This is part of the “Moving Forward” series offering advice to small business owners on technology, mentorship, productivity, and growth. “Moving Forward” is sponsored by Ink from Chase®. More posts in the series »
Insightful advice from a mentor, friend, or business book can stay with you for your entire career.
It can help you stay true to yourself and your vision when dealing with a setback and can inspire you to maintain your drive when things are going well.
We asked successful entrepreneurs from around the globe to share the best advice they have ever been given and how it’s helped them grow their businesses.
Weinzweig cofounded Zingerman's Deli with Paul Saginaw in 1982, and today it's just one of nine businesses in the Zingerman's Community of Businesses. They have used a unique management philosophy that emphasises collective decision-making to continually grow their company, most recently bringing in $US50 million in revenue.
About 25 years ago, Saginaw told Weinzweig, 'When furious, get curious.'
Weinzweig tells us that when he finds himself becoming angry or anxious, he pauses to reflect on the root of his discomfort and addresses the issue directly. He writes in his book 'A Lapsed Anarchist's Guide To Managing Ourselves': 'The assumption that others are out to get us, that something bad happened because of others' ill will or malice, rarely makes for anything productive. Learning to breathe deeply, get grounded, and be sensitive to others' suffering can help get us back to a more productive place.'
Elizabeth Colón, president and founder of Metaphrasis, thinks there's always room to grow her business.
In May, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Colón Illinois' Small Business Person of the Year. She started Metaphrasis in 2007 as a language services provider, and today it has 300 translators and over 100 interpreters working in 180 languages.
When Colón was establishing Metaphrasis, her business mentor Joanne Steiger told her that she should not think of her business as just a small local company, but should think of it as a national company with huge potential.
'I was encouraged to believe that my company reach is further than just serving the Chicagoland area,' she says, which motivated her to grow beyond Greater Chicago and then the state of Illinois.
Achilli is a 22-year-old Italian college student who created the professional networking site Egomnia in 2012 and was dubbed the 'Italian Zuckerberg' by a popular Italian magazine. Egomnia, which connects job seekers with suitable companies, will launch to an international market in October with the backing of Microsoft and Google.
As his reputation was growing, Roberto Cingolani, the scientific director of the Italian Institute of Technology, told him: 'Many people decide to contribute to the world's improvement only after they have arrived at the top of their career and made more money than they would be able to spend. My personal advice to you, Matteo, is to start thinking about how you can improve this world and people's lives from the beginning.'
Achilli says this advice has inspired him to help use his company's success to help bring his generation out of shockingly high unemployment rates (over 40% of Italians under 30 are unemployed).
Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, doesn't let a win keep her from working hard.
Di Giusto worked in human resources for more than 20 years before starting Executive Image Consulting in 2009. She's helped individual executives look their best and has consulted for companies like McKinsey, BMW, and Thomas Cook.
Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, a professional speaker and author, gave her some colourful advice: 'Just because you killed a cow doesn't mean you're gonna eat steak for dinner.'
'(I)t became my mantra for the hard work it takes to be a successful entrepreneur,' di Giusto says. 'Every time I lean back after accomplishing a project, reaching a milestone, or closing a business deal, I remind myself that successful entrepreneurs certainly work smart, but they also work exceptionally hard.'
Like any good Canadian, Garbugli gets his inspiration from hockey. 'For years, I've heard hockey coaches repeat that goals don't get scored when you stay on the outside,' he says. 'Whenever I feel things slowing down because I'm not generating enough opportunities, I remind myself to crash the net and get in the line of action. Maybe a puck hits me and goes in the net if I'm getting involved, but nothing ever happens if I'm just watching the parade go by.'
Lerer Ventures' managing director Ben Lerer gave Krim his favourite piece of advice, which is simply, 'Don't f--- it up.'
'Easier said than done,' Krim says. He offers advice to other entrepreneurs on how to accomplish this: 'When you launch a company, every day is a minefield of challenges. You have to stay focused. Don't let yourself get distracted with new opportunities, partnerships, or events that aren't going to get you to your goal. Know your limitations, and hire the right people to do what you can't. Perhaps more importantly, empower and trust your staff to have your back. Seek advice from people you trust -- but don't doubt yourself. Everyone has their opinion, their experience at a previous startup, and a success story. But at the end of the day, it's your company. Trust your gut.'
Bijoor started Joor as an online marketplace for wholesale buying for fashion retailers in 2010. It is based in New York City and expanded to both Los Angeles and Milan, Italy.
