Running a business is no easy feat. The first few years are often rife with challenges that can have you questioning why you got into the game. But whether its cash flow issues, lack of faith in your own progress or the challenges that come from a fiercely competitive landscape, you can be sure that someone’s walked that path before.
Although leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson may be icons now, their careers are evidence of the fact that adversity is part of the road to success. This is some of their most powerful advice.
Steve Jobs: Make something you believe in
Apple might be one of the world’s most enviable brands, but just 13 years ago the software company was on the verge of bankruptcy. However, Jobs led Apple’s storied turnaround by putting his resources into building a sharply designed, user-focused product that no consumer wanted to be without.
Jobs’s role in one of the most successful corporate comebacks of all time highlights the importance of manufacturing a product or offering a service that you believe in. Although profits drive business in the short-term, it’s this belief in what you offer that will set the stage for longevity and long-term success.
“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products,” Jobs writes in his autobiography. “Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits, were the motivation.”
Richard Branson: Take risks and make sure you’re prepared for the worst
Whether it’s flying across the world in a hot air balloon or building a multibillion-dollar global empire, risk serves as a defining element in Richard Branson’s career. This unconventional CEO is a long-time champion of breaking the rules and thinking outside the box, and his relentless commitment to innovation has helped fuel Virgin’s growth.
Although your business might not necessarily be an advocate of jumping off a building to publicise a new airline route, identifying opportunities and being willing to take risks will set you apart from your competition and give your business the edge.
“Remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not be the company it is today if we had not taken risks along the way,” Branson said in an October 2010 interview with Entrepreneur. He does advise, however, that risks must be calculated and that businesses should take every measure to protect themselves in advance.
“Though I believe in taking risks, I also firmly believe in ‘protecting the downside’. We have come close to failure many times. Most entrepreneurs skirt close to it.”
Bill Gates: Know your craft
Whether you’re a packaging and paper manufacturer or a blue-chip communications consultancy, mastering the service you provide and ensuring the integrity of what you deliver is critical to your business success. No amount of marketing can make up for an inferior product, a fact that makes fine-tuning your offer central to building customer relationships that last.
In his pre-Microsoft days, Bill Gates was so determined to become the best programmer that he fished programming scripts out of garbage cans. Quoted in a June 2012 article in Forbes, Gates said that the “best way to prepare to be a programmer is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system.”
This same commitment and passion for bettering himself served as a catalyst for Microsoft’s staggering growth.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, overcoming challenges is often a daily occurrence. But by preparing yourself as best you possibly can, taking risks and of course providing something to your customers that you truly believe in, you can have all the confidence that you are on the path to success.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.