Momentum Podcast: 581

The Integrator Myth

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

For visionary entrepreneurs, one of the biggest fantasies out there is to hire one person who is going to do all the things in our business that we don’t want to do, so we can stay in the visionary seat and grow our business without any frustration or pain. It feels like if we could only find the person that would take care of all of the details, we could stay in our zone of genius. The issue is, it takes a lot more than just a person; it takes an entire system to protect and support an entrepreneur. The expectation that a single person will come in and fix everything is unfair to them and unfair to you.  

The Traction EOS System revolves around the concept of an innovator who does everything in the business for the entrepreneur. And this podcast I discuss why this is not only unrealistic, it may cause you serious issues and get you stuck in a way no entrepreneur wants to be stuck.

Full Audio Transcript

This is the Momentum Podcast. One of the biggest entrepreneurial fantasies there is is that as a visionary, we can go out and find the person who's going to do all the things in our business that make us uncomfortable, that we don't want to do, that we don't want to participate in, so that we can just stay in the visionary seat and grow the business without any type of frustration or pain. This is literally a fantasy. I've never seen it actually work. And the challenge is, there's another company out there who actually uses this as a business plan that they sell to entrepreneurs.

The myth of the integrator is just that. Do not pursue this outcome. It will hurt you. It will hurt your business. It will challenge your growth and it will put you into massive exposure as an entrepreneur. I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum Podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum. So we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.

While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. Instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be. I rarely take direct aim at a competitive product or a competitive concept in my podcast, but today I want to make it clear I'm doing that and I want to do it respectfully. I want to do it in a way that isn't... Well, I want to just do it respectfully. And the concept I'm taking aim at today, the concept I want to tear down is the concept presented by Gino Wickman and EOS and the traction systems of the integrator.

Let me explain the concept to you so that you understand what I'm talking about when I say integrator, because this is a concept they created. Gino Wickman grew up in a family business and he worked with his father, and his vision of a business is that there is a visionary CEO on top and now draw a line down to a person called an integrator. Then draw a line down from that. And the rest of the org chart exists beyond that. The way the traction system tells CEOs to grow their businesses is, is to go out and find this person called an integrator and then put all communication, all structure, all of the infrastructure of the business in between, or sorry, put them in between the CEO, the visionary, and the structure of the business, the people, the communication the how things are getting done. Literally, the traction org charts are all drawn with CEO on top, line, integrator, rest of the org chart on bottom.

When I was a consultant, we used to make fun of those org charts, because whenever a visionary CEO was so detached from the company that they only communicated with one person and their primary communication was one person, we would joke about it like when you look at their org chart, it looked like a rake because it had this long handle on top and the org chart on the bottom. We would always say, "The handle's going to break in the middle on the rake, the handle's going to break at the integrator," and here's why this happens. When you take a person and you put them... Here's why the handle breaks when you take a person and you put them in that role.

So let's get real about why this promise works, why traction works, why people buy into this, why they say, "Hey, this makes sense. This is going to be great," because let me just repeat what I'm saying. So you're going to take your business and you're going to put a person in between you and the business and literally in between you and the business on the org chart and you're going to find a person who, today is capable of running your business, but is also capable of growing as you go from a million to three and three to 10 and 10 to 30 and continue to be in that general manager, integrator, running everything, running the whole business, communicating with everybody for you role, so that human being is near impossible to find. Now, if you work in a business where you're working with your dad, familial relationships create a lot of this visionary integrator relationship and we see it often where there's husband and wife or father, son, mother, daughter, where visionary integrator exists, and so it sometimes works in family relationships, but the reason the promise works is that this is what entrepreneurs want anyway.

We talk about this anyway, this comes up in our minds anyway. We think, "Can't we just find the person to do all the things," but it doesn't really make sense. If you just take a second and you really think about this, does it make sense that you're going to find one person to communicate with every person on a growing team like you would. And get the outcomes you want? Does it make sense that you're going to find somebody who can translate everything that you're looking for to a growing group of people? Does it make sense? There's going to be one integrator and an executive team, but you're going to primarily communicate with the integrator and they're going to communicate with the rest of the team. This doesn't really make sense.

In fact, what it does, as your business grows, especially if you're the visionary, so let's just put ourselves in that visionary spot for a second in the system where there's an integrator. You're in the visionary spot and there's a person in between you and the entire company and buses exist, and I don't say that rudely. I don't say that to be mean. I don't say that, but I do say that to get a response from you, because let's say that you have $1 million business and you're running everything through the integrator and things were going great and then it goes to three, then it goes to seven, then it goes to 13 and let's say you're at $13 million and your integrator says, "My husband has an issue with his family and we need to move back home and I can't do this anymore because I knew him and I need time." Or your integrator says, "I just found out I'm pregnant and I don't really want to have this many hours." Or your integrator says, "My wife just found out she needs to move and her career is more important than mine right now and we're going to move to where she needs us to move," and what happens to your business then?

