What makes a great tech business? How do you gain customers? How do you impact the world with your innovation? In this article, we explore the wise words of some of the greatest tech minds of our generation. Aristotle observed: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution… choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” Let’s learn more from these entrepreneurs that have gone from coding in private garages to multi-billion public offerings and changing the world.
Steve Jobs on Inspiration
Steve Jobs epitomised Apple’s philosophy to ‘Think Different.’ Apple was not just a product, it was a way of life, for the creators, rebels and artists who abhorred the status quo. His marketing focussed on the ‘why’ not the ‘what’. Jobs saw this search for meaning as the cornerstone of business success and personal fulfilment. Let’s explore more, in his own words:
– “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the only ones who do.”
– “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
– “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Bill Gates on Development
Bill Gates is the co-founder of Windows and the richest man alive. He has also enriched the lives of others with his charitable foundation. Bill gives a refreshing ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ Fatherly tough love to fellow entrepreneurs. Sharing what it takes to build a great product and business without any superficial self-help fluff. Let’s explore more:
– “Technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the other. The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
– “Of my mental cycles, I devote maybe 10 percent to business thinking. Business isn’t that complicated. I wouldn’t want to put it on my business card! Simplicity is key. I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because they’ll find an easy way to do it.”
– “If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you have a boss. They don’t have tenure! Life is not fair, get used to it. Customers want high quality at low prices and they want it now. Success is a lousy teacher, it convinces smart people they can’t lose. Your most unhappy customers are the greatest source of learning.”
Elon Musk on Innovation
Elon Musk is a tech and science genius whose mission is to save the world. He changed online transactions with PayPal, created an electric car with Tesla, renewable energy with SolarCity, a new transport system with Hyperloop and is pioneering affordable space travel to colonise Mars… oh and he’s only 46! He may just be the closest thing humanity has to a real-life Iron Man!
– “What makes innovative thinking happen?… I think it’s really a mindset. You have to decide. Optimism, pessimism. Screw that, we’re going to make it happen! When something is important enough, you do it, even if the odds are not in your favour.”
– “The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart or creative. I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how it could be better.”
– “If something has to be designed and invented, and you have to figure out how to ensure that the value of the thing you create is greater than the cost of the inputs, then that is probably my core skill.”
Jeff Bezos on Customer Service
Jeff Bezos is the brains behind Amazon, the world’s largest online store and recently became the world’s richest man (for 4 hours before Bill Gates regained the top spot!) Making customer service number 1 is a good soundbite but for Bezos he means it and Amazon’s excellent product range and service has been key to their dominance.
– “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient. The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company. We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.”
– “There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second. If there’s one reason we have done better than all of our peers in the Internet, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that matters, especially online where word-of-mouth is so very powerful.”
– “The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies… The right way to respond to this is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”
Mark Zuckerberg on Focus
Zuckerberg is the CEO of Facebook, the world’s largest social media network. His fame and controversial backstory lead to the popular film: ‘The Social Network’ and Zuckerberg is also rumoured to have Presidential ambitions, whether he will be ‘liked’ enough to win, remains to be seen. One thing Zuckerberg excels at is connecting people and a laser focus on priorities.
– “I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress. Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough. ‘The Hacker’s Way’ is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.”
– “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected. Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories…. Think about what people are doing on Facebook today. They’re keeping up with their friends and family, but they’re also building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to.”
– “I think as a company, if you can get those two things right–having a clear direction and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff–then you can do pretty well. The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ Building a mission and building a business go hand-in-hand.”
Pierre Omidyar on Motivation
Pierre Omidyar is the founder of eBay, the world’s largest marketplace between buyers and sellers. Pierre is a reflective man, with a heart for change and likes to stay out of the limelight, once writing: “When I walk around town, the only people I want to recognize me and call me by name are the folks at Starbucks and Jamba Juice!” His thoughtful philosophy is powerful motivation.
– “What makes eBay successful–the real value and real power at eBay–is the community. It’s the buyers and sellers coming together and forming a marketplace. The personal wealth that’s coming is absolutely secondary to the stories that I hear about our users who have given themselves financial independence and all the lives we’ve touched positively.”
