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The Two Employee Types Every Company Needs

two personality types“There are two types of employees every company needs: Visionaries and Operators,” said author and business leader Les McKeown during his keynote at the Inc500/5000 Conference last month in Washington, D.C.

“This is a highly productive, symbiotic team,” says the president and CEO of Predictable Success.  Visionaries, as the label implies, are great at coming up with ideas and starting projects. Finishing projects? Not so much. That’s where Operators come in.  Operators are “the MacGyvers of the business world. They get things done and go.”

Startups need these two complementary working types because together they’re fearless and adaptable and “improvise superbly well.”

McKeown’s theory is part of a bigger model of small business success, drawn from his book “Predictable Success.”  McKeown, himself a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” boasted that, by the time he was 35, he had helped launch 42 businesses. So it’s not without merit for McKeown to discuss the types of employees that make up a successful business.

When it comes to identifying these personalities, McKeown breaks it down succinctly.


  • Are resilient and passionate.
  • Will “do anything to realize” their vision.
  • Are great at starting things.
  • Are NOT great with granular details.
  • Can’t say the word “no.”


  • Work well with Visionaries. What Visionaries start, Operators finish.
  • Are action-oriented and autonomous.
  • Ask forgiveness, rather than permission.
  • Work long, prodigious hours.
  • Are the MacGyvers of the business world:  They get things done and go.

Eventually, as your business grows and inevitably becomes more complex – what McKeown calls “going through whitewater” – you may find yourself with a need to bring in a Processor, someone to put systems and processes in place. Because while visionaries and operators are great at “improvising their way to success,” that model is only sustainable for so long. Processors, McKeown says, “bring consistency to chaos.”

Because Processors don’t always “gel” with Visionaries and Operators right away, however, bringing a Processor onto the team may entail some growing pains. Yet, if you want to scale your business to possibly become the next Starbucks, “it’s the only team you can grow to predictable success.”

So the next time you’re recruiting, think to yourself, “What is my team missing? A visionary? An operator? Or both?”

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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