The Visionary and the Implementer: Which Are You?

implementerWhen I first started working on new businesses, I had nothing but a website from which I did some occasional consulting work. I didn’t know what I could or could not pull off; I hadn’t done this before. So I sought out people more experienced than me.

I started off taking on hot-shot business partners with impressive-sounding credentials. They knew how to make businesses work, they assured me. They just needed someone to bring their visions into reality.

Now, I’ve always been a visionary myself, but I traditionally didn’t have the means or the resources to find others to help me bring my visions into reality, so I turned myself into an implementer and grew accustomed to doing everything myself. And this was also how I met other people of vision – they saw my aptitude at turning ideas into reality, and wanted to work with me.

When I was new in business, I thought at the time that being approached by experienced start up business people meant I was fortunate; blessed, even. Here were the people who had the experience I needed to turn my dreams into reality, I knew; the ones I needed to become a success.

As it turned out though, I had it backwards.

The Visionary and the Implementer

If you look at most great businesses, there’s a startlingly consistent dichotomy: two key people, one of them a visionary, and one of them an implementer.

The visionary captains the ship and grabs all the attention. The implementer is the guy who actually built the ship in the first place that the captain needed before he could be anything other than some guy standing around on a wharf looking wistfully out at other captains sailing on their ships.

Nobody remembers the implementer, and he often doesn’t get as good a deal in the end as the visionary. Most people sort of know Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs’ implementer partner) and Paul Allen (Bill Gates’ implementer partner), but most people have no idea who the implementer partners were of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Andrew Carnegie. They are forgotten by history, because history remembers the leaders – not the workers.

As a visionary who stuffed himself into an implementer role to get things done, I found myself distinctly aware of both sides of the coin. I have the visionary’s love of the spotlight and need to flash and dazzle others; at the same time, I have the implementer’s impatience for those who cannot, or do not, do.

And what I quickly found out, with one partnership after another, was that I was again and again ending up in partnerships with people who wanted to be the visionary, and have me implement their visions.

Even though, much of the time, I realized their visions were flawed, or exaggerated, or based on hopes and gambles.

As I grew increasingly frustrated, watching how my businesses progressed – when I did work, things happened in the business; when I didn’t, the business stood still – I began to realize that the problem was one I was seeing repeatedly, which is something that always tells me the problem is with me, not a fluke.

Somehow, I kept ending up with the wrong kinds of partners.

The False Implementer

As I sat examining how I time and again ended up with partners who wanted to act like the king and sit back while I did all the work, I pointed the microscope at myself.

“What am I doing to attract these kinds of partners, and what am I doing to make them think that this is the right way to partner with me?” I asked myself.

I realized I had been making a number of mistakes that was leading both to me ending up with the wrong partners, and for those partners getting the wrong idea about me:

  1. Partnering with the people who come to you with their ideas. When someone comes to you with their idea, they aren’t thinking, “Hey, let’s be totally equal partners!” Nor are they thinking, “I’ve got this idea, but I was hoping maybe you could just take it over and tell me how to do it.” What they’re actually thinking is, “Hey, do you want to come work for me on my idea? You could be pretty high up in the organization – beneath me, of course!” I didn’t fully realize this early on, and repeatedly got involved in “other people’s projects” where I was going to by default end up in a secondary role.
  1. Doing a lot of the early stage working and telling people, “I’ve got this.” What you communicate with this, right from the outset, is, “Hey, you just kick back, and I’ll do all the work to make this business work. You go grab an iced tea or something and chill out.” So then they do. Now, I’ve learned that if you’re the visionary – or that’s the role you want – you do NOT do any more work than your partners do – unless, that is, you have a greater share of the company.
  1. Letting other people’s ideas that you know are wrong override yours that you know are right. I don’t know where I picked up the habit of being overly agreeable, but it’s one I’m having to chip and cut and carve off myself one piece at a time. Over the past 6 or 8 months, I’ve many, many times had encounters with partners where they said, “Okay, let’s do THIS thing!” and my spider sense has started tingling like crazy telling me, “Whoa, bad idea that’s destined for disaster,” but I’d bite my tongue after only a few protests, figuring, okay, this person probably knows business better than I do… and then, of course, we’d follow their plan to disaster. These days, I trust my instincts way more than any of my partners’, and I consistently put my foot down firmly on issues like this and say, “It’s great you’re coming up with lots of different ideas, but I’ve seen things like this before and they don’t work. Now what we could try is this.” If they insist on doing it, I’ll tell them they’re free to develop that on their own.

Those were my three biggest sins when it came to communicating to other people that I’d be happy in an implementations role and they could feel free to run me… which tended to lead to fighting, blow-ups, and all sorts of unpleasantness.

But, that understood, how do you find the right people to work with you if you’re a visionary instead of an implementer?

