Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to see and meet with a number of inspirational business people; here are some of the key pieces of advice from them.

Rod Aldridge, founder, Capita

The factors for success at Capita: an open culture of a can-do attitude, entrepreneurialism and no internal politics; focus on delivery; teamwork; financial discipline; staying focused; understanding each market in which we operate.

Gio Benedetti, founder and Chairman, Wallace Cameron

Entrepreneurship is about taking action and doing stuff, don’t listen to advisors such as accountants who will only advise you on things that you should not do.

If you don’t innovate in some way you can only compete on price. It’s much easier to sell something unique.

Jack Black, founder, Mindstore

Set and write down goals, screen out negativity, and believe in yourself.

John Boyle, founder, Direct Holidays and Zoom Airlines

Don’t be overoptimistic in how long it takes to get to critical mass, it always takes longer than you think.

Warren Buffett, Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway

There are too many great pieces of advice to pick just one. This blog entry has a list of Buffettisms.

Robin Chase, co-founder, Zipcar

Everyone you come into contact with is a free consultant; make sure you learn from people’s questions, it helps you communicate your product better.

Joel Comm, CEO, Infomedia

The most critical thing in business is to be compelling; create a story.

Karen Darby, founder SimplySwitch

Cash is king? No; confidence is king.

Sean Ellis, VP marketing with LogMeIn, Dropbox, Xobni and others

See this blog post for more details.

Richard Emanuel, founder Dexcom Holdings

Richard recommended “Good to great” by Jim Collins and also the shareholder letters of Warren Buffett; reading these marked a pivotal moment in my development.

Richard Farleigh, angel investor and former BBC “Dragon”

Unlike in chess, where you can play all the right moves and never lose, in business, you can still lose even if you do everything right. More in this blog post.

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek

I want to have to make as few decisions as possible.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Explorer

Hire for attitude and train for skills.

Mark Forster, British time management guru and author of “Do It Tomorrow

A clear vision is as much about what you are not going to do as it is about what you are going to do.

Bill Gates, founder, Microsoft

I set myself a goal to meet, shake hands with and hold a conversation with Bill Gates, which I achieved at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in May of 2009. It was a great buzz to do that!

Bob Geldof, rockstar, activist and entrepreneur

Sadly I’ve lost my notes but he was on great form, telling us about his entrepreneurial exploits and the negative attitude he faced from the banks in Ireland with his first business venture which they were not prepared to back. (An Autotrader style magazine for selling cars privately). Bob was an entrepreneur before he was a rock-star or activist and believes that entrepreneurs play a vital role in society.

P Y Gerbeau, formerly Chief Executive of the Millennium Dome, currently Chief Executive of X-Leisure

You’re only as good as your front row staff. Respect them, trust them, empower them and let them try and fail.

Michael E. Gerber, author and trainer of entrepreneurs

If you don’t believe it, really believe it, you’re just selling shit.

Dawn Gibbins, Flowcrete and Barefoot Living

Do it differently; Do it better; Do it, flaunt it; Do it with passion; Do it, enjoy it!

Charan Gill, founder Harlequin Leisure (Ashoka restaurants)

You can achieve whatever you want if you have belief in yourself and work hard. But to make it happen you have to be passionate, love what you do and surround yourself with the best people.

Malcolm Gladwell, writer for The New Yorker and author

“Incompetence annoys me but overconfidence scares me.”

(Explaining how the over-confidence of experts armed with the best information can develop arrogance and complacency through the example of the battle of Chancellorsville.)

Seth Godin, author, blogger and marketing guru

No one is listening any more. You’re invisible. Invent better products, not better ways to sell stuff.

Cameron Herold, former COO, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Entrepeneurship is living a few years of life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

Drew Houston, founder, Dropbox

Work on other startups on someone else’s dime to learn the ropes before jumping in and starting your own business.

Tony Hsieh, CEO,

Great companies figure out how to combine profits, passion, and purpose.

Sir Tom Hunter, entrepreneur and philanthropist

On his approach to venture philanthopy: I treat it the same as a business investment: get the best people, leverage your money, set KPIs and only make new mistakes.

Azeem Ibrahim, Chairman and CEO, ECM Holdings

The single key to success is to set goals in all aspects of your life; write them down; concentrate on thing at a time.

Develop the right connections, it’s the second degree contacts which will really make a difference.

Bob Keiller, CEO, Production Services Network

After management buy-out from Halliburton Bob focused on getting rid of the victim culture and asked the question, “who do we want to be?” From that developed the DNA, the 7 core values of PSN. These committable core values permeate everything the company does and all meetings. Critically important to this belief in culture and values is retaining control of the recruitment process internally and not outsourcing.

