How Much Does It Cost to Retain a Fractional Integrator?

You’re likely asking yourself, how much does retaining a Fractional Integrator or COO cost? Can you afford it? You probably already understand or assume that several factors can drive the cost up or down in what it will cost to retain a Fractional Integrator, but you want to know what those factors are and how they affect what you expect to pay.

This blog will explain the five main factors driving how much retaining Fractional Integrators costs in the marketplace and with Wolf’s Edge Integrators specifically.

After covering those main five factors, I’ll go into specifics and discuss the specific price ranges you can expect to pay for different levels of support in the Fractional Integrator marketplace. Again, in general, and specifically with Wolf’s Edge, what you can expect to pay.

5 Main Factors that Drive the Cost of Retaining a Fractional Integrator

Various factors will affect the cost of retaining a Fractional Integrator. Here are the five main ones:

Size of your Leadership Team

The more leadership team members you have that the integrator will be involved in, the more expensive it will be. The integrator will need to provide more support, coaching, and mentoring, which will drive up the cost.

On the other hand, if you have fewer leadership team members, there will be less time your Integrator will need to spend on leading, managing, and creating accountability for your leadership team – which will bring the price down.

Level of Support you need to Achieve your Goals

Factor two is the level of support you need to achieve your goals, which breaks down into three basic levels.

One level you might have is coaching, where you just need somebody to be doing a leadership team meeting alone, meaning with just you or your integrator as a coach, i.e., Integrator coaching. Then that’s going to be on the lower end.

Another is the middle level of support. This is where the integrator is leading your weekly leadership team meetings, doing brief check-ins with your leadership team members every week, doing the same page meeting with you as the visionary, and some miscellaneous support. This might take about half a day a week, which will be a middle price range.

On the other hand, if you need a greater level of support to reach your goals, all of that plus maybe more time coaching, more time and being resource for the leadership team, mentoring, and managing and up-leveling your leadership team. Time spent removing obstacles, perhaps taking on a rock or more than one rock, will be an even higher cost on the retainer of your Fractional Integrator or COO.

Some examples of rocks mean quarterly goals that an integrator might do. Keep in mind that the type of rocks that a Fractional Integrator is going to be doing are going to be the higher level rocks, things that they’re uniquely qualified to do. Things that may be if anybody, you as the visionary, would’ve been doing, and they can take that off you.

Some examples might be;

  • Driving a key hire.
  • Resolving a critical right person or right seat issue.
  • Implementing a new opportunity.
  • It could be leveling up a potential internal integrator that you want to groom to be that person that’s going to be your long-term integrator after the Fractional Integrator leaves, leveling up that person, coaching that person.
  • Maybe there will be a rock related to managing a CRM, ERP, or LMS project rollout.
  • Maybe there will be a process around getting a core process simplified and documented.

If they’re involved in taking on a rock, that means more time, removing obstacles equals more time, being a resource for the leadership team — more time, up-leveling the leadership team, obviously that’s going to be even more. That could require a day a week, more than a day a week. That’s going to be an even higher end of costs, so that’s one thing the level of support you need from your Fractional Integrator or COO.

Executive Experience of the Fractional Integrator

The third factor that can drive the cost of retaining a Fractional Integrator is the level of executive experience of your Fractional Integrator. If you’re looking at a Fractional Integrator who has run or owned their own business, that will be a higher rate.

On the other hand, if you’re going to have a Fractional Integrator with more of a project management background, they were a department head below the integrator level or even a manager below even the leadership team level before they went into becoming a Fractional Integrator. That person’s going to be a lower rate that they’re going to cost you in terms of their executive experience because they don’t have that much executive experience.

You’ll have to consider what type of support your specific situation requires. Depending on the organization, the rate will vary, and the level of support needed will differ. One of the things I think it’s essential to think about when thinking about what kind of executive experience and what kind of skills you need from a Fractional Integrator is to think that, very often, people need and want a Fractional Integrator who is in a sense like a turnaround consultant. That kind of person will cost more than someone who’s more of a manager or a project manager. Maybe they’re an expert in EOS tools which is great, but if they haven’t owned or run a business before as the integrator or owner, then that’s going to cost less, and someone like that may not be able to be a turnaround consultant to be a change agent if that’s what you need. So you need different people for different situations depending on what you’re looking for.

