12 Best Business Minds of All Time Share Their Wisdom

The best way for entrepreneurs to learn from the business greats is by finding out what they’re doing to achieve the success that they have – and try to replicate what you find, and make it your own. For helping you in your personal development endeavor, here are the advice from twelve of the best business minds of all time.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
Sir Richard Branson – photo credit: Jarle Naustvik / Flickr

1. Fail often, but use those failures to minimize future risk

I won’t waste your time by restating the obvious and overused advice about being prepared to fail and fail often. When it comes to failures though, you do have to learn from them. And by learning, you’ll learn how to manage the downside of each of those failures in the future.

You don’t want to be put into positions where you have to go all-in for a hail Mary move that could end in you having to close the doors (ie., putting all your personal savings into the company, remortgaging your house, “betting the farm,” etc.)

As Richard Branson puts it:

“When you prepare against catastrophic downsides (avoid ‘betting it all’ or ‘mortgaging everything’), it allows you to create a culture where you can take lots of small to mid-size risks, learn, and build.”

Greatness and prosperity rarely result from a single blind act of faith. Don’t believe what you watch in the movies. It’s hard work. Plan to fail, but also use that data to fail smaller and win bigger.

2. Realize you’re the average of the five people you hang out with most often

4-Hour magnate, Tim Ferriss is well-known for making this statement:

“Your network is your net worth.”

Pretty cheeky but simple in practice too…

Motivational speaker, Les Brown, is constantly cautioning people to:

“Get the losers out of your life – people who don’t want anything!”

All this advice boils down to the need to surround yourself with people who want to win in the game of life and in business. Your network will be there to help you when you need some advice and/or when the chips are really down and you need assistance.

If you’re still hanging around with people who don’t align with your goals, they’ll most assuredly hold you back/drag you down.

3. Most times a “No” will turn into a “Yes” down the road

If you’re ready to accept temporary rejection and not take it personally, you will still have the power to turn those nos into yeses sooner or later. Nasty Girl clothing exec, Sophia Amoruso says it best:

“Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take NO for an answer.”

Not everyone is going to say yes to your ideas or sales pitches right away. Some will have to think things over, others will need to see a track record of success with your business and its products before laying their money down. That’s why you can’t let the nos get to you or it’ll destroy your will and determination – potentially causing you to burn bridges in the process.

Grant Cardone
Grant Cardone

4. Constantly reinvest in your brand

If you keep sucking the profits out of your business just to pump up your bank account or pay your personal bills, your business and brand can’t expand. Nor will yours and your employee’s skill levels or worth in the marketplace.

Mega American success story, Grant Cardone says:

“Invest the money you make back into your brand and in yourself. Always invest in you!”

Essentially, he’s telling us to do what he did to build his massive sales empire – believe in yourself enough to make a financial investment in your business and your abilities.

5. “Listen to your customers – while you still have the chance!”

The quote in the heading is from marketing legend Guy Kawasaki. Here’s another that he was inspired by early in his career, from one of his early bosses, that goes hand in hand with the above quote:

“As long as people are complaining, they still want to do business with you. When they stop complaining is when you need to worry.”

It’s so true, yet so rarely followed. How often have you become so frustrated with a cable company, ISP, or mobile phone company, that you just got fed up and moved on?

Many of us have been there, and know that those same company’s that couldn’t be bothered to listen when we were willing to voice our concerns, will usually turn-tail and do everything they can to earn that business back after the fact – too little, too late!

Marie Forleo
Marie Forleo – photo credit: youTube.com

6. Always look for opportunities within challenges

Life and business coach, Marie Forleo, is a huge proponent of trying to look for new opportunities in every situation; particularly in times of stress when it looks like the deck is stacked against you. She suggests people ask themselves one question every time they’re faced with a challenge:

“How can I make this work for me?”

Marie believes asking this question will immediately put you into learning mode and get your brain looking for ways to

By adopting this kind of mindset, no challenge is too big – there’s always a great opportunity lying within.

7. Make sure your extended network is solid as a rock

This goes beyond Ferriss’s advice about us being the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Renowned author and consumer acquisition specialist, Nir Eyal, takes the networking effect a bit further in his advice to brand owners.

Eyal believes that though you have to work hard to start a solid network of professionals around you; it will soon begin to take on a life of its own and grow with little effort from you as you persevere.

8. Make sure you know everything about your customers

Business strategist and consultant, Tara Gentile, believes that customers need to be just more than a number:

“I’ve learned to really think about who I actually want to sell to, instead of some generalization or profile of who might buy from me. Every time I’ve named individual people and created content with them in mind, those people have actually worked with me. No solicitation, just genuine connection by tailor-making what works best for them. Of course, I’ve also met many other amazing people who needed the same things.”

Its hard to argue with such detailed advice. Create a relationship and the sales and fulfillment process becomes that much easier.

Eric Schmidt
Eric Schmidt

9. Say “Yes” automatically when great opportunities arise

This is so important. So many of us practically say “No” on autopilot. Barely recognizing a good – or potentially good – opportunity when it comes our way. Sometimes the journey will be your reward because of the lessons involved, even if the obligations we take on aren’t particularly rewarding on their own.

Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, sums this point up pretty good:

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”

A quick glance at his Twitter page tells us that Schmidt may make it to space someday real soon!

10. Find a way to rationalize your success rather than fear imminent failure

Sales expert, Michael Port, believes in taking the grass is always greener on the other side approach to building a successful business. Port has an interesting and irrefutable quote that summarizes why all of us have the ability to succeed and make our businesses highly profitable:

“I asked a friend, who made more than 30 million dollars by the time he was 30, why he thought he was successful. His response: ‘There’s all this money out there, someone’s going to pick it up, it might as well be me.’”

I dare say that’s some advice that’s hard to argue with!

11. Don’t be a lazy marketer

Marketing is the most important part of customer acquisition. Once you’ve created something, you have to tirelessly promote it or that idea will never get any traction.

John D. Rockefeller has simple advice about marketing the products you create:

“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.”

The man has been quoted in business circles more times than I can count. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering he founded Standard Oil and is to this day (79 years after his death) still the richest man in the history of the United States. He had a net worth of $1.4-billion at the time of his death in 1939 (~$23-billion today).

12. Hustle until you succeed, then keep hustling!

All the bigshots mentioned in this argue have attained the kind of business success that so many of us are looking for in life. They understand the art of the hustle and even now, as they’ve attained more than most ever will, they wake up early every day and keep working their butts off to further their ambitions to new heights.

The author of NYT bestseller ‘Do Over’, Jon Acuff, puts the hustle process into context:

“Hustle is an act of focus, not frenzy. Hustle is about subtraction and addition. It’s not about doing more, it’s about focusing on the things you need to do, in order to move your business forward.”

Never stop hustling.

What advice did you find most insightful to your business goals?