Throughout my journey of building businesses, there were many times when I felt like giving up. Like the time my business partner Frank Restuccia and I received a bill from the ATO for a quarter of a million dollars, or when we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves for the first two years, or when we got penalised by Google and lost most of our traffic.
Building a business from scratch is hard and it’s even harder to make it sustainable. In fact, over one in 10 Australian businesses fail each year.
Every time I make a decision, or feel that intense struggle of getting a new business idea off the ground, or feel overwhelmed, I turn to these tips from the greatest business owners I’ve learned from over the years that have changed my life.
1. Elon Musk on never giving up
Elon Musk will go down in history as one of the most prolific business leaders of our time.
His astounding mind and never-give-up attitude has led to his incredible success. The guy has blown up more rockets and cars than anyone on the planet and when he’s down, he brushes himself off and gets back up.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” – Elon Musk.
2. Peter Thiel on thinking differently
The PayPal co-founder taught me to question how things are done and think deeper into problems I want to solve.
In his book, Zero to One, he highlights the very reason why you want to start a business: by changing the world, making a difference or changing the future.
To do so, you need to be innovative, don’t be scared to test and work out new ways of doing things. This is how businesses succeed.
3. Mick Jagger on building a sustainable brand
Most people don’t think of Mick Jagger as a brand expert, but the lead singer and founding member of the Rolling Stones has built a personal brand that has spanned over five decades.
Jagger has been described as one of the most powerful and influential frontmen in the history of rock and roll, worth an estimated US$360 million.
His career includes 26 albums, four solo albums, 26 film appearances and he produced seven films. Jagger has used his influential power and interests to launch educational music programs in schools and a sports promotion company, he owns a music studio and was also knighted by the queen in 2002.
4. Oprah Winfrey on making mistakes
Making mistakes is a big part of our culture at Finder.
Winfrey said, “Do the one thing you think you can not do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”
I always tell my crew that if they aren’t making mistakes they aren’t trying hard enough.
5. Jeff Bezos on innovation
Not long ago, Jeff Bezos was named the richest man in the world, amassing a fortune of over US$100 billion, and the Amazon founder is someone I look to for inspiration when I’m dreaming up big ideas.
The founder of the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.com, is big on diversity, testing ideas, constantly improving and focusing on the customer as the number on priority.
He built businesses that challenged how people shopped, how people read books, how businesses operate, and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on acquisitions and investments. Bezos builds sustainable businesses for the long-term, with a key mission to help people make decisions.
6. Kim Kardashian on content marketing
Arguably the most famous reality star on the planet, Kim Kardashian leverages her worldwide following to build an empire of business lines worth an estimated US$350 million.
The key to success for Kim K is content marketing, starting with the hit reality show, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and growing an audience to market to (she has 151 million followers on Instagram alone) with a consistent stream of content.
7. Tony Robbins on positivity
One of the world’s top life coaches has built success by helping others succeed.
With a value of $500 million, six international best seller books and seminars in over 100 countries, Robbins has been spreading the power of positive thinking for almost four decades. Life coaching has improved every aspect of my life, I’m a big believer in learning self reflection, mindfulness and overcoming fears.
8. Dale Carnegie on influence
One of my all time favourite books is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was first published back in 1936 and still relevant today. It teaches the power of persuasion, the impact your behaviour can have on others, and techniques on how to be a better communicator and leader.
9. Richard Branson on showmanship
From almost flying around the world in a hot air balloon, bungee jumping, driving a tank through New York City, cross-dressing and wearing a space suit to a press conference, I have certainly learnt a thing or two about Richard Branson’s incredible showmanship to cut through the noise with publicity.
I’ve even wore a space suit a couple of times at our own events! There is nothing more important than being unique and creating a spectacle when going to market.
10. Arianna Huffington on balance
When I met Arianna Huffington at a luncheon in 2015, I was burning my candle at both ends. I would work so hard for so many weeks straight that I would get brutally sick and need timeout to recover.
Arianna spoke about her latest book, Thrive, and the importance of sleep on the body and mind. I took action and improved my sleep routine by going to bed at 9.30pm most nights and waking at 3.30am. When I give myself six hours of sleep regularly I don’t crash as hard or as often.
