Being an “Ideas Guy” Is Extremely Overrated

If you can’t create a workable business plan and execute on it, even the best, most innovative ideas aren’t worth much. I have had so many people come to me with truly great ideas. I mean, market disruptors, things that people would gravitate to right now with open arms. But they end up dead in […]

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If you can’t create a workable business plan and execute on it, even the best, most innovative ideas aren’t worth much.

I have had so many people come to me with truly great ideas. I mean, market disruptors, things that people would gravitate to right now with open arms. But they end up dead in the water, so to speak, because I don’t have time to mold the clay, to be “the guy.” You know, the one who writes the business plan and does all that it takes to move that idea from a thought bubble over your head, to a finished product in your hand.

To be a successful entrepreneur you’ve dot to be a do-er! Think about it. If nothing gets done — whether you’re incapable or unwilling — to bring that great idea to life, what good is it? It’s the difference between appearance and substance.

For example, when I started my law firm right after passing the bar exam, I immediately went searching for seminars that seasoned attorneys would attend. They would explain advanced areas of law that I was unfamiliar with, but areas that I had to pick up because there was no time to go the conventional route. I had no time to go back to school; I was the boss!

You have to DO everything it takes.

I had to get things done, and I needed information to do it. It was a trial by fire, pardon the unintentional pun. I had to learn as I practiced — a business plan would have been helpful — and that’s not all.

While I was teaching myself more nuanced, complex facets of the law, I searched for opportunities for young lawyers — in entrepreneur/startup language, that behavior is similar to identifying potential investors. I found programs offering criminal cases where the clients couldn’t afford a seasoned attorney. So, I came in, negotiated a fee, and represented the person.

I also had to expand my network, build relationships, and meet people of influence and experience who could help me at critical moments. So, at night I went to functions and shook hands with judges to show my support. I wrote a check, had a mediocre meal, then walked around, so that next time I was in front of that judge, they knew my face.

Those steps are necessary as an entrepreneur, whether you’re starting a restaurant or a record label — I’ve done both — if you’re jumping into an area where you know nothing. You don’t sleep, and you certainly don’t have the luxury of endlessly rhapsodizing over your idea. You can say what you want about working smarter, not longer, but that doesn’t apply if you’re going into a new venture where all you have is an idea. You don’t know the systems, the synergies, the shortcuts.

You have to learn. Do your research. For instance, thanks to the internet, there’s a ton of information at your fingertips from which you can put together your business plan — and you should. It’s critical. To get strategic or financial partners, you need a plan.

Great ideas need time, effort and planning to mature.

So many good ideas die for lack of a solid business plan. It’s not always the reason ideas don’t bear fruit, but if you had a graveyard the size of the Grand Canyon, I think it would fill up because so many well-intentioned people can’t get their ideas off the ground.

I’ve seen some incredible ideas, from some of the most capable people, and I’ve passed on them because I just don’t have the time. I can’t take on every idea, then be the point man and the thrust of all of it, the do-er.

You have to be extremely selective when people come to you with just an idea, especially when they want you to sculpt it, execute it, and basically do everything. I have small-percentage partnerships in several companies currently, having either put the right people together who have an idea or having done the business plan, for which now I own a piece of the business.

Without a business plan, your entrepreneurial journey will face a significant barrier because that plan shows: Who’s your target market? What do you project revenue to be in year one, two, three? How much will it cost to get up and running? Who will the market share be? What are the challenges?

I had a tech guy with an incredible idea for an app that would basically tie like-minded people together, and provide a host of different travel-related services. He didn’t want help with the business plan. He wanted me to put him in touch with high net worth individuals who could put several million dollars in his hands right away to get the app going. I put together several fundraising meetings, and he raised money. But midway through the venture, I realized that he and his partner weren’t getting along. I was often called in to mediate between them.

Sometimes ideas simply aren’t enough.

I got nervous. I had several friends and business associates who invested substantial amounts of money, and I went to them all and said, get your money back now. Then I went to this gentleman and his friend and said, you need to give all my people back their money right now.

The idea was phenomenal. But I saw something in this relationship was never going to work, and I didn’t want to ruin my reputation, having brought investors to the table who I felt were never going to get a return on their investment.

I know a gentleman right now, a great salesman and entrepreneur with an incredible platform for a novel, digital show. He wants me to be a lead, to play a large role. He offered me a substantial percentage, but I don’t have time, and you can’t just take money and tell someone you’ll get it done if you’re not going to.

This idea is probably one of the better ones that have come my way in a long time, and he trusts me to protect his interests. He calls me every other day, I give him advice, but I can’t jump in. The amount of time and effort it would take would equal my latest project, my Michigan-based cannabis company Six Labs. I played an integral role in raising capital, creating the business plan, the business strategy, and now I serve a key role in its day-to-day operations. I also still run my law firm.

You can’t commit at that level with multiple, substantive “new” projects at the same time. At least I don’t know anybody who can. If you do, I’d love to meet them.

The business plan must have teeth.

Speaking of business plans, nowadays, the media makes entrepreneurship seem a bit too easy. It doesn’t have to be extremely hard, but things have been sensationalized by shows like Shark Tank, where you show the highlights of your idea, your industry, your marketing or finance strategy, etc. But it’s not entirely accurate.

Your business plan will vary based on your business, but it can’t be shallow. It can’t be a highlight reel. You have to show why your idea is different, better, valuable, and you must break down the mechanics of how your business will run.

When you approach a potential investor, they will want to know: Who’s going to execute this plan? Do you have employees? Who makes up your leadership team? How many people will you need during growth periods? How much money will you need to get to positive revenue, so that you’re not coming back and asking for more capital? What are your operating procedures? Do you have a marketing strategy? What will the financing look like?

The plan should include all of the essentials related to running a profitable business, but you also have to tell a story. You have to flesh out your golden idea. You will probably need to build a team of people around you who have valuable experience and knowledge and are willing to share it honestly, and give you proper advice. Then it’s time to push up your sleeves and get to work.

Ideas are wonderful. They’re the foundation of almost every great business there is. But if you’re not prepared to do all that’s required to support and make that idea real, well. You might want to call yourself a dreamer, not an entrepreneur.

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