Any small business owner knows that entrepreneurship has its highs and lows.
One week you’re in control of everything—customers are happy, sales are good, and cash flow is strong. The next week, things go south—your computers crash, your Yelp page gets a bad review, or you take an unexpected hit in sales volume.
It’s a mixed bag. And when you hit those low points of entrepreneurship, sometimes you need a little encouragement to keep going. Read these 41 small business quotes from inspiring entrepreneurs and leaders like yourself when the going gets tough.
Trying to bring your business to soaring heights? Wondering how to get there, and how to know when you’ve made it?
Read these 5 small business quotes on entrepreneurial success.
1. “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” —Thomas Watson Sr., Chairman and CEO of International Business Machines
Key takeaway: Success won’t come your way if you didn’t try your absolute hardest for it.
2. “I may be over the top on this, but I just don’t want to like my competitors. I want my people to believe that whenever he and our other competitors succeed, we will be less able to do all the things we want to do.” —Phil Knight, Chairman Emeritus of Nike
Key takeaway: How you measure success will be different for every entrepreneur, but sometimes it’s about being the best on the market.
3. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” —Napoleon Hill, Author of Think and Grow Rich
Key takeaway: Failure is a disappointing but inevitable roadblock on the path to success. And sometimes, success is just one more push beyond your last failure.
4. “In every success story, you will find someone who has made a courageous decision.” —Peter F. Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author
Key takeaway: Sometimes, you just have to go out on a limb to move the needle for your business.
5. “Everyone who achieves success in a great venture solves each problem as they came. They helped themselves and they were helped through powers known and unknown to them at the time they set out on their voyage. They keep going regardless of the obstacles they meet.” —W. Clement Stone, businessman, philanthropist, and author
Key takeaway: Another powerful small business quote that just shows how the road to success can be a winding path.
Hit a new roadblock in your business? Don’t give up and close your doors. Instead, read these 7 small business quotes to find the inspiration you need to keep plugging away.
1. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently…. A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.” —Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Co.
Key takeaway: Examine your failures carefully—they hold powerful information on how you should move forward.
2. “When times are bad is when the real entrepreneurs emerge.” —Robert Kiyosaki, Founder of Cashflow Technologies
Key takeaway: The way you handle your failures is a key indicator of whether you have it cut out to be a successful entrepreneur.
3. “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.” —Thomas Watson Sr., Chairman and CEO of IBM
Key takeaway: No small business owner finds success without suffering from a few eye-opening failures along the way.
4. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
—Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessman
Key takeaway: Don’t be too hard on yourself! Failures aren’t the end-all-be-all of your business.
5. “The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” —Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies
Key takeaway: When you take a chance, failure might be around the corner. But you never know if you’ll reach success without trying.
6. “I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” —Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
Key takeaway: Lots of entrepreneurs fail in their first venture, but that’s not a reason to not just go for it.
7. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” —Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple
Key takeaway: Know that looking back on your failures and hurdles is one of the best ways to figure out your way forward.
Innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurship—it’s what makes the most successful businesses great.
How can you become a better innovator? Take in these 9 small business quotes for inspiration.
1. “When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” —Josh James, Co-Founder and CEO of Omniture, Founder and CEO of Domo
Key takeaway: Those business ideas that keep you up at night? They’re worth pursuing.
2. “There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: It’s to change the world.” —Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote
Key takeaway: When you’re thinking about running a business, shoot big.
3. “You can’t ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” —Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple
Key takeaway: Your customers hold powerful insight into what your product should be, but they shouldn’t fully dictate your future business ideas.
4. “We used to write this down by saying, ‘Move fast and break things.’ And the idea was, unless you are breaking some stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” —Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Facebook
Key takeaway: Don’t treat your ideas or products as babies. Always examine them, change them, and improve them—knowing full well that things might break along the way.
5. “Where do you put the fear when you choose to innovate? The fear is there, but you have to find a place to put it.” —Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author, and public speaker
Key takeaway: Innovation isn’t easy and it isn’t obvious. Coming up with the next best thing comes with a healthy dose of risk.
6. “Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn’t work and it takes confidence to say we haven’t failed yet.… Ultimately you become commercially successful.” —Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor, author, and business consultant
Key takeaway: Innovation isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. It takes time and attention to get it right.
7. “Because, you know, resilience—if you think of it in terms of the Gold Rush, then you’d be pretty depressed right now because the last nugget of gold would be gone. But the good thing is, with innovation, there isn’t a last nugget. Every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.” —Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
Key takeaway: Opportunity for your business lies in innovation. There’s always room to improve your product or your way of doing things.
8. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” —Bill Gates, Founder and CEO of Microsoft
Key takeaway: What do your customers need? You’ll innovate and create a better product for your customers as you answer that question.
9. “My definition of ‘innovative’ is providing value to the customer.” —Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Key takeaway: Innovation seems intimidating and hard to approach. It doesn’t have to be. Anything that makes your customer happier can be considered an innovation.
How can you find the motivation to start a business, and even harder—keep making it better day in and day out?
These 6 small business quotes are at the heart of what motivates an entrepreneur.
1. “My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long university education that I never had—every day I’m learning something new.” —Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
Key takeaway: No entrepreneur starts a business knowing everything about their customer, product, or market. You’ll learn and push yourself along the way.
2. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” —Walt Disney, Founder of Disney
Key takeaway: Starting a business is intimidating, but at some point you need to just take the plunge.
3. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” —Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari
Key takeaway: Entrepreneurs are motivated people. Don’t wait on your idea—just do it.
4. “For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect.
“‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually,’ just do it and correct course along the way.” —Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week
Key takeaway: If you’re waiting for the best time to start a business or make any change in your life, it’ll never come. If starting a business is what you want to do, do it now.
5. “Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.” —Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
Key takeaway: What motivates you as a business owner? Is it money, or is it building something great? Know that there are different ways to measure success along the way.
6. “If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” —Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Facebook
Key takeaway: What do you love to do? Oftentimes, thinking about what you enjoy doing is the best way to start a business.
As a small business owner, you know that success doesn’t happen overnight. And if it seems as though it did, at closer look you’ll probably find that years of hard work led to a breakthrough.
Here are 9 small business quotes on the hard work it takes to be a great business owner.
1. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” —Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple
Key takeaway: Some successful entrepreneurs get where they are today because they never gave up.
2. “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” —Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, author, and public speaker
Key takeaway: As you build your business, remember that making it happen will never be as easy as it seemed from the start.
3. “So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.” —Caterina Fake, Co-Founder of Flickr
Key takeaway: Pure hard work is important, but smart work is the most valuable.
4. “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal—a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” —Mario Andretti, American racecar driver
Key takeaway: You want to be a business owner and you want to be successful. Just wanting it isn’t going to get you there. In the end, it’s the quality of the work you do.
5. “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” —Vince Lombardi, Executive, Head Coach, and NFL player
Key takeaway: Small business quotes can come from any source—including athletes. Athletes know just how connected your own work is to your own success.
6. “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” —Peter F. Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author
Key takeaway: The most important part of a plan is the execution of it.
7. “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” —Arianna Huffington, Founder, The Huffington Post
Key takeaway: Just putting in the hours at work won’t get you to where you want to be. It’s the quality of the hours that will move the needle.
8. “I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come indirectly through accident, except the phonograph. No, when I have fully decided that a result is worth getting, I go about it, and make trial after trial, until it comes.” —Thomas Edison, American inventor
Key takeaway: While you hope that luck is on your side, being lucky won’t be what makes your business successful—being deliberate and dedicated will be.
9. “When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure.” —Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics
Key takeaway: When you and your business reach new heights, you’ll be happy you put in the work to get you there.
No entrepreneur starts a business thinking that success is a done-deal. Running your own company comes with its fair-share of risks.
These 5 small business quotes will help you become more comfortable with the inevitable risks you’ll take as an entrepreneur.
1. “Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.” —Arianna Huffington, Founder, The Huffington Post
Key takeaways: Once you take more and more risks as a small business owner, it’ll get easier.
2. “As ever, the accountant in me saw the risk, the entrepreneur saw the possibility. So I split the difference and kept moving forward.” —Phil Knight, Chairman Emeritus of Nike
Key takeaways: Giving one of the most powerful small business quotes of the challenges of entrepreneurship, Knight knows that he wouldn’t be where he is today if he didn’t take risks early on.
3. “Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, have confidence in your abilities, and don’t let the bastards get you down.” —Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg L.P.
Key takeaway: You know your business better than anyone—have confidence that you’re making the right decisions.
4. “It’s important to be willing to make mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you become memorable.” —Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx Inc.
Key takeaway: Some risky decisions turn into mistakes. But oftentimes the implications of the best case scenario far exceed the consequences of the worst.
5. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” —Tony Robbins, businessman, author, and philanthropist.
Key takeaway: Don’t let your fear of failing make you complacent. To be better, you have to take some risks along the way.
We hope these 41 small business quotes help you keep your head up when you’re in a bind, motivate you to keep going, or help you take a leap of faith for your business.
Which small business quotes are you always revisiting? Share them in the comments!