“Look for Anal People”

Norm Brodsky says this in his book The Knack: How Street Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up. It’s anathema to my personal tastes – I’d never want to hang out with anal people – but I’m realizing that there’s a big gaping chasm between what you want in a friend and what you want in a business partner who’s going to help you build your business.

Here’s what I want in a friend:

  • Dynamic
  • Brilliant
  • Competitive
  • Challenges me
  • Big-picture thinker
  • Interesting and engaging
  • Full of life and enthusiasm
  • Is a unique and exceptional person

What do those qualities translate into in business partners though? In just a few words: someone with tons of ideas, who doesn’t have the patience for doing implementations.

In other words, someone a lot like me, sans the discipline to force himself to do the stuff he hates doing.

I don’t want to work with another me. I used to think I did, that if we could just all set our personal wants and needs aside and focus working on the business, we could make it work together. Except that it ended up being I was the only one ever doing that, and everyone else was out doing their own things unrelated to our joint projects, stopping by occasionally to try and tell me what to do (when I already had my own ideas about what to do). More than one visionary in a company = not good. Visionaries naturally want to go do their own things. I don’t need to work with visionaries. I need to work with implementers.

It made me realize that when I look for business partners, what I should really be looking for is:

  • Stable
  • Detail-oriented
  • Non-competitive
  • Accepts my decisions
  • Small-picture thinker
  • Boring and easy to please
  • Full of routine and discipline
  • Is a normal and ordinary person

No wonder I was having such an awful track record with business partners… right?

Nothing worse than a cluster of kings working together trying to decide who gets to be king of kings. You need jacks working with you, not more kings. Unless, that is, you’re game for some regicide… and that’s not exactly conducive to getting everybody functioning at 100% on the business.

How to Find an Implementer

implementerAn implementer is not an entrepreneur.

When Steve Jobs went into business with Steve Wozniak, Woz had wanted to just show other people how to make their own personal computer kits – basically, open source the PC. He would never have started a business doing it in a million years.

You won’t find true implementers helming start ups. You’ll find them as specialists in their area of expertise, usually quiet, usually unassuming.

You look for talent… not flash. Implementers are terrible at marketing themselves. Much of the time, they’re scared of the limelight.

If you want to find implementations people, I suggest putting up ads looking for someone to do an odd job in the field you’re interested in having an implementer in. Say, computer programming, or web development, or mechanical engineering. Test out a few different people, and keep an eye out for someone who’s good. Like, really good.

There’s a surprising number of talented people out there – there are a lot more people who put their noses to the grindstone and develop their skills to a high level than there are people like that who get drawn into businesses of their own. In fact, it’s pretty common to find amazingly talented people in just about any field that are having trouble making ends meet. If you start hiring people to do jobs for you, you’ll run into them sooner or later.

How do you know if you’re the visionary or the implementer?

If you just want to do the work, and you don’t care about the credit, limelight or any of that, and you don’t want people bugging you to make the decisions – you’re an implementer. The visionary’s position would drive you into a cave.

If you want the stage, the spotlight, the attention, and the glory, and you want to be the one calling the shots, carving the path, and helming the ship – you’ll never be satisfied in the implementer’s role, because you’re a visionary.

Implementers can work with other implementers. Visionaries, however, cannot, if only because no two visionaries ever share the same visions completely.

If you’re a visionary, with a lot of visionary friends, I’d recommend you keep those friends as friends and look for some implementers to help you realize your dreams. It’ll go a lot more smoothly that way – trust me.



P.S., if you’re ready to find the implementer (or visionary) of your dreams, you need to check out Yamjac. It’s not running just yet, but it’s only a few months away – you can head here and get on the waiting list to be among the first people to get invited in. It’s going to change the way the world does business, shares ideas, forms teams, and interacts – this is one boat you’re not going to want to miss. Check it out here if you haven’t already:


See you on here next time, same time, same place.

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2 Responses to The Visionary and the Implementer: Which Are You?

  1. Chase! This is awesome. This is so f***ing important I’m almost FURIOUS it wasn’t explained to me when I was younger.

    I feel like a visionary of visionaries, man. Off the charts level vision! Woo πŸ˜€

    I am very hungry for the implementers πŸ™‚

    Anyway… glad I came to it now. Thank you πŸ™‚
    Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca recently posted..YesMy Profile

  2. Zak says:

    Some great points but I have to disagree on the following, at least what has always been my approach:

    “What they’re actually thinking is, β€œHey, do you want to come work for me on my idea? You could be pretty high up in the organization – beneath me, of course!”

    Personally, I am a visionary however I realise that without an implementer I have nothing PLUS they are the ones doing all the work so it only seems fair that they need to get the lion share of organisation and not the other way around πŸ™‚

    Thou that’s just me πŸ™‚

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