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BFS Capital Blog

59 Business Quotes to Inspire

October 13, 2016

Anyone who’s ever decorated their office with a black motivational poster full of Canadian Geese and some word like “Optimization” scrawled across the bottom knows the value of a good business quote. Even if you’re not sure what “optimization” means, or what it has to do with Canadian Geese.

Because under that lovely photo and buzzword du jour is some actual sage wisdom, typically from someone who was successful at something other than stringing together buzzwords.  And probably didn’t need a framed poster of Canadian Geese to get their message across. Sometimes those words can stand alone, and if you’d like some of that great business insight on anything from money to ideas to product development, here are 59 quotes from legends in a variety of fields. Minus the cliché office decoration.


“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” –Henry Ford

“Lend your friend $20. If he doesn’t pay you back then he’s not your friend. Money well spent.” –Ted Nicolas, business author

“Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.” –Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media founder and CEO

“Money won’t make you happy… but everybody wants to find out for themselves.” –Zig Ziglar

Employees and Employee Relations

“Hire people that are better than you, then allow then to get on with it.” –David Ogilvy, Founder, Ogilvy & Mather

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” –Albert Einstein

“Hire character. Train skill.” –Peter Schultz, CEO and Professor of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute

“I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.” –Robert Bosch


“If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.” –Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO

“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” –Jason Fried, 37signals founder

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” –Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder

“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” –Unknown


“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” –Vidal Sassoon

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him.” –David Brinkley

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” –Henry J. Heinz

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” –Steve Jobs

Work Ethic

“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” –Robert Orben, comedy writer, presidential speech writer

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” –Anonymous

“Early to bed and early to rise probably indicates unskilled labor.” –John Ciardi, poet

Product Development

“If I had asked people what they want, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’” –Henry Ford

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” –Jeff Bezos

“You just have to pay attention to what people need and what has not been done.” –Russell Simmons, Def Jam founder

“Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” –Anthony Volodkin, Hype Machine founder

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” –Thomas Edison

Work/Life Balance

“A man should never neglect his family for business.” –Walt Disney

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”  –Seth Godin, author, business blogger

“The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” –Lilly Tomlin, actress

Setting Goals

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” –Napoleon Hill, business author

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars — I look for 1-foot bars that I can step over.” –Warren Buffett

“The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am. Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do.” –Dennis Waitley, motivational speaker

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.  That’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar


“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” –Jack Welch

“Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.” –John F. Kennedy

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

“Always look for the fool in the deal. If you don’t find one, it’s you.” –Mark Cuban, AXS TV chairman and entrepreneur


“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” –Warren Buffett

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” –Norman Schwarzkopf

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” –Mark Twain

Customer Service

“Always deliver more than expected.” –Larry Page, Google co-founder

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” –Bill Gates

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou


“Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.” –Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” –Henry Ford

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” –John C. Maxwell, business author and motivational speaker

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” –Vince Lombardi


“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” –Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember–the only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you.” –Zig Ziglar

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” –Thomas Jefferson

“The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.” –Rob Kalin, Etsy founder

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” –Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and motivational speaker


“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” –Herman Melville

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

“I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.” –George Burns

“You hear about how many fourth quarter comebacks that a guy has and I think it means a guy screwed up in the first three quarters.” –Peyton Manning


“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” –Steve Case, AOL co-founder

“When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” –Josh James, Omniture CEO and co-founder

“A man generally has two reasons for doing something; one that sounds good and a real one,” –J.P. Morgan

“Catch a man a fish, and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.” –Karl Marx