I recently had a great conversation with an entrepreneur (Visionary) on the East Coast. He reached out after seeing my name/quote in Rocket Fuel, feeling he may be ready for an Integrator.
I sincerely enjoy talking with Visionaries and I’m fortunate to get lots of these calls, so I have a list of questions I typically ask; “Would you mind sharing a bit about your business?”, is the first.
“I started 2 years ago, and the company is doing $7M in revenue. We make high end gardening supplies which are sold exclusively online, primarily via Amazon. I think the business can triple in the next 3-5 years based upon the unique nature of the products, we seemed to have found an untapped niche”.
I congratulated him on his early success and asked for some info on his current leadership team. “My sister is currently running sales/marketing. She doesn’t really have any sales experience…most of her marketing experience is on the advertising side, but she does pretty well. She is also part time by the way”.
I responded “OK, how about the others?”.
“My operations lead is almost full time, he works two jobs so he only gives me about 35 hours a week. He is related to my neighbor, that’s how I found him. He’s doing OK, but I don’t always feel I’m getting the most out of him, he’s tired a lot. On the financial side, just have a part time bookkeeper, but my financial model is pretty simple and this seems to work just fine.
This ad-hoc team thing is not uncommon, so I followed up with another question from my list; “If you look at the three functions of your business (Finance, Operations, Sales/Marketing), what is the most likely of the three to keep you from hitting your growth goals?”. For example, will you most likely fail because you couldn’t sell enough of the product (Sales/Marketing), or because you couldn’t make enough product or make it efficiently enough (Operations), or because you couldn’t manage costs well enough/raise the capital needed to grow (Finance)?”.
He thought for a moment and responded “Operations, no doubt it’s operations”. He went on, “I’m not having any trouble selling, and my financial model is pretty straightforward, but if I can’t meet demand, or I can’t store and ship products efficiently, I’m toast”.
“Great” I said. “Here is what I’m thinking. Hire yourself the best darn operations leader you can find. Maybe this is the guy you already have, just make him commit and get him running full time. If not, go out and hire a great operations leader from the outside. This should be someone who has been through a ramp up similar to yours, has experience with internet fulfillment etc…”
“But what about hiring an Integrator first and letting him/her fix these issues?” he responded.
“Well, you could.” I said pensively. “But think of it this way; Hiring a real deal Integrator will cost you about $220,000 + per year in compensation, and after he/she comes in and assesses the situation, they are likely to recommend an upgrade in some critical roles – very likely Operations. Since an Integrator is very different from a pure Ops leader you’ll be facing a new dilemma, to hire/pay them both, or to ask the Integrator to work below their pay grade. This is not good for you, or the Integrator.” I finished by saying, “It seems to me, it may be better hiring an Ops leader now, getting yourself solidly to the next level ($10-12M), and then consider the Integrator role.”
He thanked me and said, “That makes a lot of sense, I’m not sure the profit of the company could support the Integrator role right now anyway. I’m just finally getting to take some money from the business. Doing it in steps feels much better”.
Before we hung up, I inquired about his knowledge/understanding of EOS®. He explained he wasn’t running on the system yet but he had started reading Traction. I encouraged him to finish reading the book and assuming it resonated with him, to strongly consider hiring an EOS Implementer. I shared that one of the key outcomes of implementing EOS® is identifying Right People, Right Seats for your business. Once you have a clear picture of RPRS, it will become much more clear on the timing of people moves, including the appropriate time for an Integrator hire.
As I mentioned, I sincerely enjoy speaking with Visionaries; Maybe partially because I’m one myself. Or maybe it’s because I so respect what an entrepreneur goes through to create a sustainable business. I would love to see every entrepreneur out there get Rocket Fuel for their business and go beyond even their own wildest dreams of success, whatever those are. And selfishly, I’d love to help find every one of them their perfect Integrator!
Yet, I’m also a realist and I know not every business/Visionary is ready for that Integrator role, at least not yet. What I also know for certain is if a Visionary does get serious about Right People, Right Seats this timing question becomes one helluva lot easier to answer.