Most agency owners are visionaries – able to see the future and come up with idea after idea to keep their agency on top of things. But most agency owners struggle to move those ideas forward on their own. They need an integrator to help them get things done – to wade through the details and processes. The integrator is the one to follow through and put the visionary’s ideas into practice.
This perfect combination of visionary and integrator is what my podcast guest Mark Winters focuses on in his book, Rocket Fuel. Mark is a Certified EOS Implementer, working with agencies to identify this combination of the “visionary” who makes it up and the “integrator” who makes it happen and puts them together within a framework that will get your agency to extraordinary.
See how identifying the visionary and the integrator in your agency can push you to the next level of success by learning:
- The “visionary” and the “integrator” from “Rocket Fuel” by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters
- How visionaries and integrators can build trust so that integrators can take control of what visionaries create
- What business owners need to do when they are an integrator and they need a visionary (most owners are visionaries)
- If you are a visionary, how to determine if you have an integrator on your team and what to do if you don’t
- The seven-step visionary integrator connection process for finding the right integrator
- How to know if you’re going to be able to sell your agency to your integrator or not (and what your exit plan can look like in both scenarios)
- Things that make visionary-integrator relationships fall apart
- The five rules and five tools for visionaries and integrators
- Assessing whether you need an integrator
- Why you need to read “Rocket Fuel”
- The Rocket Fuel Maximizer for getting more out of this topic
Mark Winters’ passion is helping entrepreneurs get unstuck so they can pursue their freedom. Depending on the unique situation, Mark’s talent for introducing just the right combination of perspective and process sparks teams to start moving, move faster, or begin moving in the proper direction – with clarity. As a teacher, coach, and facilitator, Mark spends most of his time directly engaged with entrepreneurial leadership teams as a Certified EOS Implementer—helping them implement the EOS model in their own companies. He’s delivered over 400 full-day EOS workshops with companies from around the U.S.
Mark has been an entrepreneur since the age of 28, after catching the “bug” during B-school at the University of Chicago. At last count, he’s started/bought/sold/shut down 11 different companies. One recent venture, as a Founder and CEO, had a very successful exit – yielding a 100x cash return in less than 3 yrs. All this activity has led to some recognition, including being named a Tech Titan finalist as an emerging company CEO, and listed as “40 Under Forty” by the Business Journal in both Milwaukee and Dallas. Mark is a “Freedom Forum” member as an EOS Implementer. He was also awarded Rookie of the Year and Chair Excellence distinctions by Vistage International.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/mark-winters/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- What the Relationship Between the Visionary and the Integrator Means
- How to Be Comfortable Giving Up Some Control in Your Agency
- How the Visionary and Integrator Should Cooperate
- How to Find the Right Person to Be Your Integrator
- Hiring Someone vs. Someone In-House Buying You Out
- Some of the Challenges of this Process
- The Five Rules and Tools for Visionaries and Integrators
- Can a Business Thrive Without an Integrator?
- How Agency Employees Should Bring Up the Need for an Integrator
Drew: Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. As any of you who know me or have been around me at all, know, I’m a huge fan of the EOS model/system or Traction as many of you call it. I believe that it can be an absolute game changer for agencies and many of you have heard me speak about the virtues and the values and you hear me referencing elements of that system when I speak or when I’m coaching and those sort of things. So, you have no idea how excited I am about today’s guest.
Let me tell you a little bit about our guest and what he has to do with all of that. Mark Winters, his passion is helping entrepreneurs get unstuck so they can pursue their freedom. Depending on the situation, Mark’s talent is mixing the perfect match of perspective and process, which sparks teams to either start moving, move faster, or perhaps move in a different or proper direction, but all with clarity. As a teacher, coach, and facilitator, Mark spends the most of his time directly engaged with entrepreneurial leadership teams. He is a certified EOS implementer, and he helps them implement EOS inside their own companies. Many of you will recognize Mark’s name as the co-author of Rocket Fuel, a book I am recommending on a regular basis. The one essential combination that will get you more of what you want from your business.
Mark has delivered over 400 full day EOS model workshops with companies all over the US. This is not new territory for Mark. He has been entrepreneurial since the young age of 28. He caught the bug while he was in B School at the University of Chicago. At last count, he has started, bought, sold, or shut down 11 different companies. One recent venture, as founder and CEO, has had a very successful exit yielding a 100 times cash return in less than 3 years. So we’ll dig into that a little bit.
All of this activity has led to recognition including him being named a Tech Titan finalist as an emerging company CEO, listed as one of the 40 under 40 by the Business Journal in both Milwaukee and Dallas. He is a Freedom Forum member as an EOS implementer. He has also been awarded Rookie of the Year and Chair Excellence distinctions by Vistage International. So, Mark, welcome to the podcast.
Mark: Thanks so much Drew, appreciate you having me on.
What the Relationship Between the Visionary and the Integrator Means
Drew: So, let’s talk a little bit about … Rocket Fuel is a companion book to the Traction series of books and it specifically focuses on the unique relationship between the visionary and the implementer, right?
Mark: Yeah, and the integrator.
Drew: Integrator, right. You’re the implementer. So let’s tell, for folks who are not familiar with that, give them the distinction between the two and how they come together.
