Structuring for Success

When it comes to growth and expansion, you need a well-defined team.

By Josey Sewell

Entrepreneurs have been changing our world for as long as we can remember. As you grow your business, whether you are acquiring practices or building them, the composition of your leadership team is key. When it comes to growth and expansion, there are three things needed to propel your organization to success: someone to dream big, someone to make a plan, and a well-organized team to make it happen.

The Visionary

It all starts with a Visionary.

Visionaries, as the name suggests, can see that the world needs something that isn’t there and feel a calling to be the one who creates it. Visionaries are the “big-idea” people who are constantly coming up with new and innovative ideas. They’re charismatic people who inspire others to follow them and help make that vision real. What I love about Visionaries is that they don’t just believe that the impossible can be done, but they believe that it must be done. 

Visionaries typically have a good pulse on the industry, and are great with communication and negotiation, which is why they’re often the founding entrepreneurs of organizations. It is a truly incredible skillset and integral to the successful growth of any group.

However, these incredible strengths and talents come with challenges that are specific to Visionaries. Visionary entrepreneurs don’t see problems, they see solutions. But that same ability to see the big picture creates some blind spots that they might not be aware they have. This can give them an unrealistic sense of optimism, which I call “Visionary delusion.” They are quick to latch on to big ideas and have a hard time letting go of their “great” idea once they’ve had it.

The Operator

Visionaries think outside of the box. They don’t like to live by the rules and can become really resistant to following standardized processes … even when it’s a process they created. They can also struggle with the day-to-day minutia. Their drive to chase each new idea makes them inconsistent and not great at developing people or managing them. 

Which is why any successful Visionary needs their counterpart – they need an Operator. 

The Operator is a forward-thinking problem solver who has the unique ability to harmoniously integrate the major functions of the business, run the organization, and manage the day-to-day issues that arise. An Operator is the glue that holds the people, processes, systems, priorities, and strategy of the company together. The Operator is someone who is adept at self-management, decisive, good at planning and organizing, resilient, and a strong manager who catalyzes the team.

The Operator faces a unique set of challenges. The job is thankless. The Operator’s role is to be the stick in the mud, to be the hole-poker. They’re there to bring the Visionary back down to earth. This can create a lot of friction and tension. Ultimately, their value to the organization comes from doing the hard job of telling the Visionary “No,” and holding the Visionary accountable. 

The conflict between a Visionary and an Operator is important because it energizes creative freedom. When that conflict is healthy conflict, it drives innovation and gives rise to our best ideas.

Visionary and Operator – one sees the future, the other makes it happen. The Visionary is the “Why” person. The Operator is the “How” person. And the best Visionaries and the best Operators have a bit of each one inside of them. 

The Accountability Network

Every organization needs to have a clear structure in order to function well. The owners and investors choose a Visionary to guide the business. The Visionary should then choose their own Operator. Together, the Visionary and the Operator form the head of the organization. Neither is higher than the other – they are accountable to each other. 

Every company needs a Visionary and an Operator who are the main decision makers for the organization. But the command-and-control style of leadership is out. You know what else is out? An organizational hierarchy. You’ve got to flatten that hierarchy to create an accountability network.

The best way to do this is to create an organization chart – a living, breathing document that is shared with your organization so that everyone knows who to come to. You can’t build the organization chart with the idea that you must have a seat for everyone currently on your team. The ideal structure you would design may be vastly different from the reality of what you’re facing. What got you here will not necessarily get you where you need to go.

The leadership roles will be unique to each organization based on its own needs, so the first step in creating the chart is to define the rest of the major departments in the organization and the leadership roles needed for them. Build the seats first, assigning people to them comes later. 

As you make the seats, list the metrics that each role is responsible for. This will determine who within the organization reports to that person. Simplify this as much as you can – three to five simple concepts are enough. 

Only when you have built the structure and the seat are you going to put a person in it. As you start to fill these roles, remember that only individuals can be held accountable – a group of people can not. It’s OK for one person to fill multiple roles, but to maintain accountability, a single role can never be done by more than one person. 

After you finally have all the right people in the right roles, all that’s left to do is to get out and change the world.