This Powerful Combination Will Help Your Business Soar

For many of us, the biggest threat to the continued growth of our businesses isn't changes in the marketplace or even our competitors. It's ourselves.

Entrepreneurs tend to be great visionaries, able to see where the big picture opportunities lie and translate that into amazing ideas. But we often lack the ability to stay focused on those great ideas long enough to see them through and execute on them successfully. Worse, we try to do everything ourselves and end up feeling stuck no matter how much time we spend on the business.

The problem: We're missing a key set of capabilities that is holding us back from soaring. So says serial entrepreneur Mark C. Winters, a business operator turned coach and co-author of Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business.

To gain these crucial skills, Winters believes we need to add a different type of leader -- the Integrator -- to the mix. "Integrators are the ones that are all about execution, details and follow through. In simplest terms you can think of it as the visionary makes it up, the integrator makes it real," he says. "When you combine those two powers, it acts like rocket fuel."

2015-08-28-1440772352-2825201-aes_winters.jpg

Indeed, behind many great business visionaries have stood Integrators (often unsung or unknown to the general public) who were crucial to the companies' success. Example: Henry Ford had James Couzens, who ensured that the notoriously perfectionist Ford would actually get cars to market. Ray Kroc had Fred Turner, who as McDonald's director of operations was the driving force behind some of the restaurant's iconic products and characteristics. And Walt Disney had his brother Roy, who actually got the castles that Walt dreamed of built.

Find your Integrator

Winters discovered that great Integrators are scarce resources. "The ratio may be as many as four visionaries to every one Integrator, so you probably should have some sense of urgency about finding yours," he says.

To that end, Winters offers a process for connecting visionary entrepreneurs with the right Integrators.

1. Determine the visionary spectrum for your business. The amount of vision you need to succeed depends on factors like your industry (high-tech needs more vision than a relatively static industry), your growth aspirations (trying to grow exponentially requires greater vision than does trying to hold on to what you've got), and the market environment impacting your business (is it highly competitive and fragmented? Is there lots of regulatory activity?)

2. Create your own Visionary's profile. Finding the right Integrator is like matching up two puzzle pieces, says Winters -- you've got to figure out your "shape" so you can find the right corresponding piece. What do you value deeply in your life and business? What are the biggest items on your list of responsibilities that you wish someone else would handle so you could focus on the high-level stuff you love doing?

3. Draw up an ideal Integrator's profile. What does the other piece of the puzzle need to look like in order to be a great fit? What is the Integrator's job description that you can define from this profile?

4. Decide if you are ready. There are four ways in which you need to be ready to bring an Integrator aboard:

  • Financially. Integrators aren't free, obviously, and cost is all that some entrepreneurs see. Can you get beyond the expenses and recognize the benefits an Integrator could bring? For example, the ability to solve problems faster, respond to opportunities quicker and give you more time to focus on rainmaking.

  • Psychologically. If you continue to try to run the entire show, you'll lose any benefits an Integrator can bring to the table. Are you in a place mentally where you're ready to trust someone else enough to let them really take the reins of parts of your company?
  • Lifestyle. Are you at a place in your life where you're ready to start handing things off because you want to spend more time doing things you enjoy that are outside of the business?
  • Ability. As an entrepreneur, you're probably capable of doing many things. But if you're truly honest with yourself, you'll admit there are tasks you'd prefer to focus your energy on. Are you ready to focus only on your unique abilities -- really dive into those areas -- and leave the rest to someone else?
  • 5. Identify ideal candidates. This part of the process can take on different forms, ranging from hiring a formal recruiter to something as simple as putting the call out to your network and letting people know the type of co-leader you're looking for.

    6. Hire and onboard. Once you make your selection, have a formal onboarding process to get the Integrator productive and making contributions as fast as possible.

    7. Stay in stride. The relationship between you and your Integrator will continually evolve, and over time it's natural for you to drift apart a bit. You'll also almost certainly butt heads once in a while because your personalities are different in many ways. To smooth the path, communicate regularly to see if you are on the same page in terms of overall direction and execution steps. Then realign as needed. Here again, Winters offers some key action steps:

    • Conduct regular "same page" meetings. Lay out any issues the company is facing, and that you and your Integrator as teammates are facing, so you can address and prioritize them.

  • Don't do (or allow) "end runs" around the Integrator. Sometimes entrepreneurs will sneak behind an Integrator's back when they disagree about an issue and get someone in the company to do their bidding. Likewise, employees who are used to reporting to you might end run the Integrator. Don't do it, and don't let it happen -- it undermines everything you're working toward.
  • Give the Integrator the tie-breaking vote. When those inevitable disagreements about direction occur between departments -- think of the classic "marketing versus operations" scenario -- let the Integrator hear both sides and make the final decision about which path to take. This gives the Integrator additional credibility with employees, and frees you up even further to focus on what you most want to do.
  • Further resources for exploring and applying these ideas can be found at www.RocketFuelNow.com, including a private group for Rocket Fuel book owners to connect, discuss, and interact with the authors. Winters says that private group has already started seeing individual Visionaries and Integrators each putting out the call to find their ideal match.

    Give yourself the tools you need to excel in your business and in your personal life. Check out the insights, tactics and actionable strategies from today's top entrepreneurs at AES Nation.