As an entrepreneur and SMB executive, one of my earliest business inspirations came from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For me, the seventh habit—“sharpen the saw”—was most profound. Alliteration and visuals aside, it taught me to focus on what’s most important in life. I’ve used it every day since, even when the going got tough.
Running a SMB isn’t easy, yet inspiring words go a long way in keeping us motivated. Here are 10 quotes from executives you can use to raise your spirits:
“I think the best thing that I can tell any of you who is afraid is that everyone is. But I’m guaranteeing that everyone somewhere, sometime has been afraid of something. So, it really shouldn’t be a blocker. – Lee Mayer, CEO of Havenly
My take: Fear is a natural part of growing a business. To succeed, we have to face and then overcome our fears. It’s like the line from the old deodorant commercial: “Never let them see you sweat.” Balance your fears with ambition, determination and confidence. No one will see you sweat, and you’ll achieve big things.
“I think one of the things we did that was important was that we worked really hard to identify the right problem before identifying the solution. ...If you find a problem that people talk about emotionally as a serious problem in their lives…you can take that leap to developing the solution.” – Liam Don, co-founder of ClassDojo
My take: Focus on a unique problem that needs solving and then work to turn it into a big disruptive market opportunity. For example, at my second startup, N2 Broadband, we realized consumers wanted to watch TV on their schedule and not on the network’s pre-determined schedule. Our solution? Create on-demand programming, which transformed the value proposition for our consumers.
“Find an incredible co-founder. I think both of us have found that we do better work together than we ever could alone.” – Noah Ready-Campbell, CEO of Twice
My take: I’ve been a sole founder, and it can be very lonely. I’ve also managed a company with six founders. When you find someone who can complement your skills—who shares your vision and your kindred spirit—it makes a tremendous difference.
“The cost of following any idea to the end will take years off your life. Make sure you are not doing something just because it sounded like a good idea in the night.” –Scott Paul, Founder, ArmorActive, Instafluence
My take: I’ve seen friends follow an idea off of a cliff. That’s why you must surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable. SMBs are no place for sycophants. Establish an end result, set milestones and seize opportunities to build a big, disruptive business.
“Winter is for planning. Spring is for planting. Summer is for working. And fall is for harvesting. Farmers know how to use each season, and the best entrepreneurs do, too.” – Zach Ferres, CEO of Coplex
My take: I also compare this to sports like football, which has (as you probably already know) four quarters in a game. Build your game plan around those quarters. Don’t get complacent when you’re ahead, and don’t panic when you’re behind. Work methodically to every milestone…every goal…and you will see your end result.
“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.” – Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle
My take: In the early stages of my three start-ups, people looked at me like I had three heads when I told them about the opportunity I was pursing. It takes guts, tenacity, confidence and conviction to boldly charge forward. Have faith in yourself, and build your team wisely to keep you in check.
“Many companies forget that true loyalty comes when employees believe that the organization and its leadership team care about them personally and professionally. This ultimately results in long-tenured employees, which has a very real and direct effect on company growth.” – Michael A. Olguin, President Formula PR
My take: One of your biggest competitive advantages will be your employees. You must value them as family. Empower them; they have a card in the game. Provide an environment of trust and confidence, and they’ll believe in you, trust each other, solve customers’ problems, and remain loyal.
“Throughout this entire process, I’ve learned the importance of humility and to never become complacent. It’s important to maintain a level head, put your business and customers first, and leave your ego at the door.” – Jonathan Shokrian, founder and chairman, MeUndies
My take: Being underestimated is powerful indeed. And that power comes from humility. It requires discipline, because it’s easy to become overconfident in business, which in turn, causes you to lose focus.
“If people believe in you, they will believe in the product you put forth in order to experience it themselves.” – Lisa Song, CEO, Sin City Cupcakes
My take: Early on with a start-up, people bet on you—not your product or company. You ARE the company. So, believe in yourself. Encourage support by sharing a compelling and consistent vision with customers, employees, partners and investors.
“Switching your brain from one project to the next is a difficult task for most. Think of it like a white board that’s wiped clean but sometimes leaves a shadow on the board.” – Fam Mirza, CEO, 1:Face
My Take: Avoid the “innovator’s dilemma”—having so much opportunity and capital that you cast too wide a net. Focus, instead, and use your intuition. Perfect an existing idea; if you don’t, someone else will. Remember, Google didn’t invent the search engine; it made it better.
And if all that isn’t enough motivation, then here is my own, bonus quote to guide you:
“Always be curious. Never stop asking questions. Read everything. Curiosity can give your startup life and help you see the future.”