Mark: Sure, so one of the things we notice in working with tons of entrepreneurial businesses at that phase where they’re between about 10 and 250 people was, when we could get a team that had these two different types of leaders, the visionary being sort of the idea engine. A lot of times it’s a founding entrepreneur but they’re just coming up with new stuff all the time. They can practically see the future. Then, what we call the integrator, which is the much more execution focused, detail oriented, follow through kind of leader that makes stuff happen. When we get those two in combination, those businesses just went way faster and way higher than all the others. So that’s where this structure came from and at the heart, that’s the difference between the two is the visionary makes it up, and then the integrator makes it happen or makes it real.
Drew: And in an organization that has not identified those roles, and typically, let’s say it’s an agency that is owned by a single person, are they trying to do both of those things?
Mark: Yeah, so a lot of times, it’s just a matter of not realizing they’re doing both of those things. So, we’ll describe the functions in an organization as you’ve got your traditional stuff of marketing and sales and operations and finance. Everybody knows that all that stuff has to happen, in really any business, but then it’s sort of like there are these two other functions. Integration is a function. Visionary is a function. So, a lot of times in somebody who’s doing both of those themselves, they just don’t realize it. They’re just happily, or maybe not so happily, fighting along and just doing whatever needs to be done, not really making a distinction between, “Wow, these are completely different functions that I’m trying to pull together under my hat.”
Drew: Right. So if I’m a solo owner and I’ve been sort of … We’re chugging along and things are fine, how do I assess if I’m more of the visionary or the integrator?
Mark: Well, it just so happens we have a test for that. On our website, we have two different assessments. We have a Visionary Indicator Assessment, and we have an Integrator Indicator Assessment. I really encourage folks to take both of those. They’re real short. Twenty questions a piece, and it will give you a sense of how high on the scale you fall in each of those different realms. There’s just different ways of being wired. Typically, somebody is going to be much more of one than the other. Although, we do occasionally find folks that are balanced, but usually not at a super high level. So the likelihood that we would have somebody who’s really high on the visionary scale and really high on the integrator scale is pretty rare. So, we find that usually it’s not people doing both because they’re really great at both, they’re doing both because they just didn’t realize it or they didn’t have another option.
Drew: Yeah, it had to get done, right?
Mark: It had to get done. That’s right.
Drew: We’ll put this in the show notes, but while we’re here. Give everyone that URL where they can go and find that test.
Mark: Sure. Rocketfuelnow.com.
How to Be Comfortable Giving Up Some Control in Your Agency
Drew: Okay. So, let’s assume that, as you said, many business owners … In our case, for our audience, many agency owners are probably visionaries. As I talk to them about this concept, it’s an interesting mix of emotion on their face. One is, “Thank God I can give this stuff that I don’t like to do or I’m not great at to someone else,” but also a, “Oh my God, I have to give some of this to someone else.” So it’s a control issue.
Mark: Yes. Go ahead.
Drew: How do you help someone wrap their head around that?
Mark: So the first thing that I want to kind of hit on because it just really resonates with me is the word control. When we started this project, I sort of had this premise in mind that it was exactly that. It was one of the things that made this hard, people didn’t want to give up control. The more visionaries that I talked to, what became apparent to me, is that was not really about control. It was about trust. The reason for that is we have in our histories, all visionaries, the experience of taking something that’s really special to us, it’s like our favorite toy, and we hand it off to somebody else to play with or to work with, and the next thing you know, we look back and they’ve dropped it and it’s laying there on the floor in a hundred pieces. It’s like, “Ah, that was my thing. That was something that I really cared about.”
That sort of scars us, and it makes us really protective that we think that’s going to happen anytime that we hand something off. So we just don’t trust someone else to take care of it. So that becomes absolutely essential in this integrated relationship. We have to build this level of trust that the things we do hand off to them, they’re going to be able to take care of. They’re going to be able to do something good with, and they’re going to respect it and take care of it just like … Maybe not in the same way we would, but with the same regard that we would. Does that make sense?
Drew: Yeah. So how in the early stages of the relationship, how does that trust get built?
Mark: Well, there’s a number of different levers that we pull. In Rocket Fuel, we lay out what we call the Five Rules and the Five Tools. One of the five rules is that you stay on the same page with each other. So, we have a structure called a Same Page Meeting, where at least once a month, the visionary and the integrator protect time to sit down one-on-one with each other in a place that they won’t be interrupted, each of them brings a list of, we’ll call them “issues,” to that meeting. When we say issues here, really it’s anything that you need to discuss with the other one. It could be, “Hey, something I want to bounce off of you, something I have questions on I’m not clear about, something I don’t think you’re clear about, something we seem to be out of sync on or somehow not on the same page that we need to talk through.”
So both parties bring their list and then the agenda is really simple. The first thing is we check in with each other on a really human level, recognizing that this relationship is a big time relationship. It’s almost like a marriage. In fact, I have one client that they refer to their integrator, the visionary refers to the integrator as his business spouse. So, I mean, it’s that level of a really strong important relationship. So we want to know each other as people. Hey, what’s going on in your world? How are things with this and that, hobbies, interests, family, whatever, and really kind of understand the total picture of what’s going on with each other. So we check in with each other like that and share some information. A lot of times we’ll go through kind of a checklist of family and friends and just fun stuff.