11. Ben Horowitz on culture
When I first read Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, when it came out in 2014, it was a pivotal point in Finder’s culture.
Something Horowitz wrote about was wartime versus peacetime CEOs, and this led to Finder’s newfound war on its competitors. We had sandbags in the office, everyone wore army hats, and I told our crew that our competitors were breaking into our homes and stealing our TVs off the walls. We got pretty fired up and haven’t looked back.
12. Andy Grove on management gold
While on my journey of personal growth, I discovered Ben Horowitz was also a massive fan of Andy Grove. A founder and CEO of Intel, Grove led the company to be the biggest computer processor manufacturer in the world, before he died in 2016. We use many of Grove’s strategies at Finder, including “OKRs” – objectives, key results – to set goals and measure our performance.
13. Sean Parker on being a visionary
The co-founder of music file-sharing company Napster taught me about the importance of being a visionary.
He was the first President of Facebook, and co-founded several other companies to amass an estimated fortune of US$2.4 billion.
Even though Napster was short lived, it was one of the fastest-growing businesses ever and it revolutionised the music industry. The key lesson here is to build things for the future and industries will catch up or lose out.
14. Warren Buffett on frugality
One of the wealthiest people in the world, worth an estimated US$82 billion, I’ve learnt the key to building wealth from Warren Buffett is frugality.
Buffett’s money lessons that I live by include living below your means, putting money aside to save each month before paying any expenses, and the value in things – ”Price if what you pay, value is what you get.”
15. Bill Gates on improving the world
As the co-founder and former CEO of once the biggest company on the planet, Bill Gates is inspirational as he continues his mission on improving our world.
First it was bringing home computers into our homes and businesses, then Gates founded what is reportedly the largest private foundation in the world, dedicated to improving the quality of life globally.
Building businesses that make a positive impact on people is why I get out of bed every day.
16. Brené Brown on vulnerability
There’s a reason why more people have watched Brené Brown’s TedX presentation on YouTube than any other. It’s because her 20 years of studying vulnerability, courage and shame resonates deep inside your core.
She said, “Vulnerability is having the courage to show up when you don’t know the outcome.” It’s about being uncomfortable, and being ok with that. Vulnerability stifles creativity: “If you’re not willing to fail, you’re not willing to innovate. If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture you can’t create.”
17. Freddy Mercury on rebellion
I love how the lead singer of Queen, Freddy Mercury, created a brand that rebelled on so many levels.
The band’s music defied mainstream pop culture of the 1970s, it combined genres in an innovative way, it pushed boundaries of music industry rules, and created a style that was shocking and dramatic.
Even its name was defiant. In an interview when Mercury was asked why the name “Queen”, he replied, “because at the time it was outrageous.” Don’t ever conform. Do things differently.
18. Stephen Covey on being better at life
Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is my bible. Make all of these seven lessons your daily habit and it will change your life.
19. Steve Jobs on the user experience
No one championed the customer better than Steve Jobs.
The co-founder, and former CEO and Chairman of Apple Inc. was obsessed about the user experience and made Apple devices so smooth and easy to use that it became the benchmark worldwide.
Everyone who builds a product or service should benchmark Apple’s user experience.
20. Al Davis on winning
“Just win baby!” is Al Davis’s most famous line and the motto for the American football team, the Oakland Raiders – Davis was the owner and general manager of the team for 39 years.
With Davis’s leadership, the Raiders were one of the most successful teams in history. In business, winning is the only thing that matters. Second place is the first loser. If you are driven to win, you will stay focused on your goals.
When there is too much going on or new ideas are presented, this is when you need to stop and think back to what the goal is. If they don’t contribute to achieving your original goal it may not be worth pursuing.
Fred Schebesta is Co-founder of Australia’s most visited financial comparison website, Finder, Co-founder of cryptocurrency broker, HiveEx, and 2019 Australian Financial Review Young Rich Lister. Hear from Fred and business partner Frank Restuccia about how they build sustainable businesses at Finder’s Founders Lunch in Sydney on December 3.
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