Martin Lightbody, Chief Executive, Finsbury Food Group

Don’t be greedy, be honest and straight with customers; treat them as partners.

Alfred Lin, COO & CFO,

The power of “and”.

Jim McColl, Chairman and Chief Executive, Clyde Blowers

Know your industry inside and out.

Key things to focus on during recession, in order of importance: 1. Revenue generation, 2: Cashflow management, 3: Reducing costs (but not at the expense of revenue).

Bill McFarlan, Managing Director, The Broadcasting Business

Communicate better by “dropping the pink elephants” – avoid using negative phrases which only draw attention to what you are trying to refute.

Stewart Milne, Chairman and Chief Executive of Stewart Milne Group

The chief executive should seek to broaden his experience, not deepen it. Instead, surround yourself with the best people.

A life changing experience was hiring a non-executive Chairman and in the next two years experiencing massive personal growth, more than in the preceeding ten years as a result. The Chairman really made him up his game.

Stay grounded, don’t put yourself on a pedestal otherwise people will not want to challenge you.

Matt Mullenweg, founder, WordPress

External funding for your business acts like rocket fuel; it can either accelerate things in a good way, or things can explode.

Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman Berkshire Hathway

Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behaviour accordingly. If your new behaviour gives you a little temporary unpopularity with your peer group…. then to hell with them.

Craig Newmark, founder,

If you don’t have a social media strategy you’re like a tree falling in the forest.

Eddie Obeng, Pentacle Business School

In big organisations, ideas are like rabbits, multiplying at first but over time they get squashed, run over and killed dead; innovation is an important part of business and you should create an atmosphere that encourages and supports creativity and idea generation.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder, Reddit

On karma: being good is insurance for when you f*** up

George Polk, CEO, The Cloud and The Catalyst Project

Be aware that not everyone has the same risk profile as you. Take time, pause, look around you and ask if everyone can follow you.

Bob Prosen, author, Kiss Theory Goodbye

Bob spoke at the EO Berkshire Hathaway event in 2009; unfortunately I’ve lost my notes but I can really recommend his book which has some great practical advice for entrepreneurs.

Doug Richard, software entrepreneur, angel investor, startup teacher and former BBC “Dragon”

You’ll never have enough marketing budget to create a brand by spending money; instead stick with the stuff that doesn’t cost you.

Dharmesh Shah, founder, Hubspot and Onstartups

Remember that stealth mode is for fighter jets, not startups.

Adam Smith, co-founder, Xobni

90% of execution is keep going when everyone else gives up.

Brian Souter, Chief Executive, Stagecoach

Follow your heart and have passion for what you do.

Dynamics over mechanics: people and their enthusiasm is more important than their technical knowledge or skills.

Brad Sugars, founder and CEO, Action Coach

You’ve got to learn before you can earn. Work harder on yourself than you do on your business. Never wish your life were easier, only that you were better. (quoting Jim Rohn)

Richard Tait, founder, Cranium

It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you pick yourself up again.

Professor Jeffrey Ullman, Stanford University

On how the internet is changing publishing:

Book royalties are a modern invention; maybe we will go back to the days when you wrote just for the glory of it, not the money.

Kyle Vogt, co-founder,

Have a plan for actually making money.

Muhammad Yunus, founder, Grameen Bank

A belief that trust begets trust.

– – –

About the above notes:

These are not all exact word for word quotes, just what I have put together from my copious notes! The page is a work in progress and once up to date I will do my best to keep it that way.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of people I want meet or hear speaking; please let me know if you can help me tick any off the list!

  • Marc Andreesen
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Richard Branson
  • James Caan
  • Bill Clinton
  • James Dyson
  • Paul Graham
  • Steve Jobs
  • Li Ka Shing
  • Ma Huateng
  • Jack Ma
  • Michael Morritz
  • Michael O’Leary
  • Eric Schmidt
  • Howard Schulz
  • Hans Snook
  • Jack Welch

2 Responses to Advice

  1. Richard Smith says:

    Yeah, you probably would want to take Steve Jobs off that list.

    My list would a little different – from your list that I’ll like to meet:

    Jeff B – have met, yay. Would like to meet again.
    Richard B
    James Dyson
    Paul Graham
    Michael Moritz

    ..hmm, I think I should write myself a definite list.

    – but I’m interested, what would you ask?

  2. Have met/heard from a few of my wish list since I first wrote, and clearly SJ’s not gonna happen; shame.

    Anyway, I don’t have any burning standard question I would ask any of them, but would enjoy to hear them tell their story “live”. It’s not the same to just read an interview.

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