Top Six Problems with Fractional Integrators / COOs – And Some Solutions 

A Fractional COO / Integrator (FCOO) is an executive retained by a company running on EOS® mostly to serve as a Chief Operating Officer to drive transformational change and direct the major functions of a business. These functions are all steered towards fulfilling the business owner’s vision by implementing strategies to achieve company goals. All processes and personnel involved in achieving these targets become the FCOO’s mission, and that includes: getting the right people in the right seats so the leadership team and those under them can run the day-to-day of the company without the constant intervention of the busienss owner, getting processes simplified, documented, and followed by all, and essentially giving people self-managing businesses so they can be free to focus on the people and things they are passionate about.

An FCOO is expected to understand the business’s background, vision, people and processes in such a way that they will deliver as though they have been part of the company for years. He or she is a leader in the organization and directs the leadership team. They make sure that everything is done with all the leadership team members working together in harmony, all rowing in the same direction and in the right direction.

The top six problems with Fractional Integrators

Sometimes Fractional Integrators are not the rightl solution for a company, and below are the top six reasons why: 

A Fractional Integrator is not a glorified executive assistant or project manager

Some businesses need an executive assistant, not a COO-level executive. Some people present themselves as FCOOs yet essentially they are really just glorified executive assistants or project managers. In a real sense, they have more of a project manager or just a manager background and not really an executive level, COO or actual integrator background that comes with running and / or owning a company. 

Integrators, and in our company in particular, should all have run companies before as integrators or COO, and/or have owned companies. They should have real executive experience. There are many Fractional Integrators out there that have similar experience out of both firms and as solo practitioners, but may not be a proper fit for your company based on their background. To guard yourself from making the wrong choice and settling for Fractional Integrators with impractical background, make sure that whoever you’re engaging as your FCOO has real executive level experience. 

In the event that real executive level experience (and the price tag associated with getting help on that level) isn’t what you need, i.e., all you need is people to get things moving and and simply getting things done, you don’t have to retain a Fractional Integrator.  Just be explicit about the fact that you are looking to hire a project manager or a consultant who’s going to be effective in getting work done at your company. You could also hire a more expensive, high-level executive assistant instead of a Fractional Integrator. If what you need is someone who can get something done for you at a higher level so you could delegate more off your plate, then you should do that explicitly and hire someone full-time. 

FCOOs can’t get enough done in their available time 

Some people feel that having an FCOO at their company is not worth the price. This is true if they retain their FCOOs to do the work of a meeting facilitator, project manager, or executive assistant. Fractional integrators are only available for a limited amount of time for a leadership and management function. That’s why you can get such an experienced executive on your team for what may feel like a high retainer but is truly a bargain for someone who’d cost $250,000-$300,000 plus benefits, bonus, and taxes if you hired someone like that full-time. As a business owner, you should deeply evaluate what your company really needs. It may be true that you’re at a stage where your business needs more of a doer than a leader. 

If what you really need is an extra set of hands to get stuff done, then a Fractional Integrator is probably not what you need. Again, look more to that manager that you hire or that executive assistant or that project manager, rather than a Fractional Integrator if you have more stuff to get done. 

It is important to remember that if what you really need is stuff getting done then you should get a specialist in that role. For example, if you need a project manager and help when you have no real leadership team around you, there’s a great organization that could be of great service to your company. Susan Fennema‘s firm called Beyond the Chaos is one such where you can get such support. Susan and her team work with visionaries and business owners who have no leadership team other than themselves: who have just themselves and a number of workers/employees/ team members, but none in leadership. Beyond the Chaos works with that kind of company to take them to the next level and hopefully get them to the point where they’re ready for a Fractional Integrator or some fractional executives, hiring an executive or two for the leadership team. So a company like Beyond the Chaos would get you up to where your company is ready for that level. 

Many people usually argue that they don’t have a strong enough leadership team or enough people on the leadership team or that the people that they do have are underperforming and they can’t quite count on them to really own the parts of the business that they’re supposed to be running. That means that you as the business owner or the visionary keep having to come in and manage the managers, to a great extent. And that’s obviously not taking a lot off your plate, which can be very frustrating.

Ideally, a Fractional Integrator doesn’t need that much time every week at your company to turn that around. Somewhere between a day each week and a day and a half each week is enough to do what they need to get done. They are not there as doers, but come in to guide you and your leadership team to steer your company to greatness as people who have built and run companies before. Their highest and best use with you is as strategic thought partners, someone you can actually talk with. If you can’t talk to the other members of your leadership team on the level that you need to, and on your own level, you could actually talk to people that have owned and run businesses before. 

Fractional Integrators are more useful being a resource for your company for: training, managing, coaching, leveling-up members of the leadership team, helping them work out their issues with each other, teaching them how to manage their own teams, so that there’s just more and more that the leadership team is able to take on themselves. Team members below the leadership team are then able to take on their roles effectively on their own to then enable a visionary you to act more in your own highest and best use your own unique ability. 