You have massive overwhelming exposure because the person who was responsible for the entire communication, literally the person who's responsible for running the business is now going to leave or do something else. And here's the issue with the system in traction is that the cadence, the structure, the communication system, the way you plan is not strong enough to survive the removal of the person. You would have to rebuild it. In that integrator system with traction, there's no tie in to the system that you're running the business with, with the person to monthly looking at what people you should hire, what processes you should execute, and what projects you should be, or what processes you should document and what projects you should be executing. Because, here's what should be happening in your business.

You should have a ton of clarity as to what you're doing on a monthly basis. The entire team should understand it. You should have a system to renew that planning on a monthly basis. And so that everyone understands what they're doing and the whole team has clarity as to what their outcomes are, what you're measuring for success and what they're accountable to. If you have that system, then, if somebody who's in a leadership position leaves, the system will continue to carry forward the structure of the business. So the problem with the integrator myth is that two things, one, they are building the infrastructure business and two, it's not clear enough for somebody else to step in and watch it. So the system creates massive overwhelming liability for the business owner if you do it right. That's the challenge, is if you do it right, you create massive exposure and it's not just massive exposure.

Let's zoom in on this human being who is running your entire business for you. So in our system, we have what we call the operator, and in our system, the contrast here is that the operator doesn't run everything. The operator runs the communication cadence for the system, runs the planning system, runs a process through which we determine what we're going to do next and then ensures that it happens. But as the visionary, I'm in meetings with my executive team and I'm leading the team and we're leading it through a structure and it takes me about 300 hours a year. I'll say that again. It takes me total about 300 hours a year to do everything I need to do to lead the team. That includes prep, that includes time and meetings. That includes all in... Let me give you details.

That includes our annual, our quarterly, all four of them, our monthlies, all 12 of them, our weeklies, all 52 of them. We really do 51 we skipped one right around Christmas and our daily huddle, altogether less than 300 hours to run our business successfully, and to reduce exposure, not increase exposure, because when I'm in the room with our executive team, they're hearing from me. When we are in the room planning, they're hearing from me, the team is actually getting their direction from me. They're getting the go forward strategy from me and then Haley, as our operator, is helping us execute it together with the team, but we would never put her in this situation where 100% of the communication went through her.

In fact, we talk about it often. When we're at events, people ask her about what would it be like for her to be an integrator. And she laughs, she says, "I've seen the org charts. I understand the system, I understand what they're saying and I couldn't do it." And now I just want to make something very clear. Haley is probably... Oh, gosh, she might be the most talented operator I've ever worked with. Let me qualify that. She might be the most naturally talented operator I've ever worked with. And for somebody who's as naturally talented at her, and it's not just me saying this, when she speaks at our events, when she speaks with our clients, when she talks to people, they come back and they say, "How did you find her? She sounds more like an operator than anybody I've ever heard."

So just so you know, Haley is one of the people out there that they use as like, "This is a prototypical operator, this is what you want." And when she looked at this system, she said like, "I couldn't do this. I can't imagine how overwhelming it would be," because here's what it would mean. Here's the contrast between how we're running things today and how we would be running things. Instead of Hayley having a targeted interaction with me and then me leading the leadership team and having interactions with them so that they know what they're doing so that they're confident, she would be doing all of that. Instead of me participating like I do and supporting her like I do, she would be running way, way more of the business and she would be exposed, because she would only be communicating with me and being the intermediary, and that feeling of pressure and overwhelm for an operator as a business grows is overwhelming. They are literally set up to fail.

If you put somebody in the operator position and they are running the entire business for you, they're set up to fail because as the business grows, it gets exponentially overwhelming and your exposure grows. So let's look at what really happens in this system. Over time, the integrator becomes more overwhelmed and in any business, this is going to happen. In any business, there's going to be more work. In any business it's going to be harder. In any business, it's going to be more difficult, but in our structure, we literally have a system where on a monthly basis, we are planning to take away the pain. We are planning to take away the difficulty, we are planning to take away anything that's happening for the operator 12 times a year. In the integrator system, what happens is the integrator is set up to fail. Four times a year, they look at their planning, but there's not really a renewable structure there. It's just four times a year.

