A visionary is someone who has a vision, an idea or a solution to a problem. An Integrator is a person who takes the visionary’s idea and makes it happen. When you bring the visionary and the integrator together, you get the business equivalent of rocket fuel! For an entrepreneurial company both are essential, no matter the size of the firm. They are opposites in how they think and problem-solve but if well-matched and working toward the same business goals, they can create a fantastic explosion of business growth.
What is a Visionary?
The entrepreneur who is a Visionary has the passion, drive and creativity – those key elements that will help launch the business and light the fire to grow the company. But as the firm grows the Visionary can become overwhelmed with the day-to-day operations and their passion and momentum begins to slow. The Visionary is more big-picture and loses enthusiasm when faced with the details that are important in keeping a business running.
Visionaries are just that – they operate on emotion more so than logic and are the “dreamers” who come up with big-picture ideas as well as coming up with creative solutions to problems. The company culture is very important to them and they place great value on it. While Integrators bring the necessary logic and structure to the business, the Visionaries give the Integrators a more creative insight to the business.
Think of visionaries like the fuel in the tank – there is a huge amount of potential energy, but without the spark to ignite it, that fuel might just end up sitting dormant.
What is an Integrator?
The Integrator on the other hand is the mechanical structure that can keep the day-to-day operations running. They have the ability to handle daily issues and “integrate” all three core functions of the business – sales and marketing, operations, and finance – and do so harmoniously.
The Integrators are the ones holding everything together, they provide the rhythm for the business, implement the business plan, are accountable for the results of the P&L, hold the Leadership Team accountable, and steer the ship. They also create clarity and organization for the firm, as well as communication and consistency. The Integrator is the one who will push for results and resolution, keep the firm focused, inspire team unity, and encourage prioritization and follow-through. Another important role is to act as the filter for all of the Visionary’s ideas.
And as both the filter of ideas and the one guiding the direction, they are the spark that ignites the Visionary’s fuel! Integrators decide when to use all of those great ideas and only do so if the ship is facing the right way.
Are You A Visionary or an Integrator?
When you realize the value of having a Visionary and an Integrator in the business, it will help you realize that you don’t have to be both. In fact, you cannot successfully be both! So first clarify which of the roles you identify with.
According to Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, authors of Rocket Fuel, you are a Visionary if you fit these characteristics:
- You are filled with grand ideas
- You tend to jump around without being focused on just one job
- You have strong relationship-building skills
- You encompass company culture
- You are constantly innovating and evolving
- You tend to approach things emotionally
- You care about the “what”
Integrators are like the child who continuously asks their parents “why?” to everything. But they have a good reason! Here are some of the characteristics of Integrators:
- You drive the leadership meetings
- You have exceptional project management skills
- You thrive on meeting goal deadlines
- You excel in conflict resolution
- Tou are accountable
- You are more logical than emotional in your approach
- You care about the “why” and the “how”
Neither can do it all, but rather each brings key components to create a successful business. It is an ideal combination of balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Obviously there is great value for a successful business to have both a Visionary and an Integrator. It’s common for the CEO of the business to be the Visionary. If that is you, is there someone on your team who fits the description of an Integrator? If not, consider recruiting one for your firm. No matter how many designers you bring on to the team, the key is to have the fuel to keep the engine going – something an Integrator, working in tandem with the Visionary, excels at.
Bringing Visionaries and Integrators Together
When establishing your company you identify the key functions and roles of the business. Then you want to fill these roles with leaders who will be accountable for creating results in each area. These are the people on your team who will make up the Leadership Team. The Leadership Team works with both the Visionary and the Integrator to make sure the operations of the business function smoothly. Having the right people in place is critical, which is why we so often recommend that you hire slowly and fire quickly. This allows you to achieve accountability, which helps you move your business to the next level.
As you consider the value of the Visionary/Integrator relationship, keep in mind these five rules that Wickman identifies for that relationship to be successful:
- Stay on the same page
- No end-runs
- The integrator is the tie-breaker
- You’re an employee when you work “in” the business
- Maintain mutual respect
Trying to be both the Visionary and the Integrator does not usually go well. Consider the valuable but distinct differences between their strengths. So often the Visionaries are lauded and those are the names we hear about, but without the Integrators, the Visionaries would never have seen their dreams launch to the moon!