If your situation is that you’re floundering, you’re in white water; you need a change agent. You need someone who’s made a transformational change at organizations before, someone who could level up the leadership team, see around the corner, be a real strategic asset, and be a thought partner with you, the visionary as someone on your level. Then you need that kind of change agent, chief restructuring officer, interim CEO type of person to drive that kind of change. That kind of person is definitely going to cost more.

If you want a Fractional Integrator or COO who will bring about tremendous and sudden changes, that is not the same type of person as one who is content with ensuring the smooth operation of ongoing processes. Change agents have different personalities than those focused on making minor improvements incrementally; it’s essential to understand this distinction when considering which kind of professional to hire.

The change agent is going to want to come in, be with you for 6, 9, 18, 24 months, whatever it takes to make the major change, put the right people, systems and processes in place and tools in place, and then get out so they can move on to the next big change that they can make. 

Whereas someone that’s more of a manager, more a little long-term thing, that’s just going to be a different type of personality. So very often, you want to have one type of Fractional Integrator that’s more of a change agent and then transition over for the long term to more of a stable, more of a manager, more of an incremental change type of person that could be a better fit for the longer term. It’s not necessarily going to be the same person. You can’t necessarily expect that the person who wants to come in and make a lot of changes will not always be the same person who sticks around for ten years. That’s something I think would be good to keep in mind.

And again, somebody that’s more stable, more of a manager, or more of a project manager type of person, will obviously cost you a lower rate. So that’s a good way of understanding how executive experience plays into how it affects the rate you can expect to pay for a Fractional Integrator.

I’ll give you an analogy, think about the finance department. There are different levels of finance expertise that you might be bringing in, so some people in finance are more of just a bookkeeper; maybe they manage Payroll. So if you think of that on the finance side, if you can imagine on the Fractional Integrator side, you’ll be looking more at the bookkeeper. Some bookkeeper-level people call themselves Fractional Integrators. That’s going to be someone with more of that project management experience. Maybe someone with more purely focused on the EOS tools. Perhaps they’re good at understanding the EOS Model® and the EOS tools and ensuring those are implemented correctly. Maybe more of you could think of as a bookkeeper-level Fractional Integrator, and obviously, that’s going to equal a lower rate in what you can expect to pay.

On the other hand, on the finance side, there’s another kind of finance resource you might use, which is called a controller. So that’s not necessarily the strategic advisor with the CEO, but that is maybe more equivalent to the integrator or VP of ops. When you think of that on the Fractional Integrator side, that’s maybe more equivalent to an integrator or a VP of ops at a smaller organization – Someone that’s more execution-focused. They’re good at managing the leadership team more on an administrative basis, and that’s going to be a middle range of costs in terms of what that kind of person as a controller level person if you could imagine that as a Fractional Integrator.

And finally, on the finance side, there’s a CFO. Who’s a thought partner and a strategic advisor together with the visionary, founder, or the company owner. So that’s going to be equivalent to an integrator or COO who’s owned or run a business before. So they could drive all those same other things that the bookkeeper and controller do just through delegation. But they can also add on the ability to be a strategic leader, a thought partner, and a trusted advisor with you as the business owner. They can help manage, coach, and level up the leadership team. Obviously, a Fractional Integrator with those levels of expertise and experience will be more expensive on the higher end of the scale.

The vast majority of Wolf’s Edge Integrators are at the CFO level or higher, so you can expect our services to come at a slightly higher cost. With that said, we do have team members who occupy lower-level positions like controllers and VPs of ops–hence our capability to offer services at a more middle-of-the-road price point. So when figuring out which Fractional Integrator is right for you, be sure to consider the amount of experience they have under their belt.

Firm versus Solo Practitioner

The fourth factor that will drive the cost of retaining a Fractional Integrator is whether you’re hiring or retaining a firm of Fractional Integrators versus a solo practitioner Fractional Integrator. Generally speaking, not always the case, but generally speaking, solo practitioner Fractional Integrators tend to cost less and are less expensive, although not always.

