We’ve already shared some fantastic small business success stories and this installment of our two part series is packed with even more inspiration. You might not see yourself as the next Bill Gates or Walt Disney, but remember, they started their businesses with the same tools as you – passion and great ideas – and became some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Bill Gates owes his success to two things:
- His innate ability to read the market and forecast its needs.
- His unabashed geekiness.
What you can take away from his example is this: Follow your passion because there is a reason it was given to you.
Years before he founded Microsoft, Gates was a teenager obsessed with computers. He attempted to take the well-trodden path of so many others, half-heartedly attending Harvard, but he couldn’t ignore his love of computers or the immediate opportunities that were presented to him. Everyone has a talent. This was Gates’. The only difference between him and everyone else is that he was willing to give everything in him to make his dream a reality. He took big risks and saw big rewards.
Business failures, lawsuits, threatening market shifts, accusations of monopoly and fallouts with business partners couldn’t squelch Gates’ passion for what he does.
William Randolph Hearst
Perhaps one of the most hated entrepreneurs of the last century, there is no doubt that Hearst was a man of perseverance and resilience. While his tactics of unethical practices, questionable personal and political decisions and reputation of terrible treatment toward his associates would put a modern entrepreneur on the fast track toward business failure, you can still learn a lot from Hearst.
Hearst was undaunted by business and personal failures. He simply shift his focus to his next business pursuit. While he may not have had much faith in the world around him, Hearst believed in himself and that is vital to business success.
“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”
Apple created loyal customers because Steve Jobs understood his audience. He knew what that audience needed and provided solutions to those needs. It’s that simple.
There are many lessons we can learn from Jobs, but this is perhaps the most beneficial one for entrepreneurs: Learn about your audience. What are their hopes, dreams, goals, problems, failures, insecurities and issues? You need to know it all. Find out what they need from you, design a great product or provide a great service that gives them what they need. Then do this over and over again.
Another thing Jobs understood was the importance of hiring the best team possible. In fact, he believed that hiring a talented team is your most important job as a business leader. As a small business startup, you are in a great position to create a dynamic team of the best professionals possible. They are the future of your business.
From the time she was a counter girl at Saks Fifth Avenue, selling her perfumes and cosmetics, until her death as a millionaire at the age of 97, Lauder’s personal sales technique earned her a loyal following as rich as her skin creams. Lauder believed in sharing her vision, not selling her products. Lauder’s vision was to make women feel beautiful and happy, not make a sale. With that approach she built her cosmetics empire that houses dozens of brands and thousands of products. More importantly, Lauder created a brand with a signature identity to which millions of people respond. Estee Lauder customers are some of the most loyal customers in the world.
Disney once said “we don’t make films to make more money; we make money in order to make more films.” Zuckerberg had the same sentiments when he said “we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.” If you build a great product, and do what you love, they will come. It’s a value shared by nearly all great entrepreneurs.
Through a lot of turmoil in his company, one of the world’s youngest billionaires stays focused on his company and continuously strives for improvement. If you keep your head in the game, success will follow.
These stories of successful entrepreneurs aren’t much different from your own story. When you feel like you can’t cut it as an entrepreneur, refer back to these stories for inspiration and keep going! Remember that strategy, action and perseverance will keep you and your business successful.