24 Business Owners’ Hard-Hitting Work Ethic Quotes to Keep You Motivated

Updated on January 31, 2020
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What’s a successful entrepreneur’s secret recipe for starting their own business?

For many, it’s the combination of a great idea, a motivated team, the time to invest into the startup (and some money here and there), and a healthy dose of hard work.

That last ingredient—work ethic—is often what makes or breaks a business owner and their company.

So to keep you motivated as you start and grow your business, we asked entrepreneurs in the same boat as you:

“What work ethic quotes keep you and your employees pushing on?”

Here’s what they had to say.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

“This Thomas Edison quote keeps me motivated because it encourages persistence. As an entrepreneur, you are going to fail and make mistakes. That’s natural and part of the process of developing a company that benefits its stakeholders.

Mistakes are one of the best ways to learn and improve. The key is to avoid making the same errors repeatedly. As long as you keep trying and adapting to the feedback you receive, eventually you will reach your goals. It’s important not to look at mistakes as failures but instead as signs on a map that help you get to where you want to go.”

—Bob Ellis, Owner of Massage Tables Now

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“There’s always a point in a big project where it feels like it will never be completed, that this is the time when I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. This Nelson Mandela quote reminds me to stay the course, and that if I just keep moving forward—even though it seems impossible at the moment—I’ll meet my goal.”

—Marc Roche, Founder of Annuities HQ

“Never stop learning—learn something new every day.”

“This is how we stay on top of the market and are able to offer innovative, consistent services that make our clients happy and, as a result, bring success to our company.”

—Gideon Lipnickas, Founder of New Concept 180

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”

“In addition to promoting self-confidence and believing in ourselves, this Henry Ford quote inspires our team to go ahead and do the things that seem impossible. We believe that the key to success is embracing new challenges and tackling them with courage, and we pursue this philosophy in our everyday work where we make our client’s websites more profitable.”

—Sarunas Budrikas, CEO of Angle180

“We are all judged by what we finished, not by what we started.”

“This quote sums the values of my company perfectly. We believe that our work should speak for itself, and we don’t make a big deal of promoting ourselves—we just deliver on what we promise, making sure that our client’s are happy with the services they receive.

Working hard to keep our standards high and finishing every project to our clients’ liking is what leads our company to success. In fact, most of our clients come to us nowadays, because they have seen our past work and want the same quality of work for themselves.”

—Val Slajus, Owner of VIS Exterior

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

“Almost every business will come under difficult times–stress, struggle, and uncertainty abounds. I find this Albert Einstein quote a wonderfully simple way of reminding myself that, no matter what happens, you just have to carry on. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and when it does happen it’s not through lack of trying. The important thing for everyone to remember is that whatever obstacles you face in business and life in general, the best way to overcome them is through working hard to carry on.”

—Matt Franks, Managing Director of Dreambooth

“Work smarter, not harder.”

“That quote has always motivated both me and my staff to find better, smarter ways to get things done.”

—Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers

“There is no substitute for hard work.”

“We are a small SEO agency that provides a wide range of services to a wide range of clients. As rewarding as this is, it also means that our workloads can often swell, rapidly. I have this Thomas Edison quote in a frame in the office, because, as simple as it is, it sums up the whole working world. There simply is no substitute for hard work—no machine can replace the stress, graft, and eventual satisfaction that comes with working hard to do a job well.”

—Steve Pritchard, Managing Director of It Works

“The harder I work the luckier I get.”

“My father—an entrepreneur himself—always said this quote, and it motivates me because it works! Whenever my business encounters turbulence or lack of opportunity, I double down and work twice as hard. And it has paid off!”

—John Kinskey, Founder of AccessDirect

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

“We operate in a complicated industry, and there are a lot of players vying for attention. It isn’t just about learning your business—you have to play (execute) better than everybody else. We bring this Albert Einstein quote up at every weekly meeting, and it is a great way to maintain direction and vision.”

—Jan Bednar, CEO of ShipMonk

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

“This Samuel Beckett quote reminds me that failure is often looked as very negative—however, it’s actually a positive. Failure can increase self-awareness and allow both founders and employees to learn things about their business or operations that they would have never learned if they didn’t fail.”

—Jeremy Goldman, Founder of Firebrand Group

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

“This Ayn Rand quote shows how starting and running a small business is very much like a battle—there are obstacles that seem impossible at times. It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath, center yourself, and think about your heroes—the businesspeople and accomplished individuals who’ve succeeded—and therefore remind you that you can, too.”

—Michael Mignogna, CEO of Minyona

“Work hard. Have fun.”