It takes too long, at least 6 months, for an FCOO to even learn the business, much less get anything done

For anyone coming from outside, it would take at least six months learning a business, its products, its team, and its customers (building institutional memory) before they can start delivering value. If what you really need is someone to get deep into that level of weeds and that level of details and managing the minutiae of the business, then the Fractional Integrator is probably not the right solution for you. 

If you need that kind of indepth service for your company then you will have to hire a manager and additional team members. 

One common misconception about Fractional Integrators is that they’re about just getting into every single weed and getting stuff done. In essence however, FCOOs are about stuff that is agnostic to the particular industry. They are more concerned with leadership, management, accountability, metrics, processes, being a strategic leader, and being a strategic call partner with you, the business owner. They don’t need to get into the weeds for that kind of stuff. 

Fractional integrators typically come into your organization with a very fast ramp-up and are able to make an impact very quickly. They don’t need to be the experts in every detail, in every nuance of your business. They are humble and recognize that you and your team are the biggest experts in understanding your customers, your team, and your product and thus rely on your expertise for that information. Their expertise is in leadership, management, accountability, discipline, and seeing into the future since they’ve grown businesses  of your type into much greater than what you may have seen yet in your own business. So they’re able to help you see the future, be the conductor who is not themselves playing the instrument. 

FCOOs essentially conduct your orchestra; your business is the orchestra. So they don’t need to know how to play a flute and a violin and a piano in order to conduct the orchestra. They are able to do that because they know how to be a great conductor. So if what you need is that, then Fractional Integrator is perfect for you. 

If what you need is someone to really get into all the weeds and manage every single delivery or every single product, or invoice, etc, then what you need is probably not a Fractional Integrator but a doer. You need to hire a manager or some other executive on a full time basis. They will take all the time to learn your business and understand it in order to take care of all the things you need taken care of.

Fractional Integrators are too expensive

Fractional integrators come with a very hefty invoice as the retainer. On average, a regular COO takes home around $250,000-$300,000 per year base plus benefits, bonus, equity, etc.  A Fractional Integrator is a bargain by comparison yet you get most of the benefit. But if you need more of a doer than an experienced executive to lead you and your leadership team to a better way of doing things, then a Fractional Integrator’s retainer will feel too high.

I remember one of my past clients who contacted me originally when they were at about $1.6 million in gross revenue. I knew that given my rates, it probably wouldn’t make sense to retain me, so I referred them to several other Fractional Integrators who were more affordable. None of my referees felt like a good fit apparently, so they eventually convinced me to take them on as a client. The cash flow was just a struggle all through, and that meant you were always worrying about money rather than getting stuff done. What ended up happening was I helped them retain a fractional CMO, which they desperately needed and was probably more important than having an integrator there. At the time, it didn’t make economic sense to spend on both the CMO and I, so we had to prematurely end that engagement. 

That experience taught me the importance of understanding that you need to be of a certain revenue block to have an experienced executive on the team. It will cost less to have that experienced executive full time compared to having a FCOO part-time, but it will probably cost more than a lower level employee or a front line employee or even a manager would cost. If you need something or somebody to get stuff done, you need to scale a little more before a Fractional Integrator is going to make sense. 

The other reason why people say it costs too much is probably because they’re not in enough pain. We’ve had some potential clients that have reached out to us and when we do the discovery process, they say that everything is amazing at their company: the team is great, the process is strong and all is well but they need a little tweak on things to make it even better. In essence, if you feel like all you need is one little tweak or one little thing could be slightly better, then paying for an executive level person to help lead your leadership team as a Fractional Integrator does not make sense. It would mean paying too much when all you need is that little tweak. Either that or you may not be truly being honest to yourself about how much help you may need. 

Fractional Integrators can only work remotely

In the United States alone, let’s say, or North America alone, it’s a 3,000-mile-wide country. Statistically, the likelihood of finding that right fit Fractional Integrator who happens to live within a couple of miles of your business is really low. Most Fractional Integrators are going to be working remotely and far from where you are. Some Fractional Integrators may come to see you on the first day, and you create that in-person bond initially, and then maybe come in physically for the quarterlies and the annuals, but would still ultimately work remotely from week to week. Most companies need someone in-person, yet for some, based on their culture or their lack of technical prowess in technology or other reason, there would just be too much friction in a remote engagement. If your Fractional Integrator working remotely would cause too much friction for your organizational culture, then maybe it’s not a good fit for you. However, if your company really needs an FCOO, then you might need to make some adjustments, like doing all of your meetings virtually, even if multiple people on the meeting are in the same building, to ensure that everyone is on the same playing field.

Sometimes, however, business owners’ need for an in-person engagement, especially for the Fractional Integrator, may be misguided. This could be occasioned by organizational inefficiencies which may be due to masking lack of process or wrong people problems. Unwittingly, by having that fulltime leadership team member or a full-time manager, or even yourself there full-time means that you’re doing helicopter management and masking the lack of process by always getting involved. You’re masking all the mistakes that people make by catching them and preventing them from getting out to the customer. It could also be that you’re masking people issues; that your staff members aren’t performing, and you’re masking that by heavy handed management, (helicopter management). If that’s the case, then it’s not actually that you need somebody in person or on full time. It’s just that you’re not addressing the real issues. You’re not addressing the people issues, the underperforming people who need to be switched out. 

