting them moving in the same direction. I wouldn’t necessarily wish these lessons on anyone. They are invaluable, but there is a better way to learn them.

As an EOS Implementer, I use the system to help companies get a grip on their business, building and aligning strong teams around a vision, core values, and measurable goals. And I leverage positive psychology in something called a 360-Degree Review using The Shift Positive® method. EOS enhances teams by systematically putting the right people—those who Get the position, Want it, and have the Capacity to do it (GWC)—in the right seats. But the 360-Degree Review takes this a step further. 

Once you have great people, it enables you to develop that team to make it even better. Through a series of open reviews, we identify the strengths of each individual. From there, the interviewee and I come up with a development plan to cultivate these abilities, and everyone on the team becomes part of this plan, committing to supporting the individual and holding them accountable. The process has an incredibly elevating effect on everyone involved.

Having been an entrepreneur who has grasped for solutions and feedback in the dark, I am passionate about applying this methodology to give others the perspective they need. And I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of The Profit Recipe’s mission to change the world, one business at a time.

Empower your Leadership Team and improve efficiency, increase value, and foster collaboration to get better results. A professional Facilitator can ensure that all of your members are on the same page, so you can kick your business up a notch. Connect with The Profit Recipe to Achieve Traction.