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Rocket Fuel

By Gino Hickman and Mark C Winters


The authors believe that it takes a combination of “Visionary” and “Integrator” skill sets to grow a business. Visionaries see the future, and integrators make that future happen. To back up their belief, they list several high-profile and highly successful visionary-integrator partnerships. These include; Walt and Roy Disney at Disney, Henry Ford and Fred Turner at Ford, and Ray Kroc and Fred Turner at McDonalds. Companies need the skills of both visionaries and integrators, and as it’s very rare for an entrepreneur to possess both, knowing which skills you have and which role this puts you in lets you know who and what type of skills you need to partner with to give your company what it needs to ‘rocket’ to success.

In the authors’ words: An entrepreneur's lust needs to be counterbalanced with a manager's prudence and discipline. When it's structured correctly, the dynamic that exists between these two distinct leadership gifts can be magical. We have the privilege of spending every day teaching business leaders. We witness the beneficial results achieved by defining and clarifying these two vital roles. With them, companies gain faster growth, more peace of mind, more freedom, higher profitability, more fun, and considerably increased cohesiveness. When harnessed, it is very effective. It may be your way to finally break through the ceiling that's been hanging over you for so long.

In the pages of Rocket Fuel, the authors set out what it means to be a Visionary and an Integrator, and give the reader all the information they need to not only understand their own skills but also find the right person to partner with to grow their company into greatness.  

My Top 3 Takes from the Summary

  • Visionaries are good at connecting the dots, and passionate about seeing the future. They think strategically, and they tend to see connections that others might miss.

  • Good integrators can be described as the glue holding an organisation together. They keep everything running smoothly.

  • Visionaries and integrators need to stay in sync, making monthly “same page” meetings a necessity to harness the power of the combination of the skills.



The Essential Combination


The main message conveyed by the authors is that when you match the right visionary with a proficient integrator, you have a combination that will give you more of what you want from your business – and the rocket fuel that will propel you to greatness. To begin with, an understanding of what it means to be a visionary or an integrator is needed.

Being a Visionary


According to the authors, an estimated 3 per cent of the general population can be considered visionaries. The skills they bring to an organisation include:

  • Generating ideas – visionaries tend to be superb idea generators. It's not unusual for a highly engaged visionary to be churning out ten or more ideas every week. Some of those ideas might be impractical and some might even be downright dangerous, but a few will be breathtakingly good and end up being game changers.

  • Big picture thinking – visionaries tend to be superior big picture thinkers. They often excel at closing deals with major clients because they are interesting to deal with. If you're a visionary, you're probably good at solving big problems for your clients and customers.

  • Passion for looking ahead – visionaries are passionate about seeing the future. They tend to think strategically and at the same time have their finger on the pulse of a market or industry. They tend to be good at connecting the dots and seeing linkages others just gloss over.

  • Opportunity hunting – visionaries are 'hunters'. They live to find big ideas, interesting opportunities, and solutions which nobody has thought of before. They like to plunge in and actively explore the terrain.


People with these skills are very often the founders of a company, but visionaries also appear in a variety of other roles within an organisation. These roles could be: the “spark plug” of the organisation; in-house ideas person and inspirer; problem solver; the heart and soul of the creative team; a rainmaker who closes the big deals; or an innovation champion. On the surface, these attributes are all positive, but there are downsides to being a visionary. These include:


  • Difficulty staying focused – visionaries can get bored if everything is running smoothly and nothing challenging is happening.

  • Generating too many ideas – visionaries often have more ideas than can ever be executed properly, meaning things will get started but then dropped for something more interesting.

  • Changing direction – visionaries can be passionate about heading one way today and then somewhere entirely different tomorrow. The rapid changes of direction can leave everyone in an organisation confused over where they’re going.

  • Difficulty articulating details – visionaries generally aren’t good at sweating the details, and because they think in big-picture terms, they can get frustrated at having to slow down to articulate the details to others.

  • Doing everything – visionaries prefer to do everything themselves rather than invest time in developing talent in others.

  • Highly competitive – visionaries can be aggressively competitive. This is good for getting out in the marketplace, but not for building a team, as they’re often condescending around anyone “not getting it.”


These downsides often mean a visionary will manage a company and achieve business growth by using brute force rather than any form of system or finesse. However, the authors point out that in most cases, visionaries eventually find themselves faced with what’s termed the Five Frustrations:


  1. Lack of control – it feels like the business controls you rather than you having control over it and your time.

  2. Lack of profit – despite working hard, it’s still a struggle to pay the business bills.

  3. People – no one does things in the way you want them done.

  4. Hitting the ceiling – growth slows, but you’re unable to pinpoint why.

  5. Nothing is working – it feels like nothing is working, so you keep cycling through attempts at quick fixes in search of a silver bullet.


If you’re a visionary facing these frustrations, the most effective way to get around them is to embrace your role as a visionary and look for an integrator to work with; someone who will build the backup systems you need, and someone you can put your trust in to implement your ideas. In partnering with an integrator, you free yourself to focus your energy and creativity where it adds the most value.



Being an Integrator


The authors describe a good integrator as the glue in an organisation or the person who makes the trains run on time. The roles they most often appear in include general manager, chief of staff, inside man, Chief Operating Officer, or something similar, but in any of those roles, they integrate the major functions of the business and make sure the right things happen. The skills they bring include:


  • People management – integrators are usually very good at managing people and holding them accountable for what they do. They're passionate about handling the day-to-day aspects of having a smooth-running business.

