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6 Bits of Business Advice You Can Steal from Successful CEOs

6 Bits of Business Advice You Can Steal from Successful CEOs

By | 05.01.17
6 Bits of Business Advice You Can Steal from Successful CEOs

Social media is calling it “Motivation Monday,” and we want in on the action. So we scoured the web for the best business advice from CEOs who took the time to share their secrets to success with small business owners. Enjoy!

1. No, it’s not like “selling ice to an Eskimo.”

Most of us have heard of the classic sales interview prompt, “Sell me this pen.” General consensus is that the best thing a salesperson can do to address this prompt is to shift the conversation into what sales professionals call a “needs assessment.” Instead of touting the features of the pen and everything it can do, the winningest interview candidates ask the interviewer why it is they think they need the pen in the first place…and go from there.

The worst mistake a business can make is trying to sell something to someone who doesn’t need it (ice to an Eskimo, so to speak). Brian Chesky, of Airbnb said, “When you start a company, it’s more an art than a science because it’s totally unknown. Instead of solving high-profile problems, try to solve something that’s deeply personal to you. Ideally, if you’re an ordinary person and you’ve just solved your problem, you might have solved the problem for millions of people.” Translation: Know what problem your product or service solves, and sell that, not the product itself.

2. Be picky when it comes to people.

As a local business owner, you may not feel as well-known in your area as some of the bigger guys. This means fighting for talent when it comes to hiring locally. Resist the urge to hire anyone who walks through your doors or calls asking for a job. You’ll pay for it in the long run.

“I tell other small business owners that, for me, the key to success starts with having a great, quality product and hiring the best people,” said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company. “I always wanted to have a company that I wanted to work at.” Translation: Get the right folks on board early on.

3. If you feel like you’re walking on egg shells, you may be doing something right.

Ever had a complaining customer who seemed a few fries short of a Happy Meal? It must have been really tempting to say, “screw it” and give them a piece of your mind. Did you? Or did you hold back? Hopefully, you held back. We’re not saying the customer is always right, because sometimes they definitely aren’t. But for the ones who aren’t, how you treat them can have a great impact on your reputation, especially in the days of online reviews and social media…where everyone has a voice.

According to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Translation: Keep your ego in check.

4. It’s OK if it’s a passion project.

A piece of advice you’re likely to have gotten as a local business owner is to tread lightly about starting a business simply because you love doing something. Not all hobbies make successful business…right?

CEO and Chairperson of General Motors Mary Barra said, “Do something you are passionate about, do something you love. If you are doing something you are passionate about, you are just naturally going to succeed, and a lot of other things will happen that you don’t need to worry about.” Translation: Do what you love.

5. Take deep breaths.

Even if you haven’t been in corporate America, you’ve likely read an email that made your blood boil. Hopefully you had the sense to walk away from the computer before responding rashly. (And if that hasn’t happened to you, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.) It takes mature leadership to realize not everyone who complains or approaches us with a less-than-friendly attitude is intending to ruin our day. And on the flip side, you’d hate to be the one perpetuating this perception. Same goes for decision-making regarding your business. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum, and never do so without thought and preparation.

Andres Gluski, president and CEO of the AES Corporation said, “Never make an important decision while you are feeling emotional; either too happy, surprised, or angry. Similarly, never make a big decision until you have talked it over with people you trust who are knowledgeable about the matter. Then, be decisive once you have heard them out.” Translation: Keep a level head, and plan ahead.

6. Don’t overdo it.

We listed a similar piece of advice in a recent blog – Don’t let these common business pitfalls trip you up. We talk to a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs who have elaborate visions for the future of their businesses. Kudos for thinking big. But, one of the most common reasons small businesses fail is a lack of focus. Instead, we recommend finding the thing (or small group of things) you do best, and knocking those out of the park before you attempt to move into adjacent markets or offerings.

Yum! Brands CRO Greg Creed agrees, “Some business owners … believe that in order to grow, they have to add more things onto whatever the idea is. When you have less, the real identity of your product or service is clearer to the customer.” Translation: Keep it simple and you’ll win.


Dex Media team member giving business advice
We’re full of advice.

And most of it isn’t scoured from CEOs, it’s being put to use for Thryv customers around the country. Want access to the more practical industry insights on running your business? We’ll talk for free about where we can help. Let’s chat.



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