Starting a small business is a daunting task for anyone. There are myriad things to consider and mainly obstacles to overcome before doors can open for business – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Far from it, in fact. Starting your journey into business and entrepreneurship could be the best thing you ever do.
In 2018, there were 5.7m SMEs in the UK – so there’s plenty of lessons to be learned and motivation to be found. Look in the right place – beyond cliche Tweets and Pinterest boards – and you’ll find a wealth of advice from CEOs, like–minded founders and business experts to help you navigate the often murky waters of business and become a true success story.
Below, we’ve collated 50 of the best quotes about business, money, success, motivation and much more. Bookmark this page and watch the inspiration roll in.
This quote from America’s third President Thomas Jefferson can ring true to anyone working to build something – from novice to veteran – and, as any successful business owner will attest, is almost totally accurate.
2. “The most successful entrepreneurs I know are optimistic. It’s part of the job description.” ― Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr
There's only so far that cold calculation can get you. Sometimes you need to believe deep down that what you want to create is possible – and that takes a lot of positivity. So do what you can to be optimistic. That doesn't mean you need to be happy all the time, it just means that when you're having a bad day, you believe there'll be better days.
3. “If we did all the things we were capable of, we would astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison, inventor
America’s greatest inventor says it best. Don’t just put half of your energy into your project, but, instead, immerse yourself in the new challenges and learn from them. You never know, your lightbulb moment could lead to something huge.
4. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
From craft beer to comics and plants to push bikes, starting a business around your hobbies and interests could be the best thing you ever do. Because when you love what you do, it won’t feel work.
5. “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, founder of Facebook
Zuck’s got it spot–on here. If you’ve got an idea, a passion and a vision, you’re already in a strong position get things moving. Like the Steve Jobs quote (above), when you love what you do, it really won’t feel like a chore.
Working hard at your business can result in financial success, which could enable you to buy all sorts of nice things. But relationships with friends and family, and your own peace of mind, might need more than money to thrive.
7. “Get five or six of your smartest friends in a room and ask them to rate your idea.” – Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga
Your friends and your family know you best, meaning that they’ll probably be able to give you an accurate analysis of your baseline business idea. Chances are, they won’t be scared to be honest about your grand plans.
8. “Work 9-to-5, spend a couple of hours with your family, 7 to 2am is plenty of time to do damage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX
Everyone’s got 24 hours in a day, right? So be sure to break yours up according to your priorities. Spend time with your friends and family – they keep you sane during tumultuous times and celebrate during the best – while also dedicating portions of time to getting things off the ground.
9. “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” – Zig Ziglar, writer and salesman
You’ll meet all sorts of people during the lifetime of your business, from investors to customers. You'll want different things out of each relationship, but your input should be the same – be open and be honest. And people will trust you, which can go a long way.
10. “You don’t need to have a 100–person company to develop that idea.” – Larry Page, co-founder of Google
Onboarding staff can be a huge investment – and it's not easy to get right. So be sure to streamline who you actually want to represent your business and who can help it thrive. It could be a smaller team than you think.
As with Wayne Huzienga’s thoughts below, Lauder’s most famous quote is one about motivation and having a strong work ethic. Your dreams only have a chance of coming true if you make them.
12. “When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” – Josh James, CEO and co-founder of Omniture
It’s easy to fantasise about would–be businesses, but there’s a difference between an impulsive idea and an obsession. Does it keep you up at night and stay at the front of your brain all day? Good – then get it started.
13. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
A lot of small businesses and start-ups focus only on money from day one. That can work, but try to look at the bigger picture too. And, crucially, plan out your five and ten–year strategy which maps your business journey. If your business plan is solid and things go your way, the money will follow.
14. “Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” – Wayne Huizenga, serial entrepreneur
Everyone’s got an elevator pitch, but very few act on their ideas. If you want your small business to take off, work on it every day and leave the nay–sayers in the rear–view mirror.
