21 motivational quotes for small business owners

Editorial Team

7 min read
Woman sitting outside looking hopeful

Looking for fresh ways to fuel your business? These motivational quotes for small business owners offer incredible advice and expert takes on everything from the people you hire to how to set your goals.

1. “Don’t worry about being successful but work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.”

Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist

Believe that each decision you make is significant, even if it’s just choosing whether you’ll feature fish or chicken as tonight’s dinner special, and success will be the organic product of those decisions.

2. “There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.”

Jason Fried, founder & CEO of Basecamp

An ever-growing personnel roster isn’t always a cut-and-dried sign of success. Sometimes a small team brimming with high-quality talent is better than a 100-person team with multiple weak points.

3. “Always give your best effort even when the odds are against you.”

Arnold Palmer, American golfer

Many motivational quotes for business owners are sourced from Fortune 500 CEOs, but there’s a lot of wisdom from big name athletes that can be applied to the corporate world, too. Give 100% effort 100% of the time, no matter how improbable a win may seem, and you may surprise everyone with a come-from-behind victory for the ages.

4. “A big business starts small.”

— Richard Branson, business magnate, investor and author

Successful businesses almost never launch with a huge network of employees and a seven-figure budget. It’s okay — perhaps even preferable — to start off as a bootstrapped food truck or a taco stand and then grow from there.

5. “When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.”

— Josh James, CEO of Omniture

Passion should never be discounted. Running with an idea that sticks in your mind no matter what will help ensure that you have that passion to keep you going when times are tough and your plan isn’t going quite as you envisioned.

6. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

Tony Robbins, author, and business strategist

Spontaneous acts of management almost never work out in your favor. The same advice could apply to making other business decisions, such as launching a marketing campaign or ordering ingredients for a new menu. Set goals first, then work backward to create and implement a plan designed to get you to that goal.

RELATED: Learn about Tony Robbins’ documentary on Netflix

7. “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

— Warren Buffett, business magnate and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Many people long for overnight success, but the truth of the matter is that it sometimes takes years (or decades, even) for a seed of an idea to grow large enough to bear fruit. The time is going to pass by no matter what. You might as well plant a good idea.

8. “You don’t build a business. You build people and people build the business.”

— Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker

There’s a popular adage in business that refers to the three P’s: people, processes, and products. The people aspect is probably the most important, because it’s the people who bring ideas, follow through on execution, identify pain points, and so on. You can’t do everything, but you can hire a team of people who can have everything covered.

9. “To be successful you have to have your heart in your business and your business in your heart.”

— Thomas J. Watson, chairman and CEO of IBM

Have you ever heard of a successful business owner or CEO who hates his or her business? The amount of time, effort, and stress that goes into running a business is simply untenable unless you love what you’re doing. Love your business (and the people in it) and that love can do great things.

10. “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

— Muhammad Ali, professional boxer

Ali was known for his determination and grit, and this quote highlights his focus. It’s not about the quantity of time, it’s about the quality of that time, and what you do with the time you have.

11. “Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.”

— Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

Other people’s opinions mean nothing. Risk and dream more, and you could see exponentially greater dividends.

12. “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”

— Chris Grosser, sales advisor

If you wait for opportunity to knock at your door, you could be waiting a while. Make your own opportunities instead.

13. “If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.”

— Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder

For all that business advisors talk about delegation, you also need to know what’s going on in your business. You can’t make smart decisions if you’re not fully informed.

14. “Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationship.”

— Henry Ross Perot, business magnate, ex-politician

Here’s that people, processes, and product concept again! Pay attention to every part of your budding empire — it’s not just about the revenue, it’s also how you take care of the people spending money and how you develop and tweak your product offerings.

15. “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”

— Donald Porter, actor

Problems happen. How will you handle those issues once they arise?

16. “Great things in business are never done by one person.”

— Steve Jobs, founder of Apple®

As far as inspirational quotes for small business owners go, this one stands out — and from one of the best minds in the business, too. Success is almost never possible unless you have a great team. Don’t be afraid to share control and rely on the expertise and input of others.

17. “Know what your customer wants most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”

— Kevin Stirtz, author of “More Loyal Customers”

You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can hone in on your key differentiator and put everything you have into filling that gap in the market.

18. “If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.”

— Bob Hooey, author

Loyalty is earned, not given. Give your customers a reason to stick by your side or they’ll find someone else that cares more.

19. “The heart and soul of a company is creativity and innovation.”

— Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company

Your product or service is the thing that makes you stand out amongst your competition. How can you continue to create new and exciting offerings that appeal to your existing customers and attract new ones?

20. “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

— Bill Gates, Microsoft founder

Success is inherently awesome, but you get far more value from picking apart and learning from your mistakes.

21. “Never give up. Today is hard and tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”

— Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group

Never quit on your worst day — after all, you have a perfect track record of surviving those awful shifts, right? Push through the bad spots and the good ones will shine that much brighter.

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