Are you an Expander or a Container?

Every business needs two types of people – an Expander and a Container.

The Expander is the one with the big ideas – the visionary. The Expander tends to live in the future, with visions of what is possible running through their mind and lots of ideas. This person is often the entrepreneur/CEO of the company. 

The Container is the person who plugs into the vision and brings the “how” to the table. The Container lives in the now and brings a strong understanding of what it will require to bring the ideas/vision that the Expander has to life. ← This is exactly what I do as an OBM

This concept was shared by Barbara Corcoran (of Shark Tank fame) while speaking at an event a few years ago. She was sharing how her role as an ‘expander’ was balanced out by a key member of her team working as a ‘container’. All of her big ideas would be run through the filter of this woman on her team, who would guide decisions around what they would (and wouldn’t!) move forward on. Even though Barbara is the face of her companies, she attributed much of her success to how the two of them worked together. 

For a business to truly thrive the Expander and the Container need to work hand in hand.

  • The Expander can come up with all the brilliant ideas in the world, but if they don’t have someone to help prioritize, plan and make it happen then these ideas never come to life.
  • Likewise, if someone is a Container they might be awesome at getting stuff done – but if they don’t have any kind of great vision to work towards then their efforts may go to waste.

Imagine you want a drink of water… you need two things: 1) The water and 2) the glass to put it in. If you have water (ideas) but no glass (container) then the water just spills everywhere, making it impossible to drink. Likewise, if you have a glass but no water you are left thirsty. 

Here’s an example of how the Expander/Container relationship can work:

The entrepreneur (Expander) wakes up one day with a brilliant idea for a new program. They hop on a call with their OBM (Container) and say “Guess what? I just had this awesome idea… I want to do X and I’m thinking we launch it next month, this is going to rock the world!” 

Their OBM replies, “That’s great, I love that idea and I’m also aware of how much we have going on right now. We are already working on launching Y for the next month, so how does this fit into our current plan? Do we need to reprioritize anything?”

[Sidenote: Can you see how the Container is bringing a reality check in here, while at the same time still really honoring how excited the biz owner is – a good Container doesn’t deflate the Expander’s passion.]

The entrepreneur says “Yes, you are right… I forgot we already had Y planned for next month. So when can we fit this next program in?” 

To which the Container replies, “Well I know it would take 2-3 months for us to really prepare and launch this correctly. How about I take a look at our overall plan and see where this fits in best and I can get back to you when we chat again on Monday.”

Isn’t that cool? When this relationship is in place there is a great balance between passion & reality – both of which are essential in business.

The bottom line is – we need each other for all this to work. And when we honor the value of what we each bring to the table – and work together – that’s where the magic happens. 

If you are an expander in need of a container, let’s talk!