The best ideas can often be summarised in a single sentence – known in Hollywood as ‘the elevator pitch’.
This is particularly true in today’s world of business celebrities and social media, where quotes and mottos have become almost as famous as those who said them. While these snapshots can provide a great deal of motivation and guidance, in some cases they can be too much of an oversimplification.
Three individuals who are firmly in the public eye are the billionaires and their race to space: Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. All with unique and well known journeys into their successful careers, they have generated a number of stand out quotes over the years.
Here we’ll take a look at some of their most famous sayings, on business opportunities and on perseverance. We will pit them against each other to see if they really know what they are talking about or if their ideas are on another planet.
“I could either watch it happen or be a part of it.”
– Elon Musk
Musk’s quip nods at the innovative age that we live in and that we are surrounded by opportunities. He also alludes to the importance of being involved and seizing an opportunity in this short quote. Leaders can’t wait around for the next idea to drive by, stop and wait for them to board. They must learn from their experiences and proactively hunt the next opportunity down.
“When the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”
– Jeff Bezos
If there has ever been a year that has demonstrated the need to adapt to the external business environment, it was 2020. Bezos’ metaphor of a wind whipping around you is certainly one familiar to many of today’s business leaders. They had to learn by experimenting and enduring hardships. However, while trying times can feel like a hurricane, there are lessons to be learned. You have to roll with the punches and adapt to whatever scenario unfolds.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
– Richard Branson
Coming from a man who has a huge portfolio of successful businesses, it is particularly powerful to hear about the importance of failing. Learning through failing is something many have talked about, but this quote also encapsulates a second point; breaking the rules, even if it leads to a failure, can provide more worthwhile lessons, help understand why certain rules are in place and even get you to your end goal faster.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
– Elon Musk
Risk is a monumental part of running a business, much more than any successful business leader probably likes to admit. Musk here highlights that having the right mindset and reason for following through on an idea are crucial when approaching a high risk situation. Not only will it help you to understand the path you are on, it can keep the tasks at hand and the wider project focused on the all important “why”.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
– Jeff Bezos
Bezos’ take on perseverance is that it’s an opportunity for your company to earn a positive reputation. And it’s certainly true that tackling difficult challenges successfully can help build a positive brand, but in other cases, doing the small things better than others is an equally good opportunity to get noticed. Premium customer service and approachable marketing are not particularly difficult if you have built the right team, but will lay incredibly strong foundations for the rest of your company’s brand.
“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”
– Richard Branson
It’s no surprise that one of the most prolific business leaders / recent astronauts believes that the world is full of business opportunities. The positive element of this statement is true, that there will always be room for new ideas. Entrepreneurs should not be put off by a crowded market, as a new idea that breaks the mould has a high chance of thriving. They should also not be afraid if they miss out on an opportunity, and instead look forward to the next one.
These billionaires certainly know a thing or two about the world of business, and have acted as role models and mentors to many. However, the above exercise has demonstrated it’s always worth taking any snapshot quote with a pinch of salt. What might look great on a poster isn’t always the best way to run your particular business.