“I believe that having fun at work is the best. Work can be boring and mundane. It’s important to have fun at the office. It keeps people motivated and engaged. A nice balance of hard work and a fun environment makes all the difference. It motivates everyone.”

—Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation

“We are so much stronger together than we are when we’re doing it alone.”

“What that truly means is that we have to always make sure that we are working together. No one person is better or greater than the next. As a team we will continue to reach our goal and continue to have success because we see each other as one team together.”

—Kay Matthews, Founder of The Shades of Blue Project

“Whistle while you work!”

“Inspired by the jolly Seven Dwarfs, our startup’s leadership team uses this phrase regularly to remind our staff that we want them to enjoy and feel great about what they do. People who dread going to work are motivated only by a sense of survival, fear, and obligation. They may get the required work done, but they will never have that creative energy that produces innovative ideas and extraordinary results. Additionally, individual mindsets (whether positive or negative) are infectious and can permeate entire departments and organizations.”

—Robin Salter, CMO at Kwipped

“Only those who never stand up, never fall down.”

“This John Kavanagh quote encourages our team to stand up daily, to make mistakes, and to move forward. We know that short-term failure is a key ingredient to long-term success. When our team is working on a difficult project, we reference this quote to remind ourselves that it’s okay to fall 100 times—as long as we stand back up 101 times.”

—Neil Mclaren, Owner of Vaping.com

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

“This is very important to internalize in the world of business. If you’re not out there hustling and doing the best you can, someone else will be there to run right past you.”

—Manoj “Marty” Puranik, Founder, President, and CEO of Atlantic.Net

“Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

“We use this quote to take the pressure off our support team. Our goal is to provide high-quality work. Not shoddy, sloppy work.

Sometimes a client calls in with an idea and wants it implemented yesterday. This attitude puts undo pressure on the support team, and instead of doing quality work, they do shoddy work.

This quote allows them to take a breath and not absorb the rushed energy being presented by the client. We will still do what is needed for the client but only after setting expectations on when it will be delivered.”

—Shannon Kuykendall, CEO of Digital Marketing Implementation

“Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.”

“My favorite business quote as it relates to work ethic is German and translates into “Morning hour has gold in its mouth,” much like “Early bird catches the worm.” It’s amazing how much you can get done in the early morning hours when most people are still asleep. It’s also when my mind is the clearest. Take advantage of the extra time you have to make your business rise above the competition.”

—Christoph Seitz, CEO of CFR Rinkens

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”

“I started my business 12 years ago and we instantly brought in millions of sales in our first year. But when the recession hit, we got hit hard. Sales plummeted and I had to reduce my staff of 22 to 5 to make it work. Though we have not gotten back to where we were, we are doing fairly well—and hopefully we’ll be a back on top in the next years. This Art Linkletter quote reminds me and my team that we just don’t give up, and we keep on keeping on.”

—Sandy Stein, President of Finders Key Purse

“Don’t let your talents get you where your character can’t keep you.”

“This reminds me to always operate and run my company ethically and with integrity and to encourage my clients to do the same. This is so motivating to me because we see so many businesses fail because of the lack of character of the leaders. This quote keeps me motivated to always do the right thing no matter what.”

—Stacy Roberts, Founder of SMR Leadership Solutions

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

“While it’s important to celebrate the small victories and assess the damage of failures, this John Wooden quote always reminds me that there’s still more work to do. It motivates me to continue striving for success even after we have achieved it. There’s always a new market to tap or an innovative process to implement—success is never final, so we continue to keep working.

It also helps me and my team in the times when things inevitably don’t work out as we expect them to. In those moments, this quote serves as a reminder to learn from the mistakes and work even harder going forward—failure is never fatal, so we pick ourselves up and keep going.”

—Evan Harris, Co-Founder and CEO of SD Equity Partners

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

“This Simon Sinek quote resonates with me because it’s true—when my employees are satisfied, they put in more time and energy towards improving their performance and productivity. My employees feel their importance and a sense of accountability to their task.”

—Lisa Chu, Owner of Black N Bianco

“Talk less. Do more.”

“While ideas are great, everybody has them but very few take action—which is why I feel this quote is so empowering. I find a great sense of accomplishment and pride when I’m able to look back after a hard day of work and see all that I was able to achieve.”

—Matt Edstrom, Head of Marketing at BioClarity


What quote do you live by as an entrepreneur? Share it in the comments!

Georgia McIntyre

Georgia McIntyre is the director of content marketing at Fundera. She has written extensively about small business finance, specializing in business lending, credit cards, and accounting solutions. Georgia has a bachelor's degree in economics from Colgate University. Email: georgia@fundera.com.
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