Then, after that you get into the heart of the issues. We just lay all these things out on the table and just start chipping away at them. One at a time, knock them off until we get on the same page about what each of them are. The commitment is that we stay in that meeting, we stay in that room until we’re absolutely 100% back on the same page about everything. Sometimes this meeting, Drew, it might take 90 minutes. Other times it might take six hours or eight hours, and that’s okay. Because the time we spend there, getting in sync, getting on the same page is going to pay us huge dividends once we walk out of that room.
How the Visionary and Integrator Should Cooperate
Drew: So in that meeting, I’m the owner and let’s just call me the visionary, and I’ve got an integrator, what keeps me from, as the owner, just going, “I totally hear what you’re saying, but no”? How does that work when typically one of you is going to be in more of a power position than the other?
Mark: Yeah, well the interesting thing is we give the integrator a lot of power. So, the commitment and the resolution process between the two … I do interviews with visionaries, integrators all the time, and I’ll ask them, “When you guys disagree on something, how do you get to closure? How do you decide?” A lot of times what I’ll hear, it’s sort of surprising, they disagree. They have different points of view a lot, but it’s never, or very rarely, the power play where the visionary just sort of puts their foot down and says, “No. We’re not going to do that.” Much more often, it’s sort of an exploration of understanding where they circle it and one starts seeing what the other one was seeing, and now they both have a more complete full picture and that’s what brings them into agreement. That’s one scenario.
Another one is when one is just more passionate about it. One just feels more strongly than the other one does. So, a lot of times that will kind of be the swing. Then there’s other times where, as we teach in the book, ultimately operationally, we want the integrator to have the space to make the call. We want the integrator to be, when we can’t see it clearly, when we can’t decide, we don’t have to reach consensus, we don’t have to be in complete agreement, we want the integrator to have the freedom and really the accountability to make that call. As the visionary, that’s a little bit of, “You know what? I just got to let them do it.” That’s hard sometimes, depending on what it is. But if you believe and trust that, “You know what? I have informed them. I have given them my best thinking, so I do believe we’re on the same page about where we’re trying to go. I’m going to trust them operationally, executionally, that they know that this path is the better way to get us to where we’re trying to go.”
Now, if you watch that over time, and the integrator has a pattern of blowing decision after decision, they’re just making a series of bad decisions, then the flag goes up and you go, “Look. You’re not hitting it. You’re not doing it.” Then, it may be time for the visionary to, in fact, change the integrator. But you’ve got to give them that chance. You’ve got to give them that rope to make those decisions and a lot of times what the visionary learns is, “Wow, they were right. They saw something, they knew something that I didn’t know. That’s why they’re here. By them pushing back on me, and helping make sure we went the right way, we actually got farther faster and did better.”
Drew: My guess is that it’s like any relationship, you trust on the little things first and as those go well, you trust on bigger things and bigger things. Pretty soon, the relationship is roughly formed and you are able to let go of something and let the other person’s decision drive the boat.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely right. One of the other things we talk about a lot is patience. As you’re coming into this relationship, you should not expect that out of the gate it’s like somebody magically flipped a switch and you’re all the way to 100%. It takes time.
I was talking to a visionary the other day, and they literally brought the integrator and kind of just had them watch for the first three months and they didn’t make any decisions. They just kind of shadowed and watched. They have a very deliberate transition plan in place where over time, they’re handing over this one direct report, then another one, then another one, and gradually over the course of about, in their case 18 months, they’re making this slow gradual transition. Now it’s a sizable company. I have other companies where, boom, they just go right in and they’re right in the water and they’re right in the middle of the fight from the jump.
But I think you’re absolutely right, that we see this natural progression where, through the shared experience of having the discussions, going through the conflict, getting to know each other, and learning how to play together in this environment that we call a business, you begin to get there and the trust grows if you’re intentional about it, through the Same Page meetings. There’s other things you can do to. So, Same Page meetings, I have a lot of folks that they’ll have fun with that. So they’ll have their same page meetings on a golf course or they’ll be out having wine and smoking cigars. Any of that is fair game. I have one pair that was telling me they take visionary-integrator retreats. So the two of them will just go off and have, not just enough time for a same page meeting, but they’ll literally take a day or a series of days where they’re just really getting in tune with each other and it’s all about building that trust, just like you said.
Drew: So, in the intro when you were describing the different roles, you said, which is what I think most people would assume, is that in many cases the founder is the visionary, but I’m also sure you on occasion see cases where the business owner or founder is the integrator and they’re looking for a visionary. Has that happened?
Mark: Yeah, so it’s rare. Because here’s how it usually happens. The integrator, usually a pure integrator is not the profile that’s going to go start a business. So the question is, “How’d they end up there?” There’s a couple of different ways they ended up there, if that’s the case. One is it’s a multi-generational business.
Drew: Sure. Right, Mom or Dad started it and here I am.