On the other hand, firms of Fractional Integrators tend to cost somewhat more because they have shared administrative costs and shared business development costs among all the members of the firm, and Wolf’s Edge certainly fits into that category of firms. We’re typically more expensive.

Why are firms more expensive? What are the factors that drive that?

  • Brain trust, meaning that the Fractional Integrator you’re working with is working with multiple other Fractional Integrators on the same team. They’re able to IDs, to solve issues together, and so when there are sticky issues going on with you, just know that behind the scenes they’re bringing that back to their colleagues and getting multiple other Fractional Integrators and executives experience and knowledge, and coming back with multiple ideas that they’re bringing back that directly benefit you, so they’re bringing that brain trust.
  • Because there are so many Fractional Integrators on the team, they have the chance to develop a proven process that’s more documented and systemized based on all the various integrators’ experiences and how to get you the best results. You will likely see results more quickly and feel less like a guinea pig in the process. That being said, everyone is always learning something new throughout their career.
  • The other thing a firm is getting that’s also part of why the cost is a little more is they are providing resources and training to the Fractional Integrators on their team so that, again, you don’t have to be the guinea pig. They’re coming in with a lot more background and a lot more experience. Whatever they’re lacking, they’re able to get a lot of that training experience from their own team so that they could just get up to speed and get going much more quickly with you.
  • The other benefit of the firm is that a firm has multiple people. If you’re reaching out to them, they’re more likely to have someone with availability, industry experience, or situational experience that you may need because they’re a whole team of people that they could look to.
  • And also, very often in the firm, you have account management benefits. You have other people in the firm that you could speak with without not just your Fractional Integrator that you’re working with on a week-to-week basis.

To summarize, firms are more expensive because they have more overhead costs. But price shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when choosing a Fractional Integrator – sometimes, a solo practitioner is better suited for your needs. Assess what’s best for you and your company individually to get the most bang for your buck.

What you can Afford

The fifth factor driving the cost of retaining a Fractional Integrator is simply what you can afford.

Sometimes you might feel like you need a certain type of person or a certain level of support, but you can’t afford it, so you may have to just go a different direction based on financial reasons. If you choose a Fractional Integrator that is cheaper because of the lower rate, I encourage you to be honest with yourself about why you made that decision. You shouldn’t have the same expectations for this type of integrator as you would if you had chosen one better suited for your needs. Don’t have the same expectations or assume they’re coming from the same background as somebody else you might have considered. Just be honest and clearly understand your expectations with the Fractional Integrator. What can they expect from you? What kind of support can they expect from you? What kind of background do they have? Just make sure you’re on the same page with each other. You’re not coming with unrealistic or misaligned expectations from the engagement because you want that engagement with whoever you end up working with to be successful.

In terms of the price, remember that what you can afford will ultimately determine which Fractional Integrator provider you use and how much you pay.

Price Ranges

I’m going to try to use my knowledge of the marketplace, give you some information about the marketplace in general, and also tell you about my firm Wolf’s Edge Integrators, precisely where we fit within that marketplace range. Now, let’s get into some specifics. What will it cost you to retain a Fractional Integrator?

So, first of all, some Fractional Integrators do charge on an hourly basis. We don’t do that at Wolf’s Edge, but some do. Hourly rates I’ve seen range from around $100 an hour to $350 an hour, obviously a wide range.

I’ll discuss three basic levels of support you can expect because we’ve spoken before about the different levels of support available to you and how it affects the integrator’s costs.