It's like we're doing new planning, and four times a year, the exposure and the, the pressure for that operator goes up. As entrepreneurs, we are deficit based. Here's what I mean by that. As entrepreneurs, we look for problems, we look for challenges, we look for issues, and as the operator pressure goes up, you're going to start seeing more challenges, more problems and issues, and either consciously or subconsciously, you're going to recognize just how much exposure you're under and it's going to start really challenging your ability to move the business forward. And if you're in this system, if you are in the traction EOS system and you have an integrator, I want to ask you some questions. Are you in a place where the business is challenged to grow right now? Are you executing the right things, but you're just not getting any traction, ironically, to move forward? Do you feel like you're accomplishing on a monthly basis, but the business isn't growing like you want it to grow?

Well, if those things are happening, if the business isn't doing what you want it to do, but you're running the system the right way, I want you to know something. There are inherent risks in that system that create massive liabilities because you are running everything through a human being. Prioritization only happens four times a year. There's no hardcore crammed down prioritization on a monthly basis and it slows how you grow and it increases your exposure.

One last thing about integrators, if you're a couple, if you're a husband and wife or a partnership and you go to this system, what they will do is they'll give you a test for either visionary or integrator. Those who are more operationally competent test out as integrators and those who are less operation competent test out as visionaries. Well, here's the challenge. In a lot of couples, there is a slightly more operational visionary and a slightly less operational visionary. That's the case in our family. I think, in given the situation, Katie and I are equal visionaries, but in the business that we have today, I drive much more of the visionary, the vision, the go forward strategy than she does. But we're both visionaries and if Katie was relegated to an... Here's what happens with a lot of couples. When they go to this system, the couple that tests out more operationally or sorry, the person in the couple that tests out more operationally competent is then tasked as being the integrator.

They become the person who does all the things and the details and in a relationship couple where one of the two gets tasked as the integrator, this can be one of the most challenging, one of most damaging things to happen to a couple. In fact, I just recently talked to a couple of who's evaluating the traction system and they were telling us that when they had their calls and interviews that they told them that, "Well, you would be the integrator and you would be the visionary," and it was very hard and fast and they didn't have a solution for it. Because, here's how we work with couples. When we have a visionary couple where both of them are visionaries, we immediately show them how to find an operator that will work with the two of them and the business will scale far faster by doing that, and that repeats itself over and over.

I think of Molly Keyser and Aaron [inaudible 00:15:30] who owned The Certified Professional Boudoir Photography designation. The two of them, when we started working together, Aaron was very much in the integrator role, or in the role that is described as an integrator. Today, they have an operator who is running the business for them so that neither of them is making the trains run on time.

If you're in a couple, one of the best things you can do is find an... If you're in a couple who's running a business, one of the best things you can do is find an operator to help the two of you run the business. We just did the same thing with Caleb and Becky Flint in Florida. I think they're in Florida. Huge service business, they were running it together, the two of them doing everything. Instead of having her or him become the operator, we had them find an operator. Now the two of them can remain in that more visionary, forward looking, forward thinking role, and grow the business.

Not only is the integrator challenging in businesses where you're going out to find someone, the integrator is specifically challenging in couples, because of how it's applied, and because one person is now tasked with essentially being the operational person for the business, which means doing all of the detailed things, and in most couples, that is not the right move. That actually de-leverages the more operationally competent person in the business. But, if we go out and find them an operator, and they have someone to operationally support them, we actually give them massive leverage, and they're able to do more.

At the end of the day, the integrator is an incredibly appealing concept. I would love to have somebody who runs my business, and I can just go do all the fun things every day. But, here's the biggest fallacy of that. The challenges as entrepreneurs, it is literally by growing the business, by having the conversations with our executive team, by creating the vision moving forward, by understanding the results we're getting on a monthly basis, by seeing what the team is doing. That is how we create this perspective, the intelligence, and the ability to move forward and grow our business. If we were to take ourselves completely out of the process, we would actually stagnate and feel massive constraint.

In fact, that happens to us when we're working with our entrepreneurs. We help them get out of the day to day so much, that they will feel constraint that they're not doing enough. If you were able to pull yourself out of the process, it may sound incredible, it may sound like the best thing that could happen, but from personal experience, when entrepreneurs actually get all the way out, they want anything they can do to get back in.

If you are trying to find an integrator, and it just isn't working out, or you've been working with an integrator, and you can see that the business isn't really doing what you want, and you're running the system the right way, and it isn't moving you forward, or, if you're ready to find someone, an operator who can help you run your business and install a communications cadence so everyone knows what's going on, have a strategic plan so everyone knows where you're going, and then build the infrastructure right so you have the right people in the right positions, you are documenting the right processes and executing the right projects, go to Fill out a short application for my team, and then set up a call with a member of my team to find out how we can help you.

If it's not now, it might be soon that we can help you understand you business better, grow your company, and move forward fast.

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