Mike Murphy, the former CFO of Chanel, told her that as she became more successful, she would need to focus more on managing her energy rather than her time.
She explains: 'As an entrepreneur you and your VCs are always worried about their CEOs getting burned out. My answer to that is work with people you love and that you get and give energy to and you won't get burned out. Burning out is a symptom of surrounding yourself with people who zap energy from you or require a ton of maintenance. It's not worth it!'
Hindy founded Brooklyn Brewery with Tom Potter back in 1988, and their company has emerged as one of the most successful independent breweries to benefit from the recent craft beer revolution. Due largely to an emphasis on partnering with other businesses for events in their biggest markets, Brooklyn Brewery has tripled sales in the past few years, bringing in $US50 million in revenue last year.
Hindy says he received tremendously helpful advice from the brewery's packaging designer, Milton Glaser, who is best known as the artist behind the iconic 'I ♥ NY' logo.
'Milton told me that one of the first questions he asks himself when he encounters a potential client or business partner is, 'Do I like this person? Do I want to work with this person?' If the answer is no, he does not pursue the relationship,' Hindy says. 'This is not to say you have to be best friends with everyone you do business with. But rather you have to respect the business partner and see benefit for you and your company in the relationship. I believe this advice has enabled me to avoid many unhealthy and disagreeable transactions.'
Dane Atkinson, founder and CEO of SumAll, helps his team discover their core talents and then fosters them.
Atkinson is a serial entrepreneur who started his latest venture, analytics company SumAll, in 2010. He's managed to successfully implement salary transparency, in which every employee can check what the other is making, among his 40 employees.
He tells us that everything his mentor David McBride taught him can be summed up by what he calls the 'Gandalf theory of management,' a 'Lord of the Rings' reference. 'This theory says that, as a leader, your job is to find diverse people and skills -- hobbits, warriors, and even rivals,' he explains. 'Help them discover what they are good at, as many have yet to find that themselves. Then get the hell out of the way!'
Haan left a good-paying job with the South Korea Ministry of Education and risked a significant amount of her own money, as well as that of her parents and in-laws, to start a home appliance company in 1998. Her main product, a steam mop, became a must-have item in South Korea. Today she's one of the country's most powerful businesswomen as CEO of the global, multimillion-dollar Haan Corp.
When she was starting her company, she read 'No Failures but Trials' by Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai Group. One of its main takeaways is that the customer is king.
'It has helped me be innovative and perfect products that provide our customers with a happier and healthier way of life,' Haan says. 'One of the reasons why I put my name on the company was so people can trust and have faith that the product is of the utmost quality.'
Girish Mathrubootham, CEO and founder of Freshdesk, realised that you can't underestimate the importance of relationships.
Mathrubootham started Freshdesk, a cloud-based customer support platform, in 2010 and won the Microsoft BizSpark Startup Challenge. Today, Freshdesk has 200 employees and supplies services to over 20,000 businesses and organisations.
As a passionate young entrepreneur, Mathrubootham says he either saw people as aggressive or submissive, and thought the only way to be successful was by being the former. His former boss Kumar Vembu, CEO and founder of GoFrugal Technologies, told him he was abrasive with his colleagues.
'He told me that while I was getting stuff done, I was breaking the gentle fabric of relationships, which is irreversible,' Mathrubootham says. 'From that day onward I realised the importance of personal relationships, and I have taken care to treat everyone fairly and focus on building new and existing relationships. The lesson has proved extremely valuable as many of Freshdesk's early employees were people who have worked with me before, who came and joined a startup because they valued the relationship.'
Angelo Sotira, CEO and cofounder of deviantART, tries to keep both success and failure from affecting his character.
Sotira founded the art-sharing social network deviantART with Scott Jarkoff and Matt Stephens in 2000 when he was just 19. As of last year, the site had over 25 million users.
When he was just starting out, a mentor told him that he had to remain the same person throughout all the successes and failures of his career. 'There have been times in my life where things have gone super well, and there have been times where they haven't, but I've had to maintain a level balance with the knowledge that things around me are supposed to be moving up and down,' he says.
Borow founded SHIFT, a Los Angeles-based marketing platform, with Clark Landry in 2010. Today, the company develops social media marketing strategies for 10 of the world's top 20 brands and has expanded into Palo Alto, Chicago, New York, and London.
Borow says Landry likes to constantly remind him of a famous, mind-boggling quote from former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld: 'There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.'
What does Landry mean when he tosses this logical puzzle Borow's way? Don't act on assumptions.
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