  • So when it comes to the lower level of support, let’s say your Fractional Integrator is just giving you a coaching level of support. So just a couple of hours a week, either with you, with your in-house integrator, maybe coaching the integrator, maybe coaching you if you’re also sitting in the integrator’s seat, maybe just running the level 10 meetings, or the weekly leadership team meetings. I’ve seen that this can run you somewhere between $1000 to $3,000 a month. Our coaching services at Wolf’s Edge are on the higher end of the spectrum, so for the first level of support, you can expect to pay $2,500 – $3,000 a month for our services.
  • The next level of support is what we spoke about earlier, let’s say a level of support that ends up requiring about half a day a week of the Fractional Integrator’s time. So for that level of support, I’ve seen somewhere between $2,000 to $6,500 per month in the marketplace. We at Wolf’s Edge are now on the higher-than-average end of that range. At Wolf’s Edge, you can expect to be paying somewhere within the range of $4,500 to $6,000 a month for that middle level of support or for that support that would end up requiring about half a day, a week with you.
  • And finally, the third level of support is the support that requires a full day a week, so that’s your level 10 meetings, obviously your same page meetings, a lot of time with your leadership team taking on a rock, maybe more than one rock, but assuming it’s about a day, a week of activity that those things are requiring, removing obstacles, et cetera.
  • The third level of support is the kind that requires the integrator to be available for one full day each week. That might include things like level 10 meetings, working with your leadership team, and taking on a rock or more than one rock but assuming it’s about a day, a week of activity that those things require, removing obstacles, etc. That could be costing you in the range of $5,000 a month to $13,500 a month, and again, at Wolf’s Edge Integrators, we’re a little above average on that, although not at the top of the range. With us, you will get about a day a week of support that will cost around $8,000 to $12,000 a month, depending on the specifics of your situation and the specific services we’re providing. We communicate all of that in the discovery process and the proposal process.

Ranges in the marketplace and with us also extend even higher than that. If you need support that would require more than a day a week, a day and a half, two days a week, additional rocks, and additional levels of support, it could cost you even more, so that’s one thing about that.

How do you get Charged, and How often do you Pay

There are a few different ways that different integrators bill their clients. Some do invoices, particularly those that charge hourly. Again, we do not do that. Others have you pay monthly. Others have you pay quarterly in advance – You pay an entire quarter in advance. I know a few tremendous Fractional Integrators who have that as their model. The idea is that they don’t want you thinking about money the whole time like, “Okay, we paid for this already. Let’s make the most of it and not be thinking about money, not trying to make the AP payments every month or whatever,” so that’s part of the theory behind that.

At Wolf’s Edge, we do something in between. We charge a monthly retainer, and to make cash flow a little easier, we split that up on the first and 15th of the month, but that’s how we do it. Those payments are in advance.

How Long will a Fractional Integrator Engagement Last?

Fractional Integrator engagements generally usually last six months to two years. These lengths of time are necessary when you want transformative change within a company, such as getting the right people in the correct positions and having effective systems and processes set up. If you have an EOS Implementer®, they will help guide you through this process and ensure everything runs smoothly.

The time you need to start looking for someone to help manage your integrations depends on how much change is happening. If you’re not seeing as much significant change, then it’s time to look for a long-term solution. This could mean leveling up a potential internal integrator or finding someone externally who can help manage these changes on a more permanent basis.

And at Wolf’s Edge, some have long-term contracts, six months contracts, 12-month contracts, and month-to-month contracts. However, we prefer to do month-to-month agreements with just 30 days’ notice of termination on either side. We feel that if you’re getting value from it, why would you stop it? There’s absolutely no reason for that. If we’re giving value, we have no reason to try to lock anybody into a contract. We just ask for 30 days’ notice on either side so that if we need to end it for whatever reason, you have 30 days. We have 30 days to help you transition over or find another Fractional Integrator or full-time integrator, or if you need to end it, then we have time to find another client for that spot, but that’s how we do it in terms of contracts versus month to month.

Bottom Line

The cost of a Fractional Integrator boils down to numerous factors such as your business needs and complexity, desired level of support and executive experience, and which type of Fractional Integrator is required.

If you do want to talk about engaging with a Fractional Integrator, and you think you’re ready to potentially consider looking for the right one, indeed, at Wolf’s Edge, we’re happy to have a discovery call with you so we can learn about you, know what’s working, what’s not working, where you want to go, and why those goals are important to you. This will give us the information we need to create a custom plan for you and formulate some price options.

Also, if you’re more in the research phase and not really sure whether you want to retain a Fractional Integrator or not, again, a Fractional Integrator from our team is happy to have a call with you and answer any other questions you have. I hope this information was helpful, and we’ll see you all on the other side. 

Please note that Entrepreneurial Operating System®, EOS®, and EOS Implementer® are registered trademarks of EOS Worldwide.