15. “A person who is quietly confident makes the best leader.” – Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures
You don’t have to be an office-floor-dominating personality or an online polymath to be an effective business owner. Far from it, in fact. If you have an acute knowledge of an industry or product, you’ll be able to steer your staff in the right direction. Have faith in yourself.
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Stop chasing the end goal and focusing on your daily to-do list. Success happens in the background – it happens online, on the street and from word–of–mouth – so keep focused and good things will follow.
17. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill, politician and writer
Enjoy your successes, but learn from the mistakes that are tripping you up. Dusting yourself off and continuing on will give you a better lesson than an easy win.
18. “Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier, writer
Treat your customers right, make things easy for them, work hard and be kind – just a few examples of small and daily efforts that make can make a significant difference in the real world. Remember that success looks different on everyone, so identify the small objectives and tick them off.
19. “Your value will be not what you know; it will be what you share.” ― Ginni Rometty, CEO at IBM
The worst employers and managers are those who are afraid their junior members will thrive and take their jobs. The best employers and managers want it to happen. Success isn't finite. Share your learnings, experiences and knowledge. Your organisation will be richer for it.
20. “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” – Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter
When people see a successful business, they don’t see the work – hours, days, months and years worth – that has gone into it. On the flipside, however, by quietly working away with tenacity and perseverance, customers, investors and others won’t be able to remember a time without your services.
Sometimes, smart predictions work. Most of the time, though, it makes more sense to talk and listen to your customers. They’ll know their side of your industry the best, so you’ll be gaining valuable insight while also getting to know a more personal side of your customers.
22. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
There are two customers you need to look out for – happy customers and unhappy customers. The latter is the most important, as you’ll be focusing your efforts to improve their experience in order to re-gain their trust. It doesn’t matter if you’ve made an app or a new type of coffee, listen to them, help them, and watch your business grow.
23. “Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading. Buying and selling.” – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
Sometimes it's easy to overthink running a small business. But no matter your sector, never forget the basics: you need customers to buy your product or services to survive and thrive. Your customers are your key to success, so treat them well.
24. “Listen to your customers deeply, or you will have none.” – Bryan Clayton, CEO of Greenpal
When starting your small business, customer feedback is invaluable and will help shape your future business plans and how you can adapt. Don’t be shy when it comes to listening to your followers, customers and readers – they could be your most valuable asset to use to thrive.
25. “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000.” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
If there’s anyone who knows the world of internet retail sites, it’s Bezos – while happy customers may tell one or two friends, unhappy customers will flock to review sites and social media to post about (and, often, tag) your brand with their complaints. Often, it’s very hard to control – so don’t let it get to that point.
Fall down seven times, but stand up eight – true courage, in life and business, comes from the power to dust yourself off and continue, regardless of any mistakes or failures. Learn from them and move one.
27. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox
The great thing about mistakes is that you can make as many as you like. You only need to be successful once.
28. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft
Often, the best ideas come from what you’ve done wrong, rather than what you’ve done right. Identify both and use them as lessons that you can apply into the real world.
29. "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." – Winston Churchill, politician and writer
Remaining cheerful and optimistic in adversity is one of the best traits a small business owner can have. There will be good times and there may be bad, but facing challenges with a positive disposition will make them easier to tackle.
30. “Failure is success if we learn from it.” – Malcolm Forbes, publisher and founder
Ask any business owner and they’ll likely admit to having several enterprises and ideas that never got off the ground before one took off. This could be the same for you, so be sure to use each as a lesson.
Incorporate big goals into your five, ten and twenty–year plans and steadily work towards them. Soon enough, these dreams won’t seem so crazy.
32. “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Michael Jordan, sportsman
Stop daydreaming and start working with MJ’s words etched into your memory. You’ll quickly start to live, learn and love through your business and, chances are, you’ll be far better off for starting this adventure.
33. “Stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
Just like what Zuckerberg said above, all you need is a passion to start a small business. It’s this entrepreneurial spirit that will keep you cruising through the good times and the bad. The money will come soon enough if you stay focused.
34. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt, statesman and politician
Self–belief is paramount when it comes to launching a new venture. Because if you don’t believe in your new project, why should your customers and investors?
