Scaling a company in today's complex economic climate is much more than simply adding headcount or expanding your sales strategy. To help you understand the hurdles associated with business success, we have collected lesser-known quotes on growth from successful entrepreneurs.
What better way to learn how to run a business than from seven of the most famous, diverse, and successful entrepreneurs of the 21st century?
1.“As a company, one of our greatest cultural strengths is accepting the fact that if you’re going to invent, you’re going to disrupt.” –Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon has some experience when it comes to disrupting the market. Amazon exemplifies what it means to be a fast-growing company that started with humble beginnings in 1984. Bezos quite literally wrote the business plan for Amazon while on a roadtrip. 31 years later, he is the second richest person in the United States. What started as an online book service evolved into the world’s largest online shopping retailer. Not to mention, Bezos shaped the business model for internet sales, and has not turned back since. Many entrepreneurs would argue—the bigger the disruption, the better the product.
2.“When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.” –Margaret “Meg” Whitman, current CEO of Hewlett Packard, former CEO of eBay
Whitman is no stranger to a growing business. Most notably, Whitman served as the CEO of eBay during the 10 years where the company grew from under 30 to over 15,000 employees. At the time, internet commerce was just coming onto the scene and Whitman made a substantial impact on the growth of the business in terms of international scaling—currently, the multinational internet giant has offices in over 30 countries across the world. With the 2016 election coming to a close less than 24 hours ago, it is only fitting to mention that Meg Whitman was once considered the most likely female to be nominated for the presidency.
3.“One of the things I benefited from when I started this business was that I didn’t know anything. I was just instinct with no preconceived notions. This enabled me to learn and change quickly without having to worry about maintaining any kind of status quo, like some of my bigger competitors.” – Michael Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Inc.
Michael Dell entered the tech industry as a pre-med student with extra time and a passion to create personal computer kits. Inspired to cut production costs, Dell hoped to streamline the creation of personal computers by rejecting the traditional notion of selling through retail channels—instead, Dell introduced manufacturing to the personal computer industry. For a man who claims he “didn’t know anything,” he sure proved himself quickly while building up his brand. At 24, Dell was named Entrepreneur of the Year, and at 27 he became the youngest CEO on Fortune’s list of Top 500 Companies. Dell’s history reinforces the fact that as an entrepreneur you have to be agile, responsive, and instinctual. Many times, entrepreneurship requires the ability to blindly dive into what you care about—even if you’re the new guy and your competitors already laid the groundwork.
4. “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”–Thomas J. Watson Sr., CEO of IBM
As the president and CEO of IBM, Watson began his work for the international organization back in 1914. Watson remained CEO of IBM for the entirety of his life, working until he ultimately passed away in 1956. In just over 40 years, Watson witnessed IBM grow from a 1,300 person company to an international giant with over 72,500 employees. Revenues doubled in Watson’s first four years at IBM, and upon his exit, the company was worth more than 800 million dollars. As of 2016, IBM spans across 160 countries and the workforce hovers right around 380,000 employees.
5.“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.” –Bill Gates, CEO Microsoft
What is a list of quotes on business growth without a mention of Bill Gates? After all those long-days spent behind PC’s in his twenties, he co-founded what would ultimately be the world’s largest PC company, Microsoft. It is no shock that he had zero days off considering Gates personally reviewed every single line of code for his first five years at Microsoft. Gates was not always a favorable leader in the eyes of subordinates due to his harsh tone and enormous expectations. This is not hard to imagine coming from a guy who never took a sick day.
6. “Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.” –Tony Hsieh, Founder and CEO of Zappos
Sometimes you have to learn what you don’t want to do before you land your dream job. Hsieh started his professional career at Oracle but was ultimately disappointed in the corporate culture—a major reason he entered the startup world shortly after. Hsieh was invited to Zappos in 2000 as the CEO and to say he made a dent in the online shoe industry would be an understatement. In 9 short years, revenue dramatically increased at Zappos—from 1.6 million to over 1 billion. Hsieh, despite years of experience, continues to test the boundaries for traditional business models and practices. In 2015, Hsieh offered his employees a “holacratic” career—that is, one without traditional bosses, hierarchy, or job titles. This was a dramatic move for the company, considering employees not interested in this revolutionary management style could choose to take a severance package and leave. This type of risk would typically terrify decision makers—however, Hsieh had long had a vision for success. Hsieh believed in a system of holacracy because he feared having to mimic the corporate structure that comes along with a growing business. Just like he did at Oracle, Hsieh made a decision to remove constraining hierarchies and corporate systems in exchange for innovation and creativity. Rather than follow traditional practices associated with other large enterprise companies, Hsieh crafted a unique leadership model to foster success at Zappos. I guess you can re-invent the wheel?
7. [On his next business venture] You’re asking somebody who has a wife and is really happily married, "So, what’s your next wife going to be like?" And I’m like, "What?" –Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber
Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, is never scared to share his crass attitude and passion for his brand. So, it isn’t shocking to hear Kalanick compare Uber to his wife when it comes to the level of commitment he feels for the two. We get it, Kalanick, you struck gold and you arn't looking for a new venture. Uber, much like his wife, is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Kalanick has been in the startup world since he dropped out of UCLA in 1998. Originally he founded two file-sharing companies, Scour and Red Swoosh, but a turning point came in 2009 when he co-founded the global transportation company, Uber. Still a relatively new company, Uber is only 7 years old and has single-handedly influenced a new business model, typically referred to as the "Uberization" of the economy. Uberization is the ability to provide local services, in almost no time, to customers with differing expectations—all from your mobile phone. The business model is slowly creeping into nearly every industry. To say that Uber is a huge success would be an understatement. As of November 2016, Uber’s net worth sits above 6.8 billion and it is hands-down the most revolutionary concept to hit the market in years.
Even the most successful entrepreneurs had to risk it all when taking their company from SMB to enterprise. While companies faced their own unique demands, many large scale organizations can agree that scaling a business is associated with a number of factors, moving parts, and unexpected challenges. All in all, most successful entrepreneurs will share that the road to success isn’t easy and the ups and downs are impossible to predict. What is clear is that most enterprise-sized companies once faced a huge moment of growth and many of the leaders share a common sentiment that hard work, persistence, passion, and the desire to take risks pays off in the long-run.