“Read. The Fucking. Manual.”
Unfortunately, entrepreneurship isn’t a toaster. There is no manual to tell you plug in, push button, and viola, toast. The best you are going to get are the perspectives of different people, with different values, and different goals.
Life as an entrepreneur can be frustrating when you are looking for information— much of which is written by people who haven’t actually done anything remotely related to entrepreneurship. So, from one entrepreneur to another, here is my collection of quotes, and the lessons I have pulled from each— lessons that ring true both on the playing field and in life as a whole.
“Entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital, so that you can do more of it and move forward with it.”
– Richard Branson
1) Ari Weinzweig, CEO and cofounder of Zingerman’s.
“When furious, get curious.”
It’s almost Buddhist, and undoubtedly much easier said than done. In his book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Guide To Managing Ourselves, Weinzweig reflects, “The assumption that others are out to get us, that something bad happened because of others’ ill will or malice, rarely makes for anything productive. Learning to breathe deeply, get grounded, and be sensitive to others’ suffering can help get us back to a more productive place.”
Productivity is a reflection of clarity, not emotional instability.
2) Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, quoting Jeffrey Hayzlett, a professional speaker and author.
“Just because you killed a cow doesn’t mean you’re gonna eat steak for dinner.”
You can always be bankrupt tomorrow. Sometimes the big win isn’t what will make you in the long run. The smart entrepreneurs never let momentary elation (or failure) steer their course from continuing to accomplish their goal consistently. di Giusto says. “Every time I lean back after accomplishing a project, reaching a milestone, or closing a business deal, I remind myself that successful entrepreneurs certainly work smart, but they also work exceptionally hard.”
3) Dane Atkinson, founder and CEO of SumAll.
“Help them discover what they are good at, as many have yet to find that themselves. Then get the hell out of the way!”
Just as much as you are trying to find value in a team, a team is trying to find value in a mission. You’re almost never going to get someone who is perfect for the job, but rather, you’ll find someone who has a history that proves they are curious, hardworking, and have enough of a background knowledge that they can get the job done well— maybe even improving it along the way. Help them foster those skills of clarity and perspicacity— it’s the team that makes the business, not just the leader.
4) Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin
“The quality of business communications has become poorer in recent years as people avoid phone calls and face-to-face meetings, I can only assume, in some misguided quest for efficiency.”
‘Misguided’ being the key word here. Every team has what works best for them, but if you don’t regularly dedicate some time to face-to-face (or as close as you can get, Skype, etc) time, even the best teams will drift apart and the mission will be lost in the void in between.
5. Aristotle, philosopher, all around wise guy.
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
Entrepreneur or not, quality comes from consistency and care. Entrepreneurship especially, is a marathon, sustainability is just as important, if not more, than making it into the black quickly.
6. Elon Musk, founder of Telsa, early investor in Paypal
“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it.”
Taking a page from Aristotle’s book. How is quality achieved? By constantly improving. The best risk takers, Musk, Branson, Jobs, all iterated like maniacs, taking constant feedback from their teams and the public to make each product just a little bit better than the last. As my father would say, “One bite at a time, these men ate elephants.”
7. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx
“I think failure is nothing more than life’s way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying at all.”
This is what I call the unconventional win. Sometimes the biggest failures are the most eye opening, sign-from-the-universe-esque experiences you can hope for.
8. Donald Trump, real estate mogul
“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”
A curse of the startup entrepreneur is that they cannot achieve something, whether it be the size of their competitors, have the resources to create a better product or have the space to attract the best talent. But there is a difference between using large goals to drive boot-strapped strategy, and not having the goals at all. Great entrepreneurs are by definition born from risk— after all that’s where all the reward is. If the plan doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.
9. Tim Ferriss, Author of the 4 Hour Workweek, investor and entrepreneur
“My quota is two crappy pages per day. I keep it really low so I’m not so intimidated that I never get started.”
This is actually pretty common. As an entrepreneur, you will never finish your to-do list. Just accept that as a reality now because too much needs to be done too soon. But as opposed to having that be intimidating, making goals ridiculously easy to reach is the catalyst to knocking out the bigger items on that list. Ferriss tells 99u that he’ll start his writing session at just two pages — and then crank, crank, crank until he can write no longer, until 4 or 5 a.m.
10. Natalie Clifford Barney, playwright, poet, novelist
“Entrepreneurship is the last refuge of the troublemaking individual.”
Just hearing this makes me feel like a rebel. If there is one word in the entrepreneurial vocabulary to know, its disruption. ANY company, EVERY company, must be disruptive, it’s what gives it value, it’s what gives it an edge, and it’s the evolutionary difference that lets it survive in Darwin’s economy. When you feel like you’re breaking the rules, you’re doing something right.