Feb 8, 2019

Visionaries: Tips for Finding Your Integrator Match

Are you a Visionary (CEO) who is ready to find your second-in-command, Integrator (COO) match?

Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, authors of the book Rocket Fuel, say there are four readiness factors that help determine whether a Visionary is able to move forward and hire her/ his Integrator :

  1. Financial readiness (affordability)
  2. Psychological preparedness (you are ready to let go of some control)
  3. Lifestyle readiness (you are willing to work fewer hours or the same number of hours but with a different focus and less frustration)
  4. What Dan Sullivan calls “Unique Ability” readiness (you are prepared to be 100% you)

The authors say that there are many benefits to be achieved when a Visionary decides to hire an Integrator. (S)he will see the company grow faster, gain more peace of mind, and the business will experience more cohesiveness. If these characteristics ring true, you have reached the stage where you want to hire someone to help you execute your vision.

In Rocket Fuel, Wickman and Winters cite the case of Randy Pruitt of Randall Industries who had grown his business from $200,000 in sales to $8.5 million. At a crucial point, he anticipated a 40% growth the following year. He knew he would have to grow his team but wasn’t sure how. Through a contact, Pruitt met David Bitel who had worked as an Integrator for another company. Bitel explained to Pruitt what an Integrator could do for him. Pruitt hired Bitel and then proceeded to double the size of his company in five years.

WHY and HOW People

In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, author Simon Sinek talks about WHY people and HOW people, explaining, “For every WHY-type, there is an inspired HOW-type, who can take the intangible cause and build the infrastructure and give it life.” Using this language, one can think of a Visionary as a “WHY-type”, and an Integrator as a “HOW-type.” Sinek also said that the HOW-types have a strength of ego to admit they are not Visionaries themselves, but they know how to bring a vision to life. Sinek states, “The Best HOW-types generally do not want to be out in front…they prefer to work behind the scenes…to make the vision a reality.”

Visionary/ Integrator teams have run countless successful companies. Wickman and Winters cite the case of McDonald’s—saying that most people have heard of Ray Kroc, the Visionary who build the hamburger empire, but fewer have heard of Fred Turner, who after three years of working with Kroc, became his right-hand man. Turner is credited with the fanatical consistency in executing the franchise plan. He is the creator of “Hamburger U,” the franchise-training program that is now called the Fred L. Turner Training Center. Turner became Operations Manager in 1958 when McDonald’s had 34 restaurants. By the time he retired in 2004, the company had expanded to 31,500 restaurants.

In Rocket Fuel, Wickman and Winters offer this side-by-side comparison of the qualities and roles of Visionaries and Integrators:

Solve big complex problems Identify and articulate them
Generate 20 new ideas a week Make the best a reality
Are great leaders Are great managers
Are “outside guys”  Are “inside guys” 
Create the vision Execute the vision


Making the Hire

If the above descriptions fit you as a Visionary, then you know what to seek when you hire an Integrator. It won’t be easy. Wickman and Winters suggest a few ground rules before you make the hire.

  1. Look forward. Focus on what you need, not what you have. Start as if you are building your firm from scratch.
  2. Detach yourself from the existing business, your current role, your ego, and any emotionally charged thinking. Be open-minded.
  3. Elevate yourself above the business, looking down on it from that perspective, so that you can make decisions for the greater long-term good of your company.

You may also increase the time that you spend on CEO/Visionary-type activities, including:

  • New ideas/ R&D
  • Creative problem solving
  • Major external relationships
  • Culture
  • Selling big deals

Then, the COO/Integrator will assume responsibility for:

  • Leading, Managing and holding people Accountable (LMA)
  • Executing the business plan/P&L results
  • Integrating the other major functions
  • Resolving cross-functional issues
  • Communication across the organization


As the Visionary (CEO) of a firm you have founded, you want to take your business to a new level. You recognize that you need a second-in-command who will embrace your vision and make it a reality. Gino Wickman found his Integrator Don Tinney through a mutual friend and a nearly two-decade-long partnership ensued. If your network doesn’t provide you with a good roster of integrator candidates, consider hiring an executive search firm. Either way, find the right Integrator (COO) - and set yourself on a proven path to a better professional and personal future.

Next Steps:
  1. Download a copy of our Integrator job description template.
  2. Use these 10 Integrator interview questions to ensure your next Integrator hire is the right fit.
  3. Identify what type of Visionary you are. This will help you better gauge what to look for in an Integrator.

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