Mark: Exactly. Yep, and it could have been more than one generation ago. So all of a sudden, whoever it is, didn’t get the visionary gene and they’re just not that, but they may be a great integrator. So then it’s like, “Wow, how do we fill that gap?” If it’s a business that needs a lot of visionary, and different businesses have different needs for visionary. If you’re a drywall hanging company, you don’t need as much visionary as you do if you make some kind of neuro implant thing that puts artificial intelligence inside your brain.
Drew: Or you’re an agency, right? Where you’re constantly re-inventing the way you help clients and customers communicate.
Mark: Exactly right. With a huge creative component. So, if you need visionary and it’s not there, then you’ve got to go get it. What we’ve learned and seen on that front is that’s not typically just something you hire. So, it normally comes with somebody coming into the business in a partnership kind of way. So, they’re going to be a part owner. They’re going to have some kind of stake in the game, which is absolutely consistent with the kind of profile, the entrepreneurial profile who would go start something. If I can’t go start something, and it can’t be mine or at least part mine, eh, I’m bored. I’m not as interested in that. So that lines up perfectly with what we see them doing in the first place.
How to Find the Right Person to Be Your Integrator
Drew: So in many cases, someone will kind of look around their shop and go, “Oh, I know who my integrator is,” or “I have an integrator. I just never recognized that that is what they could do.” But in other cases, they look around and they say, “I don’t have that person or I don’t have that person at a high enough level.” So I want to take a quick break, and then I want to come back and talk about how does one find the elusive other half to your whole. So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and chat about that.
Okay, we are back. I am here with Mark Winters, the author of Rocket Fuel, the one essential combination that will get you more of what you want from your business, and we’re talking all about a Traction EOS system, however you refer to it. But the whole idea of this visionary and integrator combination, which is the focus of the book that Mark wrote.
Before the break I asked a question or I posed the question that sometimes agency owners look around and by golly, you have an integrator on staff already there, a senior person, and you can move into this relationship pretty seamlessly and easily because odds are that they’ve worked for you for awhile and you trust them. But in some cases, you may be looking up and down the ranks and saying, “I don’t have anyone who is ready to fill that role or is wired to fill that role,” and in that case, Mark, how would an agency owner go about finding … How do you recognize a good integrator and how do you go about finding them?
Mark: So, a couple of parts to this question, Drew, I think. The first one is, I want everyone to recognize that the integrator is the scarce commodity. What we found is for every four visionary profiles there are in the world, there is one integrator profile.
Mark: Yeah, so our numbers are already four to one and it gets worse. Here’s why. That one integrator would not be an ideal fit for all four of those visionaries. When I say fit, I want you to think of kind of a two-piece puzzle where the puzzle edges have to fit together just right. So that goes back to the tests or the assessments that we mentioned at the very beginning. That assessment helps you understand the shape of your edge, the shape of that visionary edge of the puzzle to where you’re looking for an integrator that compliments your shape.
So the answer to your first question is, if I have somebody on the team or in the house already, that might be a good one. Give them that assessment. Let them take that test. You take it. Take both. Take the visionary and integrator. You’ll really understand yourself from that exercise, and then have them take it and then look at how those fit together. You might discover, that would be great if you did, that you’ve already got somebody on the team that fits that role really well.
So that’s one scenario. The other scenario, like you said, is I just don’t. There’s nobody here that appears to be anywhere close to having the capabilities and the wiring to do this well. So, in that case, we’ve built what we call the visionary-integrator connection process. It’s seven steps that gets you from here to there. From not having one to getting connected with one. The first really four steps are pretty introspective. So they’re all kind of looking in.
The first one is something we call the visionary spectrum, which is really understanding your business and how much visionary it requires. It’s sort of the example we talked about before where an agency is going to require a lot more visionary than a sheet rock company is. It looks at your industry type, your growth aspirations, how your market’s changing, the complexity that you’re working in, and you get real about where you fall on that spectrum.
Second thing is, once you’re clear on that, you look at the visionary’s profile. So, how are you made up? Through those assessments, you’re trying to understand the edge of your puzzle piece, and there’s another exercise in there that we call the Wish List where basically you pour out on paper all the things that you wish a great integrator would show up and take off your plate. If I had a great integrator, I’d have them do this. They could do this. They could solve that. You just kind of get that all out and look at what that looks like. That starts to inform what you need that complementary other half to look like.
So that’s the third step is getting clear on the integrator profile that we need and really forming a job description. So we have in the book, we have what we think is a really good generic integrator job description. It’s a compilation of a bunch of folks that have a lot of experience with visionaries and integrators. We think that’s a really good start that you could take and with just a little bit of refinement, make it a good fit for your business.
So you’ve got that. You’ve got the picture of both pieces of the puzzle. Then the fourth step is dealing with what we call the readiness factors. There are four readiness factors. This is just a check on you, the visionary, to make sure you’re really ready to move down this path. So the four areas you’ve got to look at, one is financial. This isn’t free, right?
Mark: So we’ve got to go ours …
Drew: And odds are this person is not going to be a bargain, right? Because A, they’re scarce, and B, they’re at a high skill level.
Mark: Yeah, and guess what? Visionaries tend to underestimate how much they should be compensating them, right?
Mark: So, go ahead.
Drew: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think that’s a challenge for visionaries in general is the reality side of those kinds of details.
