It happens to all successful entrepreneurs: your business gets to be more than you can handle. When you first start a company, you have no alternative but to be involved in every aspect – planning, sales, operations, finance, personnel – because you’re working either alone or with a very small team of collaborators. You work hard, and the business grows to the point where being involved in everything is a job and a half. You are overworked, overwhelmed, and the freedom you dreamed of having when you started out is nowhere to be found.
Once a business grows beyond the capacity of the founding entrepreneur, what’s the best course of action? Since about half of all entrepreneurs are visionaries, they need to enlist the help of an integrator.
What are “visionaries” & “integrators”?
“Visionary” and “integrator” are the terms we use internally in EOS™ (the system I teach) to describe the top two leaders in a company. They might hold the titles of Chairman and President/CEO respectively, but for EOS purposes, we drop the ego titles and call them what they are: visionaries and integrators. Each has its own set of skills and personality traits — rarely are the qualities of both embodied in one person — and when one tries to be the other, bad results follow.
Visionaries are all about the “big picture”; about daring the company to be more. They are creative thinkers; they may have 20 new ideas a month, only two of which could make the company great. Visionaries solve big problems and pursue big relationships. They may be seen as “The Closer” in the sales area. But overall, visionaries, as the name implies, set the vision for the company.
Integrators are about making the visionary’s vision a reality. They are tactical thinkers and focus on executing the business plan that will make the “big picture” happen. They excel at “LMA”: leading, managing, and holding people accountable. They are clear communicators who get a charge out of designing and documenting processes, coaching people, filling the company with the right people, and solving sticky problems. They are the “glue” that holds everything together.
Problems arise in growing companies when the founding entrepreneur, who is usually a Visionary, also tries to be the Integrator. Most Visionaries simply are not good at day-to-day management and accountability. Some Visionaries know they aren’t Integrators, but many of them don’t. Some fancy themselves good at several jobs, so they attempt to lead the company, plus lead sales, plus have a say in operations, and maybe even oversee finance. These folks find themselves stretched paper-thin, often micro-managing line employees, and thus not truly excelling at anything.
When this happens, many entrepreneurs find themselves in a special kind of hell – they are visionaries to the core, and secretly (or openly) detest functioning as an integrator. This also puts the rest of the employees in a special kind of hell – serving under the leadership of a person who is unable to lead in a way they can latch on and relate to.
The irony is that when a visionary works himself to a frazzle because he feels the company’s success depends on his intimate involvement in every detail, he actually becomes an obstacle to greater success. To be effective, a visionary must stay fully engaged, but migrate into a clearly defined set of roles suited to his “big picture” abilities and delegate things that fall outside this area to someone who excels there.
In most cases, the big solution is to hire or promote an integrator to handle the crucial day-to-day functions of overseeing and integrating the rest of the businesses’ three main functions: marketing/sales, operations, and finance. The presence of the integrator makes the visionary more effective and allows the company to break through the “ceiling” and achieve new levels of success.
Once you have a good visionary / integrator pair in place, each must work very hard to understand the other, understand their respective roles, and NOT drive each other crazy. This is where a properly-detailed Accountability Chart (“AC”) comes into play. The AC is a customizable tool we use in EOS to clarify who is responsible for what and who reports to whom. Once all the roles are clearly defined, people no longer work at cross-purposes or step on one another’s toes.
In some cases, you might choose to hire an operations manager first. An operations manager leads one of the three key functions — usually the most complex part of the business with the most employees — and should answer to an integrator. He or she should know the technical work and be able to lead other technicians in accomplishing it.
If you hire an operations manager first, you can use the AC to customize a longer-range growth plan and fill other key positions the future, including integrator. Either way, the end goal is to free the visionary to focus on the things that represent the highest and best use of his/her talents. Having all the people in the right seats is critical if you want your company to grow and thrive.