Visionary, Salesman and Pragmatist Model of Business Success

Josh Kaufman has posted an article, Are You an Implementor or an Enabler? where he posits that businesses revolve around two complementary skill sets. Here I offer an alternative, hopefully more complete model of what roles are necessary for business success.

Josh Kaufman over at the Personal MBA site has posted an article, Are You an Implementor or an Enabler? where he posits that businesses revolve around two complementary skill sets. According to Josh:

Implementors are the people who get things done. They create, shape, cut, refine, prototype, iterate, program, design, manufacture, and ship. They are the craftsmen that create something worth selling.

Enablers are the people who help the implementors focus on implementing. They make sure all of the implementors are working towards the same end result and deal with things that take time away from creating. They are the leaders, managers, and assistants who keep the business side of things running.

Many of those who commented on his article agreed with his model and many thought the distinction was sometimes arbitrary or no longer valid. A model I have always thought useful is: visionary, salesman, pragmatist (disclosure: this isn’t my original model, I heard it in a guest lecture in one of my business courses, but I cannot recall who the speaker was). I don’t claim that the three are necessarily embodied in three different people, merely that all three roles are necessary for business success. Occasionally, a very rare individual can fill all three roles, but it is much more common to see only one or two occupied by any individual.

I think Josh’s model is really a refinement of what I call the pragmatist role, breaking it into two separate pieces: implementor and enabler. But, without the first two roles, implementation (with or without enabling) is wasted effort. Of course, the presence of the four roles might prove a more potent combination, but even Josh acknowledges that “implementors can exist without enablers, but they won’t be very efficient.” And, throughout business history we have seen how sometimes efficiency wins the game, but sometimes the visionary and sales roles are strong enough to carry a less efficient operation to business success. This is especially true if we consider the importance that innovation plays in business today. Without visionaries, innovation efforts are not focused and unlikely to produce market winning products and services or business improving process improvements. And, without a strong sales role, its unlikely that any innovative idea will succeed, whether it is market facing or internal to the company. For those interested, Venkatesh Rao has written an interesting article, The Varieties of Innovation Experience, in which he offers a dictionary of 18 personality types that can help drive innovation.

So, how are models of this nature useful? Primarily, as a screen to determine if your business venture has the necessary people on board to achieve success in the marketplace. This analysis should ideally be used in conjunction with a model of organizational development stages, such as James F. Moore’s pioneering, expansion, authority, and renewal or death model, Greiner’s model of five phases of growth, Dr. Clare Graves’ colors, Larraine Segil’s Mindshift corporate and managerial personalities classification, and/or Robert X. Cringely’s three waves of expansion.

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