If you tried everything you can appropriately; put into place processes that people need to be trained on, and even simplified processes, you would start off on the right path. You should also create ways of measuring and managing and supporting people and keeping those processes. So very often that’s really the issue. It’s actually a good reason why you might need to use a Fractional Integrator, because by not having somebody full time, it forces you to deal with those wrong people issues and lack-of-process issues. 

The Fractional Integrator, like any executive for whatever department it is, will come in to ensure that processes are put into place, measurables for whatever is required are put into place, that a meeting cadence is put into place to create accountability and resolve issues, that they’re supporting the members of the team to do whatever they’re supposed to be getting done, and that they’re adequately supported in that. And if with all these interventions your people are still not performing, then you should actually address the people issue. Don’t just mask it by having someone babysit them and prevent the consequences of your decisions of not addressing the people issue from being faced. It would help to have a fractional executive (a Fractional Integrator) in there that can help you finally address those lack-of-process issues and those lack of people issues. 

So just be mindful and ask yourself what the real issue your organization is struggling with may be. Once you are clear on the problem, you should address those issues, internally drive the resolution of those issues, and then have the Fractional Integrator either way but only when your organization is ready for one. 

“Rogue” Fractional Integrators Trying to replace EOS Implementers®

There are some bad actors out there who try to basically replace Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) Implementers and never work with implementers. This is very wrong. 

Basically people who do this come into their clients’ organizations and implement EOS® for them either instead of, or in addition to, the integrator role. They never work with EOS Implementers. That definitely violates EOS Worldwide’s intellectual property rights. In essence, if you’re an outsider who’s not part of the accountability chart and you get paid for implementing EOS® then you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. At Wolf Edge Integrators, we certainly believe that the best practice is that organizations (where both kinds of professionals are appropriate) should use both a Fractional Integrator and an EOS Implementer. 

Obviously, it’s even better if you have a full time integrator. You should only consider a Fractional Integrator if you don’t have a great person in the Integrator seat. It is advisable to use a Fractional Integrator and an EOS implementer which is an important course of action because it enables both people to fully focus on their role. If you have someone on your leadership team who is also your integrator, then they’re managing your team, but they have to keep switching hats at your quarterlies and your annuals and be the facilitator and be the implementer and teach the EOS® tools. The disadvantage of that is that it means they are likely to not fully be focused on their Integrator role and being that member of your leadership team (and also not fully focused on the implementation process – if you do have to self-implement). 

Self-implementation is sometimes appropriate to be done by a Fractional Integrator. Sometimes, a business owner may want to implement EOS® using an EOS® implementer, but maybe they can’t afford to pay both an EOS Implementer and a Fractional Integrator. This means they have to choose one over the other. But they know that if they do the implementer without the right people on their leadership team, without a right-seat Integrator, without the right people on their leadership team to actually execute the stuff that they learn and figure out in their sessions, then they know they’re not going to get the value from their EOS® sessions. So they usually have to get the Fractional Integrator or get things into a better place, and then either they grow a little more and they can afford both, or when they have fixed some more issues in terms of execution, then they can bring on an EOS® implementer. That’s the ideal solution for that particular scenario. 

It is also appropriate in terms of the intellectual property too, because the Fractional Integrator is on the accountability chart. They are part of the leadership team. They’re not an outsider and instead an internal party helping you implement EOS® where you don’t have an implementer yet. That is appropriate because, as Traction® teaches, you can have self implementation and that’s your integrator. 

Conclusion

In the event that you are not quite ready to retain an EOS® implementer for your business yet, we always encourage you to at least do a 90-minute meeting with an implementer. First of all, it’s a huge immediate benefit in terms of not just piecemeal, but getting an understanding of EOS® from an expert and understanding the big picture and the six key components of the business that EOS® and Traction teach about all at once in 90 minutes. In the process, you will also know somebody that you could potentially use when you are ready to have that implementer in place. We are always recommending EOS® implementers to our clients, but sometimes our clients come to us already with an implementer. 

EOS® implementers and Fractional Integrators make an amazing tag team to help you be successful in your business. If there is no right-person right –fit integrator full-time on the leadership team, then they’re just going to execute so much more of all the stuff they learn and figure out in their sessions. If they have a right fit Fractional Integrator, that’s a great solution forming the ideal symbiosis. We certainly do not feel good about those actors out there who try to compete with the EOS® implementers as it is inappropriate and unethical. 

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Ben Wolf is the founder and CEO of Wolf’s Edge Integrators, an amazing team of Fractional Integrators for companies running on EOS®. To learn more about, explore and understand more about what a Fractional Integrator actually is, or if you want to actually retain a Fractional Integrator, or would like to start the process of potentially working with us, just click on the learn more or the contact us button and, we will definitely be happy to explore that with you and answer any questions that you have.