Small Business Advice from The “Greats”

young man has an idea, pointing finger up looking up

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash—these are the “greats” that entrepreneurs look to for inspiration. But sometimes, we forget that these revolutionary founders and CEOs were once small-business owners. They too, dealt with the questioning, doubts and the daily struggles of diving into the world of being your own boss. However, their successes prove to small-business owners that it is all possible.

Whether you are just getting started, feeling the growing pains of an expanding business, or wondering what the next step will be, this advice from successful entrepreneurs will be sure to inspire and motivate you to that next big step.

Here is a roundup of some of our favorite quotes from the “greats.”

“There are many ways to run a successful company. What works once may never work again. What everyone tells you never to do may just work, once. There are no rules.” – Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur

Don’t limit yourself to what has been done before. Carve your own path and set a new standard.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Apple

Believe in yourself and believe in your business. Recall the reason you started this business in the first place to reignite your passion when times get tough.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” – Walt Disney, Co-Founder, Disney

Don’t get stuck in the brainstorming or research phase. Activation is key. All it takes is one push to get the ball rolling.

“User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s undervalued and underinvested in.” – Evan Williams, Co-Founder, Twitter

Step back and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Do they like the way your product or service is presented? Set your business apart by focusing on these consumer aspects.

“Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.” – Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

Harsh, but true. Stay one step ahead by continuously analyzing the industry environment and recognizing unique opportunities.

“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.” – Dave Thomas, Founder, Wendy’s

Bring it all together. Don’t store knowledge about these three in silos. They need to work hand-in-hand: each one building on the other to create value.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company Founder

Stay optimistic. Your employees will feed off this positive attitude and turn around even the worst of days.

“Always deliver more than expected.” – Larry Page, Co-Founder, Google

It’s not always about blowing people away. It’s about that little added bonus when a customer feels valued by the company.

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” – Mary Kay Ash, Mary Kay Cosmetics Founder

Successful entrepreneurs think big and then find a way to get there. Don’t worry about diving in all at once; learn to swim first.

“Trust your instincts.” – Estee Lauder, Founder Estee Lauder

You are the best judge of an idea. Your business is your baby and you know what’s best for it.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder and former CEO

Strive to make your worst customer your best customer. This is a true testament to understanding your market and knowing how to grow.

“Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.” – Cheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Know how to successfully lead your employees. They are taking a risk by working with your small-business; show them your appreciation through more than a paycheck.

“There is nothing private in a startup” – Mark Cuban, Venture Capitalist

Every employee should be involved in decision-making processes. Managers know about capacity and financials while front-line employees know the customer and daily routine. Bringing these two levels together means successful implementation of strategies.
And never forget:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky” – Michael Scott