Mark: Yeah, I mean it’s just, we as visionaries, and I say we because I am a visionary myself. It’s always harder than I thought. It always cost more than I thought. So I’m a …
Drew: Takes longer too.
Mark: … chronic underestimator.
Mark: Takes longer too, exactly. So financial readiness is you’ve got to get your head around, “Look. This is how much this is going to cost you and I’m ready to do that. I’m ready to invest that in pursuit of this freedom that I believe this is going to create for me and the impact that it’s going to empower through my business.”
So the second one is psychologically, and this is kind of where the letting go … We talked about control and trust. So, psychologically am I ready to partner up with somebody like that, and have a relationship that’s this strong and this big and heavy with an integrator.
The third one is lifestyle. A lot of times there’s just a point in your life curve where things happen, and all of a sudden, “I’ve got kids now. I don’t want to do all of this and that and whatever I used to do before. So I’m just kind of at that place where I have a lifestyle shift that I want to make and an integrator is going to help me do that,” or I’m not. So you want to see where you’re at on that curve.
Then, the last one is unique ability. Dan Sullivan talks about unique ability, this set of capabilities that we’re uniquely gifted with that will continually energize us. We could do this stuff forever and we’re great at it and people watch us do it and they sort of marvel at, “Wow, how can you do that?” So how ready are you to really just play in your unique ability and let those things go that are not your unique ability, but happen to be somebody else’s, like an integrator’s.
So, the first four steps there. Now we’ve gotten real clear on where we are, what we need, and if in fact, we’re ready. If we fail on those readiness factors, our counsel to you is don’t move forward because you’re just going to trip. You’re just going to false start.
Drew: Yeah, this is not going to end well.
Mark: Yeah, I mean, you’re kind of doomed to fail before you start. So wait until you’re ready. At some point in the future, you might be, and if you are ready, you look at those readiness factors and you’re like, “Oh, man. Let’s go,” then great. Let’s move on to step five which is search and find. There’s different ways to do it. We see things as simple as just sort of letting your network know that, “Hey, I’m looking for an integrator and here’s what that means.” Just getting your circle of influence out there and vibrating with, “Hey, Drew’s looking for an integrator.” We see tons of pairs, tons of connections that get made just through that.
So, from there, you can go and you can do things like hire a recruiter. There’s actually more and more recruiting firms that specialize in finding integrators. So there’s professional help that you can get to make it go faster, but at the end of the day it’s just all a function of you getting the word out, that this is what you’re looking for, and then going through and doing the work to screen them and make sure that they’re a good fit in alignment with that profile that you came up with and, step three, what you want them to look like and what you really need to complete your two piece puzzle.
Drew: Boy, that’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of work on the visionary’s part even before they start looking.
Mark: It really is and it’s kind of self-work and getting clear throughout. So you can’t do anything good without getting clear about what you’re trying to .. What you need.
Drew: Yeah, the readiness is the key, right? You have to be open and willing to make the changes, give up the control, build the trust, and all of that. And also, that I would guess, part of it is, acknowledging that this is not a quick process.
Mark: Absolutely right. That kind of touches a little bit on all of those different readiness factors I think because it is going to take time.
Hiring Someone vs. Someone In-House Buying You Out
Drew: So, one of the ways that I sometimes see agency owners approaching this, again, acknowledging that probably they’re a visionary is they are mid-50s and all of a sudden they’re … You talk about a lifestyle change or starting to slow down, maybe all of the kids are out of the house. They’re getting a little more tired of the grind every day. Sometimes I see agency owners looking for an integrator with the hope that they are also their successor. So I’m looking to hire someone or bring someone in that will eventually buy me out. Are those two separate things?
Mark: That’s a really good question. One of the things that comes up from time to time is, “Can I grow into a visionary?” What I see is, I think the answer is yes, but it’s not so much that you change your spots. It’s that you do the, what I would call, hard work on the front end of the process of the more integrator type activities just as part of learning. It’s really part of the education of learning how this stuff works and how it goes. Then, down the road, being able to be exposed to enough that you could step into the visionary seat more fully.
Now, somebody’s who going to be able to do that should score really pretty high on both of the indexes, on both of the assessments for that really to work. That’s a possibility, and it kind of …
Drew: But kind of a unicorn.
Mark: Kind of a unicorn, yeah. So it’s kind of a rare thing. You need to think about, if you need somebody to come and be a great integrator, you’re probably going to look for a different profile than if you’re looking for somebody to come and fill the integrator seat for a little while and then take over for you as the visionary. Does that make sense?
Drew: Yeah, it does, but it also might suggest that instead of looking for one person, your business may need in value, an integrator today. But that integrator, if they truly are an integrator and they’re not the unicorn, they may need somebody to come alongside them who would fill the visionary role as you phase out.
Mark: Exactly, and that kind of goes back to the discussion we had a little earlier which is that’s unusual because somebody who’s a true, really out there visionary, a lot of times they’re wanting to go start their own thing or they already have. So it’s why am I going to come do this? Why am I going to do that? You can do it. You can make it happen, but usually it involves some ownership.
