Chris Thomas | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Thomas


After working at Dave Ramsey for 12 years, Made South founder and CEO Chris Thomas decided to start his own business surrounding his passion for quality Southern goods, reshaping how people view this part of the country. Now, Thomas hosts highly popular, ticketed Made South events that connect the best Southern makers, producers and artisans with consumers.

The Mistake:

It’s not like a single moment that a particular mistake was made. But one of my bigger, philosophical mistakes was thinking that all of my ideas were good. That’s just not the truth. I am an idea person and come up with a lot of ideas. My mentality was that this is my business and my money, and all my ideas are good ideas and I’m going to do all of them.

That I think is a really unhealthy way of looking at things. The vast majority of my ideas are not good. But just by the nature of the business, because no one was around to tell me no, I could take an idea, convince myself that it was good and get it off the ground. Out of 10 ideas, eight should not have been done in the first place, and those were cutting the means out from under the one or two good ideas.

We started as a subscription business. Every three months we’d put together a curated box of goods that were made in the South. We did that for three years and it was great. But two years into it, I suggested we start a different subscription business, all about coffee.

It did not translate over. We had good success with the Southern maker’s boxes, but the coffee didn’t work as well because I’m just not as passionate about coffee. I like coffee, but I’m not a coffee fanatic.

I thought since one subscription business was working, that we could start a different one.

Have those people in your life who can speak truth to you.

The Lesson:

I was very purposeful about bringing a person to our team who I would describe as an integrator. I need someone to help me filter through the ideas and to have even authority over me to say no.

I now have that person involved in my life.

There’s a book I read called "Rocket Fuel" by Gino Wickman and Mark Winters. It was about two roles, with one role being a visionary and one being an integrator. The visionary is always coming up with the ideas and always loaded with confidence, and that’s not healthy. The integrator works hand-in-hand with the visionary to figure out which ideas are worth pursuing.

Have those people in your life who can speak truth to you. It’s absolutely something I wish I had done sooner.

Follow Made South on Twitter at: @MadeSouth

Pictured: Chris Thomas | Photo courtesy of Chris Thomas. 

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