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Each time I make a new hire for my team, I think to myself: “HOW did we survive without this person?” This sentiment is especially true when it comes to Marisa Vittoria, my Integrator. Pre-Marisa, we were all honoring our own workflows, existing in a constant loop of Google Docs and Slack messages, and seeing what we’re capable of now… We were definitely not reaching our fullest potential.
What does an Integrator do and do you need one on your team? And how can you be your own Integrator and establish systems to get your business achieving more? I’m so excited to formally introduce you to Marisa, but admittedly nervous for her to reveal the systems we didn’t have in place before she joined our team. Hey, it’s all in the spirit of helping YOU learn from where we’ve already been.
Marisa grew up in a small business family, with her parents running a restaurant as long as she’s been alive. When she graduated high school, her dad asked if she wanted to join the family business, but Marisa said, “I was adamant about paving my own path.”
After unintentionally landing in an internship within Target HR, Marisa was offered a full time position to be a Human Resources executive team leader. That was the start of her career, and she later transferred to a new post at the highest volume store in Cleveland. But Marisa admitted she was, “Miserable to my core.”
She knew she needed out of that windowless office, and so Marisa set off applying to over 200 jobs — anything with a set 9 to 5 schedule with holidays off. That was the dream at the time. But with no after no (that she says she’s grateful for now) she took a massive pay cut, went back to school to get her masters in education, and landed in a management position for a small business accelerator. “That’s where my love for small business was reignited,” Marisa explained.
It was in that role she realized that many small business owners get stuck in the weeds of working IN their business instead of ON it, and the solution was often to hire a virtual assistant. “And so I started a virtual assistant business called Virtual Zen,” Marisa explained. “I just felt it was the best next step to continue serving small business owners.”
Marisa reached a point where trading time for dollars wasn’t enough anymore, and she wanted to create impact on a higher level. She dreamed of partnering with an idea person, a visionary, where she could implement the pieces of the puzzle that would grow a business and create greater impact. And that’s how Marisa’s path crossed with mine!
From Entrepreneur to Employee
Marisa made the decision to exit her business as an entrepreneur and transition into the employee life again. What was that transition like for her, going from running her own ship to again working for someone else?
“I’m going to be totally transparent. It was challenging for me,” Marisa began. “It wasn’t a lack of excitement for what was to come, but it was almost like a loss and a sadness of closing the door to what was. I also struggled to articulate the transition, and at the core, my identity as I transitioned from Marisa the business owner, to Marisa the integrator.”
“That’s a title most people have never heard of,” Marisa laughed. “It took me about six months to make that shift personally, and realize that I could be both an employee and an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be just one or the other. You can use entrepreneurship to connect your career stepping stones.”
Do you feel an identity crisis moving between those two titles? Oftentimes, entrepreneurs seek the implant but also the balance of being an employee, of being able to shut off at the end of the day and not be working 24/7. Marisa is proof and permission to be both the entrepreneur and the employee, and there’s so much to say about streamlining your work to focus on one client, versus managing a whole roster and dividing you impact among many.
What is an Integrator?
As Marisa said earlier, it’s not a title that many people know. It wasn’t even known to me until my coach encouraged me to hire one. So in Marisa’s words, what is an integrator and what does she do?
“The glue to an organization. An integrator effectively and efficiently puts the pieces of the puzzle together so that the bigger picture can serve the audience with excellence and ensure the organization can scale,” Marisa continued, “That’s really one of the biggest components of this role, is being able to either fix processes or systems, or create new ones that make the business scalable.”
An integrator allows the business owner to act on new ideas and execute big projects with better efficiency. Marisa is the “holder of the keys” when it comes to actually moving big projects forward, thanks to the systems she’s implemented in the business. Hiring an integrator and relinquishing control was really the difference between surviving and thriving in my business.
One of the things Marisa recognized in my business was how our entire team worked within their own spaces, honoring their own workflows, often creating a silo effect. She also realized that we have a heavy reliance (bordering on obsession) with Google Docs. Everything has a Google Doc, and those Google Docs live everywhere, with every single idea or word we’ve ever come up with contained within them.
One of the biggest wins Marisa identified as part of her integrator role was implementing Monday.com as a core system to track and organize all the moving pieces of the business. We slowly rolled it out together, with Marisa leading the charge, and it’s now a non-negotiable aspect to planning and executing any launch, update, or major effort across the business.
Her other major win was implementing weekly Team Time Zoom calls, where we share our big three tasks, where we need help, and get a broad scope of what’s going on throughout the business.
Where to Start
If you think an Integrator is the right move for your business, but you’re not ready for that budget-wise, Marisa recommends bringing on a virtual assistant or an online business manager as a contractor first to see how that partnership woks and will help you with the tasks in your business that you can no longer manager yourself.
If that’s not in the budget yet, look at the systems you have in place and identify what can be automated. Marisa said, “I definitely recommend automating before delegating.”
Finally, “Write down all of your processes and your standards. This is such a miss that I see so many people do.” Marisa explained that when business owners don’t document their processes and brand standards before getting to the point of hiring an Integrator to help execute them, they’re doing three times the work to teach someone how you want it done.
“Get it out of your brain and onto a document or do whatever needs to be done so that you can hand those things off to ensure that role is ready to rock when you’re ready for it as well,” Marisa advised.
More from this Episode
What did Marisa identify as inefficiencies or gaps in my business that she worked to fix? What do Marisa’s days look like as an Integrator? Could you be an Integrator? Press play to hear the full conversation and exploration into the world of my team Integrator, Marisa Vittoria.
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