25 Quotations To Help You Run Your Business
Norman Jackson

25 Quotations To Help You Run Your Business


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For the last 35 years, I have worked with over 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs - in broad brush terms, start-ups to turnover of £25 million) as an adviser, mentor, strategic planner, non-executive director, chairman, and corporate financier. During this time, I have picked up many tips of what works in business - and what does not.

In business, there are many ways to be successful and much depends on the skills and personality of the business owner. Hence, I have gathered together 25 Quotations, which morph into anecdotes, stories, checklists, tips etc. It is a ‘dip -in, dip out’ book - so you can start reading anywhere. These quotations have been selected to help SME owners cover the main aspects of running a business, namely: planning, implementation, marketing, finance, personnel matters, management skills, and risks - together with several miscellaneous items.    

I rarely tell SME owners what to do – it’s best when their inner voice tells them the way forward. So, I am just throwing out some ideas to readers to challenge their thinking, which hopefully will then help them carry out their business activities in a better and more effective way.

As a certain Albert Einstein famously observed: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

Onwards and Upwards - and Whatever It Takes!

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“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, the American Business Magnate, Investor and Philanthropist.


As chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett is one of the most successful investors in the world, often referred to as the Sage, Wizard or Oracle of Omaha.

Two good examples of reputational damage are Evel Knievel and Gerald Ratner, both of whom prove Warren Buffett’s point.

At Wembley Stadium, there is a wonderfully large mural in one of the beer-halls, depicting an amazing event that happened there in 1975.

This was when Evel Knievel hurtled down a ski jump on his motorbike, clearing 13 London buses in front of a crowd of over 70,000 – his jump covered half the length of the pitch – truly incredible, especially as he broke his pelvis in the process – yet walked out of the stadium unaided.

Over his career, he attempted more than 75 “ramp-to-ramp” motorcycle jumps, including those across the Caesar Palace Fountains in Las Vegas and the Snake River Canyon in the Skycycle X-2, a steam-powered rocket.

Although or perhaps because he broke 433 bones in his body (a Guinness-Book record), he became a national celebrity and a very rich man - for example, in a six-year period Ideal Toys sold $125 million worth of Evel Knievel-related merchandise.

But also in 1975, a chap named Shelly Saltman released a book entitled Evel Knievel on Tour, in which he painted an unflattering picture of Knievel's character, alleging that he used drugs and abused his wife and kids. Knievel was furious and flew to California, attacking Saltman with an aluminum baseball bat, breaking his arm and wrist in several places and beating him unconscious (Saltman later produced documents showing that Knievel and his lawyers had approved every word prior to publication). Knievel pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Because of this, Knievel lost his marketing endorsements, including those with Ideal Toys and Harley-Davidson. With no income from jumping or sponsorship, Knievel was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy at the age of 43. He never recovered financially and, plagued by ill-health, he died a quarter of century later in 2007.

Gerald Ratner joined the family business in 1966, where he built up an extremely successful chain of jewelers during the 1980s; he was chief executive of the business. The shops shocked the formerly staid jewelry industry by displaying fluorescent orange posters advertising cut-price bargains, and by offering low price ranges.

Although widely regarded as tacky, the shops and their wares were nevertheless extremely popular with the public, until Ratner made a speech at the Institute of Directors on 23 April 1991. During the speech, he commented: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?"

I say: "Because it's total crap."

He compounded this by going on to remark that some of the earrings were "cheaper than a Marks & Spencer prawn sandwich, but probably wouldn't last as long."

Ratner's comments became textbook examples of the folly of making fun of, and showing contempt for, customers. In the furor that ensued, customers exacted their revenge by staying away from Ratner shops. After the speech, the value of the Ratner Group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse.

Ratner resigned in November 1992 and the group changed its name to the Signet Group in September 1993.

It only takes a moment of madness to destroy a life’s work – so if something really upsets you or you are thinking of publicly making a crass and controversial statement, try taking some deep breaths, count to 100, take a cold shower or lie down in a darkened-room and think of what happened to Evel Knievel and Gerald Ratner.

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