  • Attention to detail – integrators are typically very good at getting the details right. They enjoy being accountable for results and removing obstacles so others can do their jobs effectively.

  • Foresight – integrators can foresee the operational challenges in new initiatives much better than a visionary can.

  • Efficiency – integrators are quick. They can usually resolve an operational issue on the fly whereas a visionary would get bogged down on this.

  • Clarity – integrators are a steady force. They provide organisational clarity about what needs to be done and who is ultimately responsible.

  • Resolving differences; getting everyone in sync, and being the voice of reason – integrators are good at forcing conclusions and aligning everyone to the business plan. They filter out any of the visionary's ideas which are unworkable and then get to work themselves eliminating hurdles and barriers.


These attributes make integrators strong leaders and great managers. They are good communicators and valuable team members, but there are also downsides to being an integrator. These include:


  • Being an unsung hero – integrators are behind the scenes, meaning someone else will most likely get the credit.

  • Being viewed as the “bad guy” – integrators are generally the people who need to say “no” most often to new ideas.

  • Being lumped with the dirty work – integrators are often tasked with delivering bad news, including laying off employees and having conversations no one else wants to have.

  • Being accused of moving too slowly – integrators will insist on getting all the necessary background elements in place before going to market.

  • Being unappreciated – the better an integrator becomes at doing their job, the less they’ll be noticed, making it a thankless role.

  • Being prone to frustration – integrators will find it all too easy to beat themselves up because they’ll be frustrated by their team's limits more than most. They’ll want to be doing things faster, better, and more profitably, but they’ll also know the reasons why things are the way they are.



Dynamic Tension


It’s clear that there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a visionary or an integrator, but when the two come together, they form the perfect business combination. The authors comment that the dynamic tension that exists between a great visionary and a savvy integrator can and does generate some impressive results, and they list four common routes that bring the two together:


  1. Co-founders acting together. Two people get together to start a company and it later turns out one of them is a natural visionary and the other happens to be a good integrator.

  2. Partners align with their natural skill sets. A company might have a number of partners and two of those will split off to form a visionary-integrator duo and go off and do their own thing.

  3. You might identify an existing team member who is a world-class integrator in waiting – and you promote them to that role.

  4. You can headhunt an integrator from outside your organisation – and deliberately and consciously hire someone to put in place the systems and structures you will require.


Considering that the two roles are polar opposites, it's not surprising that visionaries and integrators can drive each other crazy, and the relationship may get a bit testy at times on a personal level. However, on a professional level, the meeting of these two personalities with different skill sets is a perfect storm for incredible results when harnessed correctly.


An example of the power of the visionary-integrator partnership is presented in the business story of Henry Ford and James Couzens. Ford had made a few unsuccessful attempts at starting his own car company before he came into contact with James Couzens who was working for the Malcolmsen Coal Company. Alexander Malcolmsen was an early investor in the Ford Motor Company and his cousin James Couzens agreed to become a co-founder of the fledgling car manufacturer. While Henry Ford obsessed over designing cars and manufacturing facilities, Couzens kept the books, watched what was happening on the shop floor, wrote advertising copy, created a dealer network for selling and servicing cars, and busied himself with all the infrastructure building tasks. It was Couzens rather than Ford who instigated the pay raise for Ford's production line workers to $5.00 a day, twice the going rate of the day, which had such a huge impact on the company's success.


The authors detail several tried and tested means of finding the personality you need to create the essential combination, and then suggest some practical methods of ensuring both parties stay on the same page. This is vital, as a visionary-integrator duo that gets out of sync can end up sending out mixed messages that will make things uncomfortable for everyone. One proven method is to hold a monthly visionary-integrator “Same Page Meeting” to check in with one another, identify and work through any issues, and iron out any disconnects before they get too serious.


The best visionary-integrator duos respect each other and admire what the other person brings to the dynamic. The authors highlight the fact that this is something that can’t be faked. Mutual respect is needed as this is the foundation on which trust, openness, and honesty flourish. When everyone in the management team pulls in the same direction, you have a real chance of building a truly great company. Ideally, you want the visionary and the integrator to have a healthy relationship where each treats the other as an equal partner, but as there’s always going to be some tension between the two, building a healthy partnership requires constant discipline and action. Mutual respect and good communication can go a long way.




Visionaries are those who have groundbreaking ideas. Integrators are those who make those ideas a reality. The two together become an explosive combination; a partnership that holds the key to getting everything you want out of your business. A Visionary without an Integrator is far less likely to succeed long-term or to realise the company’s ultimate goals, and an Integrator without a Visionary will be unable to realise their full potential. The main message put across by the authors is that the two coming together to share their natural talents and innate skill sets is like rocket fuel – providing the power for virtually any company or organisation to reach new heights.




The examples of well-known companies such as Disney, McDonald’s, and Ford help to bring the authors’ points to life, demonstrating the phenomenal power of a visionary-integrator partnership in action in the real world.

Bio of the Authors


Gino Hickman is an entrepreneur, speaker, teacher, and author. He is the creator of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a practical method for helping companies achieve greatness.

Mark C Winters is an entrepreneur, author, coach, and facilitator, spending most of his time directly engaged with entrepreneurial leadership teams as an Expert EOS Implementer.

Rocket Fuel by Gino Hickman and Mark C Winters, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-942-95231-2 is available to buy at Amazon.


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