Drew: So, again, if I’m the 55 year old agency owner. I may say, “You know what? I’m going to work and find a great integrator and I’m going to work with them for the next 3 to 5 years, and while we’re doing that, we’re going to go on the hunt for my replacement who would or could buy me out or share in the ownership with the integrator. But now, I’m in essence, putting together a partnership of the two halves of the whole that will replace and supersede me.
Mark: Yeah, and think about how much more saleable that makes your agency.
Some of the Challenges of this Process
Drew: Right, absolutely. Yep. Absolutely. So, my guess is, doing this as long as you have, you have on occasion seen where this didn’t really go well. What are the pitfalls that agency owners should be mindful of, if they are ready to embrace this, where it tends to go sort of off kilter?
Mark: Yeah, so a couple of things. One is failure to embrace that same page rule. It’s just … I would bet heavily on it’s not going to work. So, if a visionary-integrator pair are unwilling and undisciplined about taking the time and committing to holding those meetings regularly and consistently getting on the same page, it’s going to come unwound. It just will. They’re going to have the divorce thing happen between them. It can be pretty devastating in a lot of different ways. So I’ve seen that.
The other one that happens is it’s sort of a version of jumping over those readiness questions we talked about and without checking their self well there, all of a sudden, they end up in this relationship. What the dysfunctional behavior that happens then is they will not hand things off or worse, they’ll hand them off and kind of take them back, or they’ll do a lot of what we call end runs. End runs can happen one of two ways. So you put the integrator in place and one version of an end run is when somebody who is now supposed to be reporting to the integrator just bypasses them entirely and comes back to you, the visionary, for direction and decisions and all that kind of stuff. So they kind of try to cut the integrator out. If you let them do that, you’re going to cut your integrator off at the knees and it’s going to be very difficult for them to be effective.
The second way that an end run happens, is that the visionary will go around the integrator and they go down into the organization and they start telling people what to do and giving direction and making decisions. I call that tampering. That’s really just as damaging. So either one of those types of behavior is really dysfunctional and can really inhibit your integrator’s ability to be effective and in all likelihood is going to drive them away.
Then, the third type of behavior that we see, one of our rules is to maintain mutual respect. So the nature of this relationship is it’s not that the integrator is the lackey of the visionary. It’s not that they’re something less than. Your eyeball to eyeball in this thing, and we’re in it together. So, we’ve got to have mutual respect for each other and we never say a harsh word about each other to anybody outside of just our one-to-one conversations. So, when that happens, what happens a lot of times is a visionary will be disrespectful to their integrator and they’ll talk down to them.
Drew: Yeah, a little passive aggressive perhaps.
Mark: A little passive aggressive or a little out right aggressive sometimes. They’re just kind of mean. What I tell, when we see this, and I’ve seen it, my counsel to an integrator is you’ve gotta decide is that something you’re willing to live with. If you’re willing to live with that and you’ve tried to change it or you can’t change it, whatever, then okay. You lie in that bed and be there and just be happy. But if that’s not something you’re willing to live with and you’ve either got to change it or you need to go. You owe it to yourself. Life’s too short. Go find somewhere else, and frankly, again, the integrator are the scarce commodity …
Drew: Right. Recognize your value.
Mark: Recognize your value and own that. That visionary is going to learn the hard way. If they’re going to treat people like that, this integrator is going to leave them and they’re going to have a heck of a time finding another one. These integrators are going to find good homes out there working for great visionaries who treat people with respect and doing wonderful, wonderful things together.
Drew: Well, and my guess is that, in that circumstance often, it’s a reality that the visionary probably was never ready to begin with. So, for whatever reason, headed down the road and the writing was written on the wall from the beginning, but it shows up in this either disrespectful behavior or … I see a lot of, “I give them control, but then I take it back,” and sort of in that way also disrespectful but perhaps not in a tone or in language, but in behavior.
Mark: Yeah, I think that’s right. In that third scenario where it’s just disrespectful, a lot of times that’s a values thing. So it’s they don’t really have matching core values, and that didn’t come out apparently before they got into this. When there’s good solid core values and everybody’s in alignment around that, that kind of behavior usually doesn’t happen.
Drew: Right, so again, that’s part of the interview process, which I would hope companies would be doing regardless of the position they’re filling is, “Are we in alignment at that level?” Right?
Mark: Absolutely right. You’ve got it. We have an EOS model. We have a tool called the people analyzer that helps you look at that and it helps you see how well someone fits with the core values. Normally, it’s the company doing it to the candidate, right? So the visionary doing that to the integrator, but the integrator, as integrators are out there having these conversations, they need to be understanding that as well and kind of seeing if they really like the core values of this particular agency and if they think they’re going to be a good fit there or not, and be real honest about that.
Drew: Yeah, well you used the analogy it’s sort of like a marriage. It’s sort of like you’re marrying into that family. Do I like how that family is together and how they celebrate holidays or whatever’s important to you? But the family’s not going to change, right? So if you’re the integrator coming in, the agency probably isn’t going to change because the visionary is setting the tone, so you’ve got to find the right fit.
Mark: Yep, that’s dead on. Just think about how much time the integrator is going to be spending with that visionary. They better enjoy hanging out together.
