There are a lot of smart people at the top of big companies these days, and every now and again they come out with some pithy statement about how they got there. I’ve searched out a few of my favorite pieces of business advice from successful businesspeople. Not all of them follow the 10 Steps to Being a Millionaire format that a lot of these lists go with; rather, I find some wisdom in them as far as business practices and attitudes go. They aren’t small business specific, anyone can find something useful here, and they work as well for employees as for company owners.
6 Advice Quotes for Small Businesses
1. “Whoever said that things have to be useful?” — Evan Williams, CEO and co-founder of Twitter.
See also: “It’s candy. Candy doesn’t have to have a point.” — Charlie Bucket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Funnily enough, Twitter has proven to be useful, with its first real breakthrough coming in the Arab Spring of 2010-2011. Is it essential to human existence? Probably not (but don’t tell us digital marketers that!). We fill our lives with things that aren’t necessarily useful, but that simply bring us amusement or pleasure.
Something else you can take away from this is skepticism towards the idea that the only ideas worth pursuing are those which are somehow useful or which fill an existing gap. There’s not always a need waiting for you to fulfill it. Create a new gap and fill it yourself. People don’t always know what they want, so create something new and make them want it.
2. “Find a way to say yes to things.” — Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google
I’ve got a theater background, and one of the core principles of improvisational theater is, “Say ‘yes.'” “Yes” opens opportunities, creates choices, allows for exploration and discovery. You wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you didn’t know how to seize opportunity and embrace possibilities.
The Advanced Theater Nerd version of this is, “Say ‘yes, and.'” Don’t just passively agree or accept at face value what is presented to you. Embrace it, then add something of your own. As a small business creator, if you don’t add to your company, who will? Always be looking for what could come after “yes, and.”
3. “I don’t think just trying to maximize profits is a very good long-term strategy for a business. It doesn’t inspire the people who work for you.”-– John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods
Money might make the world go around, but it doesn’t inspire passion and enthusiasm in your employees. Especially since, as the head of the company, you’ll probably be making more of it than them if the company succeeds. What does inspire people is personal fulfillment and the feeling they are making a difference. Don’t focus on your company’s bottom line. Create a philosophy, an ethic, that represents what you think your company stands for. For instance, Quotefish’s tagline is “Work. Give it. Get it. Locally.” Getting small business owners working is a goal I can get behind. It inspires me to work hard at promoting QuoteFish in the weeks coming up to the launch.
4. “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” — Bill Gates
Coasting on the merits of intelligence is a dangerous path. We all know (and maybe some of us were) the smart kid in secondary school who breezed through everything just because they were smart. But then they hit university and found that smart was the new bare minimum. Hard worker became the new smart. Constant success can breed overconfidence. Which is not to say that you should try to fail, but that you should really keep an eye on how much hard work and luck played a part in your success, and make sure you keep learning from that.
5. “The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.” – Zig Ziglar
A complaint is an opportunity for you to reexamine and improve. Your customer is telling you what they want and what you’re doing wrong in getting it to them. Maybe they’ve found a problem you didn’t even know was possible, or their needs allow you to iterate your company in a new way. Listen to them, fix the problem, and take the experience on board. Fixing a problem in a way that leaves the customer satisfied can get you even more business; a good customer service experience is certainly something I tell my friends about and keep in mind when using my buying power.
6. “Don’t take too much advice.” –Ben Silberman, creator of Pinterest