35. “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller, business magnate and philanthropist
If you’ve got a comfortable job, it may be hard to break it off and follow your entrepreneurial spirit. This will be your first challenge. But once you take that first step, better things can follow.
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Here, the great Chinese philosopher has assumed the role of a would–be mentor, highlighting the importance of tenacity. Of course, this can be applied to the journey of starting and running a small business, where a drive to keep going can be the force behind your success.
37. “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of a mistake.” – Meg Whitman, serial entrepreneur and former CEO of eBay and HP
Similar in tone to the old adage, ‘it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,’ Whitman suggests that it's better to try and to mess things up than to never even attempt something great. As an even older saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
38. “An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for something and a want to create.” – David Karp, founder of Tumblr
Found something that the world is missing? That could be your USP. If you have the drive to create it and to bring it to market, that makes you a true entrepreneur. Incite the change you want to see in your industry.
39. “There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” – Jason Fried, founder of 37signals
If you’re worried about staffing or people power, chances are your team doesn’t need to be as big as you think. Instead, streamline your methods and elimanate anything making things harder than necessary. Your business and customers will thank you.
40. “The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world.” – Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce
When building your team, don’t settle for the mediocre: identify people – whether through friends, word–of–mouth or social media – who share similar values to you and your business. Hire them and enjoy working on a common objective.
Take a moment to think about what financial freedom means to you and work towards that objective. As Orman says, it could be cutting your stress levels and looking after your mental health, or just giving yourself more to spend with those you love.
42. “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell, politician
Whatever business or founder you admire or aspire to be like, there have been months and years of hard work to get to where they are now. Your ventures are likely to be the same – prepare, work hard and learn from mistakes.
43. “The goal isn’t more money. The goal is living life on your terms.” – Will Rogers, actor
Running your own busioness gives you a certain level of freedom and control. Granted, those come with significant strings attached. But you get to call the shots. Relish in that.
44. “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.” – Nelson Mandela, political leader
Technically speaking, you could have countless investments pouring into your business, but without the right vision, it could all go to waste. Give yourself the freedom to think and to work without being driven by money.
45. “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett, Business Magnate and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Giving your loved ones a sense of freedom in later life can be an incredible gift. If you work hard now, you and your loved ones could get to enjoy the freedom it brings later in life.
46. “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” – Steve Jobs, co–founder and CEO of Apple
Things won’t happen overnight – your profit won’t increase four–fold and customers may not suddenly come in droves. Real, viable business can be a slow–burner, so be patient.
47. “When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” – Julia Cameron, author, artist and poet
Much like many of the quotes above, Cameron is urging us to spend time on what we like doing, what we enjoy doing, and what we feel comfortable doing. The rest, she posits, will come automatically.
48. “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein, physicist
Earning money through your small business is one thing. Adding value to society and to your community, however, is another. This could come in many forms. Some consider philanthropic efforts to give their businesses an extra edge and give back to the community. Other simply try to make their businesses part of the community.
49. “Education costs money. But then so does ignorance.” – Sir Claus Moser, British statistician
Remember that a business degree or course won’t teach you everything. Often, real–world is much more valuable than what you’ll learn in a lecture hall. Learn from your customers, listen to other like–minded entrepreneurs and know your industry.
50. “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company
There's more to life than money, reckoned one of America's most influential industrialists, echoing the words of Einstein (above). Well, you don't need to revolutionise your own industry and tens of others to bring something of value into the world. Maybe your business helps people or makes them happy, or maybe some of your profits go to a cause you believe in. Whatever it is, having an impact beyond your bottom line will help during the difficult days.
So, there you have it. Sage advice from some of the world’s foremost CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders (and a few academics and politicians thrown in for good measure). With more software, technology, insight and availability than ever before, there’s never been a better time to launch a small business.
Ed Cooper is a freelance writer and the deputy digital editor at Men’s Health UK. He has written about tech, fitness, mental health, style, food, finance and much more.