The Five Rules and Tools for Visionaries and Integrators
Drew: Right. So you talked about, there were some rules and some tools, and I know one of the tools is the whole idea of the same page meeting. Is there another tool that you think is absolutely critical of the list that people need to be aware of?
Mark: Yeah, so actually same page meeting is a rule. So the five rules, quickly, and I’ve kind of talked about them. Actually without even thinking about it. So, yeah, staying on the same page, that’s a rule. No end runs. We talked about what end runs are, that’s a rule. Maintaining mutual respect, that’s a rule. Integrator is the tie breaker. We talked about the integrator making decisions, so that’s a rule. Then the fifth rule, and actually this probably really relevant for your audience, Drew, is that we’re employees when working in the business.
So, this is about the owner-employee rules of the game. So, we build a structure we call an accountability chart. This is through EOS, and in that we lay out all the different seats folks are going to sit in and what they’re going to do. A lot of times, in a professional services firm, where you’ve got multiple folks, maybe, that are owners, they want to sit in that seat and fill that role, but when things aren’t going their way, they may have a habit of kind of throwing down the, “Yeah, but I’m an owner card.”
Drew: Right, they want to play the owner card. Yep.
Mark: Want to play the owner, and that’s very damaging. It really kind of blows the whole integrity of a system that we’re trying to put in place for people. So, we’ve got to remember, and this is one of the rules, that when you’re working in the business, when you’re sitting in one of those seats in the accountability chart, you’ve got to play by the same rules that everybody else does. Anybody that we would hire from outside to put in there, you’ve got to play just like they would and really thinking of it, if you’re an owner, as, “I need to set the example of how we would want an employee to behave in this seat.” I’ve got to set the standard because they’re looking at me and if we pull that owner card out and play it when we’re trying to sit in the seat and play role, it just makes the whole thing come unwound. So that’s the last of the five rules.
Drew: Okay, and what are the tools real quick?
Mark: The tools. So, tool number one is the accountability chart. So we just referenced that. That lays out all the stuff that has to happen and who’s going to do it and who they’re accountable to.
Second tool, we call the core questions. That’s where we get clear on our core values, our core focus, what our big why is and what kind of business we’re in, our ten year target, that horizon mechanism that sits out there in the future for where we want to be ten years from now, our ideal customer and our target market we’re going after, and the three uniques for how we win, why they choose us over their alternatives, and finally, the three year picture. So where we want this thing to be three years from now, what we want it to look like. So, collectively, those five are the core questions. That’s the second tool.
Third tool is the idea of this 90 day world, where we’ve got to work in sort of 90 day chunks. We get really clear. We get synced up. We decide what the priorities are for the next 90 days, and then we go heads down, work really hard, and hold each other accountable for the 90 days. Then we pick our head back up as a team and kind of reset and do that process all over again.
Fourth tool, is the weekly level ten meeting. So that’s where the team gets together and has a very clear, concise meeting pulse each week to lay out the latest of what’s going on, flush the issues out onto the table, and really spend most of that meeting working on solving the problems that are getting in the way of the priorities that we’ve set and where we’re trying to go.
The last of the five tools is the score card. So that’s the handful of measures that we need to be watching, that if we can really get those right, they’re going to tell us what we need to be looking at, they’re going to tell us what we need to be working way sooner than if we weren’t looking at those numbers. So it’s sort of an issue spotting radar for us to see those issues way sooner than we would otherwise. So if we see that we’re going to end up in the ditch before we actually end up in the ditch.
Drew: Yep, and all of those are core tenets of the whole EOS model, right?
Mark: Absolutely right.
Can a Business Thrive Without an Integrator?
Drew: Yeah. So I’m curious, can a business with a strong visionary survive and thrive without an integrator? So is it a luxury or is it a necessity in your opinion?
Mark: So great question, and I would answer it with this response. It depends on what you want. So, if you want this business to do something truly great. If you want to spend the majority of your time in your unique ability doing those things that really only you can do, that you’re absolutely great at, that you absolutely love doing. If you want to create this freedom where you’re able to make more money, have more time, spend your time in relationships with the folks that you want to and really maximize your overall impact, then I would say yes, an integrator is a requirement. There’s those small handful that might be able to fill both of the roles themselves, but most of those, in fact, almost all of those when I really pin them down and I say, “You know what? If you could spend your time doing this or this and you had to pick one,” almost all of them have a preference for one over the other.
Drew: Right. Well, and they’re both kind of full time jobs as it is. So it’s also not just an “I have an idea ability. It’s not that I have the capacity to do it, but I have to also have the capacity in terms of time and bandwidth to do all of those things.”
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of times, the first step is in that accountability chart process, when you split the seats out and you go, “okay, the visionary is responsible for these things. The integrator is responsible for these things, and right now I’m sitting in both of those seats,” almost every time, the person who’s sitting in both of those seats looks at those and goes, “Oh my gosh. I’ve been doing all that?”
Then they realize, what they’ve really been doing is they’ve been doing either both of them not very well or they’ve really been gravitating towards the one they’re more naturally wired for and they’ve been totally neglecting that other, and our firm, as a result, hasn’t been getting much of that.