– “I want people to be entrepreneurs, but I want them to do it for the right reasons, because they think they can change the world, because they think they have got something of value to give. Not because they think they can make a lot of money. You should pursue your passion. If you’re passionate about something and you work hard, you’ll be successful.”
– “Long-term sustainable change happens if people discover their own power. We believe people are basically good. We believe everyone has something to contribute. We encourage you to treat others the way that you want to be treated.”
Larry Page on Vision
Google is the world’s number one search engine. If you don’t believe me: Google it! What’s interesting and impressive about Larry is he always relentlessly striving for more and wants Google to be at the forefront of the next revolution. This compelling vision and forward-thinking is essential to tech success and entrepreneurial growth.
– “I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. In fact, there are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name! If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.”
– “If you ask an economist what’s driven economic growth, it’s been major advances in things that mattered – the mechanization of farming, mass manufacturing, things like that. The problem is, our society is not organized around doing that. Especially in technology, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change.”
– “The ultimate search engine would basically understand everything in the world, and it would always give you the right thing. And we’re a long, long way from that. You may think Google’s great, I think it’s terrible. We’re at maybe 1% of what is possible. Every story I read is Google vs someone else. That’s boring. We should be building the things that don’t exist.”
Kevin Systrom on Customer Experience
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter made thoughts and connections the focus. Images were just a side story. As smart phone usage grew and the quality of their cameras with it, Systrom saw a demand to make images and mobile front and centre. Mobile and apps are now the go-to device for social news. Communication is changing and businesses need to adapt to grow.
– “I care deeply about craft: the quality of how something is made and the experience it enables. If you focus on producing a great experience for anyone, that’s how you get big.”
– “People interact with their phones very differently than they do with their PCs, and I think that when you design from the ground up with mobile in mind, you create a very different product than going the other way.”
– “The way people communicate is changing, and no one knows this better than teens. We are using images to talk to each other, to communicate what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, and to tell stories.”
Stewart Butterfield on Quality
Butterfield is part of the team behind image showcase site Flickr and team collaboration tool Slackr. He writes, “For most companies, the hard thing is making the product work well enough to convince a single person to switch to it. We have to convince a team, and no two teams are alike.” Slack had a tough task ahead, so they had to relentless focus on quality and service to get teams on board.
– “Life is too short to do mediocre work and it is definitely too short to build shitty things. We’d like to do something that we are really proud of, that we can pound our chest and say, ‘We made this.’ The pursuit of that purpose should permeate everything we do.”
– “Just as much as our job is to build something which really does make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive, our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of the product into their terms. Have an ‘experimental attitude’. Be opportunistic. Be open, really listen and assess what kind of response the product gets and evolve in a way that makes sense.”
– “The best—maybe the only?—real, direct measure of ‘innovation’ is change in human behaviour. We are setting out to define a new market. And that means we can’t limit ourselves to tweaking the product; we need to tweak the market too. Every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity. If you go above and beyond on the customer service side, people are much more likely to recommend you.”
Meg Whitman on Belief and Leadership (ebay and HP)
Meg Whitman has been the CEO of ebay and HP, so she knows what it takes to lead a large tech company and buck the stereotype that tech is just a man’s world. She also has political ambitions: “I think maybe it is about time for a governor who has created jobs, who’s managed a budget, who’s led and inspired large organizations, who listens well, and who can drive an agenda.”
– “A business leader has to keep their organization focused on the mission. Many companies operate from more of a command-and-control environment – they decide what’s going to happen at headquarters and have the organization execute. That doesn’t work here because it’s the community of users who really have control.”
– “Remember that you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone say, ‘You’re not smart enough… it’s too hard… it’s a dumb idea… no one has done that before… girls don’t do that.’ My mom gave me that advice in 1973. And it allowed me to never worry about what others were saying about my career direction.”
– “So, we enable, not direct. We think of our customers as people, not wallets. And that has implications for how we run the company. We partner with our customers and let them take the company where they think it’s best utilized.”