In this excellent video from Goldman Sachs, respected business leaders give their best advice to small business owners.
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
The best advice to a small business owner, or for that matter to a large business owner, is never stop thinking about how to delight your customer. Not to satisfy your customer, but to delight your customer. When you wake up in the morning, start thinking about it. During the day, think about it. At night, think about it. And then dream about it.
No company ever failed that had millions of delighted customers, and you start with them and you get them one at a time.
Michael R. Bloomberg
Founder, Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies
There’s no substitute for hard work. The best time you are ever going to have is when it starts out just you, and it would be great if it grows into a wonderful, big profitable company. But you’re never going to be happier and more satisfied than you are in the first year or so of getting your business going. Because you do every single thing. You sweep up when everybody goes home. You’re the first one in, you plug in the coffee pot so when your people come in they have hot coffee and can get straight to work. You work through lunch, to set an example for them.
But there’s no substitute for hard work. People say luck, yes, but the harder you work the luckier you get.
President, Babson College
My advice to a small business owner or any entrepreneur would be not to be discouraged if the business you end up with is not the one you started out to pursue. Because, so often, you encounter difficulties, you encounter failures, and the important piece is to learn from each of those very quickly and to pivot and to move on to the idea that works.
Lloyd C. Blankfein
Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
Of course you have to be close to your products, close to your customers, and think about them – that’s most important. But don’t forget to think about your business. What your plans are, what you want to do next, how to take your business to the next level. Again, think about being in your business, but think about your business as well.
Co-Founder and CEO, Square
Co-Founder and CEO, Twitter
My best advice is to really work hard to clarify what your purpose is, and to be able to articulate that, be able to communicate it in a simple sentence. The reason that’s important is, as you bring people into your company, I think the most important question you ask them is, “Why are you here?”. “Why do you want to join this company?”.
If you hear that purpose back, if you hear that passion around that purpose, it makes everything a whole lot easier. Any skill can be learned and taught, but passion cannot.
President and CEO, National Urban League
Being an entrepreneur can be a rollercoaster ride at times. You will have great days, you will have not-so-great days, you may even from time to time have an awful day. You’ve got to stay focussed and stay level-headed and keep your feet on the ground.
Michael E. Porter
Professor, Harvard Business School
Founder and Chairman, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City
Companies that do well at some level, even though it may not be written down on a piece of paper, they need to have a clear strategy of why they’re different, why they’re adding value, why they’re producing something special that the customers need and they’re not getting now.
I think if there’s a clear sense of strategy and you can get all the people aligned around that, then you get a lot more power than if you’re just scrambling and you’re working harder and harder without that clear direction. That’s my one piece of advice.