Drew: Right. Yeah, it’s fascinating so much of this is about the business owner really being able to look at him or herself in the mirror and see objectively and honestly where their strengths are, where their gifts are, what they could really uniquely bring to the business but also, where they perhaps are slowing the business down or holding the business back or they’re the bottleneck, and acknowledging that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Mark: Yep. A lot of times when I’m working with a leadership team, and the leadership team finds out about this concept of an integrator, they’re the ones that are pushing for it. Because they’ve been a victim of this visionary not doing a very good job being a manager, and just peppering them with just all kinds of stuff, sort of all over the place, changing directions all the time. So they’re like, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to have one of those, and absolutely you, Mr. Visionary or Mrs. Visionary are not it. We need somebody who’s really great at that.” It’s a little bit humorous sometimes, and in teams that have a really healthy. But it’s sort of this aha moment where all of a sudden, it becomes visible and everybody sees, “Wow, we would be so much better off if we just filled this void.”
Drew: I have to think sometimes it’s also pretty painful. It’s got to be painful for the business owner to really truly see where they have been sort of dropping the ball.
Mark: Yeah, maybe on the front end, we’ll see that sometimes where it’s kind of like, “Ah, man. Did I blow that? Did I do damage? Did I … Whatever.” But so often, that’s just completely overshadowed on the other side.
Drew: With relief.
Mark: Yeah, I mean, when they get there it’s unbelievable. I had a panel discussion at an event recently, and asked the visionary to describe what it felt like when he was able to pass all this stuff off to the integrator on the other side, what did it feel like? In short hand, it was effing amazing. I mean, he just couldn’t say it strongly enough, how he felt.
Drew: Yeah, I’ve seen mental and emotional and bandwidth relief when the pair is finally together, and everybody is sort of living in their greatest strengths. Yep.
Mark: Absolutely. It’s a powerful combination when they get it right.
How Agency Employees Should Bring Up the Need for an Integrator
Drew: It is. So, last question and then we’ll wrap up. So if somebody who’s listening is not an owner, but they exist in an organization where the agency owner is truly a visionary and there’s not an integrator or maybe they think they’re the integrator or whatever. Short of tucking Traction or your book underneath their boss’s desk, how would somebody broach this topic? How would you suggest that someone, assuming that they have not talked about these things before, is there a way for an employee or someone on a leadership team to raise this issue of the need for an integrator tactfully or gracefully?
Mark: Well, I wish I had a great answer for you there, Drew. The answer that comes to mind for me, and this sounds self-serving, but I promise it’s not is to either put Rocket Fuel in front of them. There’s something about … I don’t know if it’s the title or whatever, but we wrote it for the visionary. Visionary won’t read text books, and there’s a lot of books that a visionary will just pick up and they’ll put it down and won’t read it. Most visionaries will read Rocket Fuel. It’s short. We kind of hook them because we’re talking about them from the first page. So that draws them in.
Literally, within the first chapter, or first three chapters for sure, they’ve seen enough where they will either go, “Oh, yep. This is for me,” and when they do, the next question out of their mouth is, “How do I get one?”
Mark: So I say that as the first strongest idea. The next idea I would give you is I shoot a little three minute video every week, and it’s just some little nugget on some Rocket Fuel related concept that has to do with visionaries and integrators. So, sign them up for that. So get that little thing to pop into their inbox, and odds are the first one they see will hit them with some kind of an experience or thought that they kind of would be curious about. Then, that will lead to a conversation.
Drew: You know, I lead, think of it as a Vistage group, only everybody around the table is an agency owner from some part of the country. So non-competitive people who do the same thing. So I lead a bunch of those as part of my role at AMI, and I will tell you … I cannot tell you how many times someone has walked in. Because part of what they have to do is they’re held responsible to teach each other things that they’ve learned, they’re physically together every six months, and I can’t tell you how many times somebody has literally walked into the meeting with a copy of your book and they start talking about it and I can watch all of them … It used to be in the old days, they would write it down. But now they’re all in front of their laptops, so they’re all going to Amazon to order the book while the person is talking because the owner is expressing such relief and such insight into, “Now I get why things haven’t been going as smoothly or as quickly or whatever as I wanted.”
So, I can say that your advice absolutely is not self-serving. That I have watched agency owners literally transform their agency after reading your book and recognizing that it was a need that their agency had that they just didn’t know.
Mark: Wow, that’s really cool to hear Drew. That’s neat.
Drew: Yep. So I wholeheartedly support your suggestions. So, I could chat about this stuff forever. I find it both fascinating and really inspiring. I think it’s such a powerful way for business owners to level up the game, and to actually get more joy out of the work they do. That’s the other part. We didn’t really talk about that very much, but I will say that for agency owners who have recognized themselves as visionaries and have found the rare integrator either already in their shop or they’ve gone out and found that person, I watch them love their work again, and that’s so rewarding.
Mark: Yeah, that’s absolutely true, and there’s sort of this dip that some visionaries will go through and the transition where they feel like they’ve handed all this stuff off and they’re kind of being put out to pasture a little bit. But that dip doesn’t last very long, and then they start to realize the power and the importance of the creative work that they can do when they have space and they have time to really be a visionary. Then, how powerful that can be when all of a sudden they