Words matter. They have power to influence us, to change our moods, our attitudes and our lives. As business owners and leaders we have to be careful when we speak, because as Buddha said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
But the power is not in what is said, but rather, in what is heard—and acted upon. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
Obviously as a writer and a journalist, writing words is important to me. But some days, as a small business owner, hearing (or reading) them is far more critical. On those occasions I’m feeling down or stuck, I grab my “Defying Gravity” inspirational quotes folder (named for the inspiring song in the Broadway hit Wicked) or my well-worn copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and get a dose of inspiration.
Here are some great entrepreneur quotes. I hope they’ll give you a boost whenever you need it. First, from entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs:
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.”
–Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group
“A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.”
–Jeff Bezos, Amazon
“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
–Steve Jobs, Apple
These quotes point out that all too often we entrepreneurs may overthink and needlessly complicate things. Oftentimes, the simpler solution is the better one. It’s usually easier (and less costly) to start simple, and add complexity later, if you need to.
“My goal was never to just create a company. A lot of people misinterpret that, as if I don’t care about revenue or profit or any of those things. But what not being just a company means to me is building something that actually makes a really big change in the world.”
–Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
“There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.”
–Howard Schultz, Starbucks
“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”
–Caterina Fake, Flickr
These great entrepreneur quotes all highlight how we are just one small part of the world we live in—and it is up to each one of us to do our part to make the world better for everyone.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
There’s just so much wisdom packed into these words. Cancer sadly robbed Jobs of time, making his advice to make the most of your time all the more poignant.
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”
–Madame C.J. Walker, Walker Cosmetics
“I became successful due to several reasons. I never gave up and I never let anyone or anything get in my way. I use the power of positive thinking to tackle obstacles and challenges so they don’t defeat me…”
–Lillian Vernon, Lillian Vernon Corporation
“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.”
–Estee Lauder, Estee Lauder Inc.
“Screw it, let’s just do it.”
–Sir Richard Branson, The Virgin Group
From Madame Walker, an African-American born shortly after the end of the Civil war and America’s first female self-made millionaire to Sir Richard Branson, who’s still living these words today, the classic advice to “just do it” has been driving American entrepreneurs for decades.
“Whatever you do, be different. If you’re different, you will stand out.”
–Anita Roddick, The Body Shop
“Engage your emotions at work. Your instincts and emotions are there to help you.”
Conformity is not a common trait among entrepreneurs. Branson’s advice to use your emotions flies in the face of the much more commonly held belief that the workplace is no place for emotions. But, unlike a faceless large corporation, an entrepreneurial business is more likely to be able to connect—on an emotional level—with its customers.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
“People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn’t they?”
–Bill Gates, Microsoft
Fear of failure and fear of change are two of the most common barriers keeping people from starting and growing businesses. I’m not saying you need to be fearless—fear is not only a powerful motivator, but it’s a valuable reminder to take calculated, not foolish risks.
“If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
There’s a tendency these days, especially with how much easier it is to find out what your competitors are up to, to be a reactive business, following the actions of your competition. Instead, be proactive and focus on the most important component of business success—giving your customers what they need and want.
“Life is not fair; get used to it.”
“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”
“Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise.”
Not all great entrepreneurial advice comes from entrepreneurs or small business owners. Here are some of my favorite inspirational quotes from well, inspiring people.
“…Grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“What’s the worst that could happen? Everyone turned me down. Big deal.”
–J.K. Rowling, (author of Harry Potter series)
“If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”