10 inspirational Bill Gates quotes on how to succeed in business

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

Here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’re always trying to offer the best advice and inspiration for our readers’ future success. And although tips, pointers and rules are great, sometimes it’s best to hear the words directly from the success stories themselves – and who better than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to tell you about how to succeed in the working world? Here are ten quotes to learn from…

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.”

The takeaway: Doing well and thriving is what you’ve been aiming for all your life, so congratulations on getting to this point. However, don’t assume that failure is no longer a possibility – remain humble and learn as much as you can from your shortcomings. Just because you’ve made a profit on one venture doesn’t mean it’ll happen for all your other ones; you still have to be careful and conscientious with your decisions because being too arrogant or confident can help you overlook the minutiae in deals.

"Everyone needs a coach. It doesn't matter whether you're a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player.”

The takeaway: We all need people who will give us feedback. Having someone that can remove themselves from your situation, observe objectively, analyse and critique is the only way we improve. So whether you’re the owner of a small family-run business or a high exec at Fortune 500 company, there’s nothing wrong with having a mentor to steer you in the correct direction. Similarly, when failings occur (and they will occur), these people can help advise you on how to kick on.

"Whether it's Google or Apple or free software, we've got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.”

The takeaway: Sure, you may dislike your rival, and your goal is probably to annihilate the competition when it comes to sales – but, remember that those you’re competing against will spur on your own innovation and drive, as they’ll force you to not only outdo them, but outdo yourself.

"A bad strategy will fail no matter how good your information is, and lame execution will stymie a good strategy. If you do enough things poorly, you will go out of business.”

The takeaway: How you gather, manage and utilise information will determine whether you succeed or fail at business. If you have a great idea or knowledge base, then great, however you need to execute it efficiently and with conviction. There’s more information available today than ever before, and those that flourish will do so because they’ve created a system that will filter knowledge from the top down in a rapid manner. First, ask questions such as: ‘What do customers think about my products?’, ‘Where am I losing business?’, and ‘are there any new markets I should consider?’. Then, find a way to gather the answers and distribute it amongst your employees. Doing so will allow them to react accordingly and thus force change to happen faster.

“People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn’t they?”

The takeaway: Ignorance and uncertainty over something new will always be present. But, regardless of what the masses may think, exploring the unknown stokes innovation. Don’t be afeared of trying to do something unconventional.

“A company’s ability to respond to an unplanned event, good or bad, is a prime indicator of its ability to compete.”

The takeaway: don’t get stuck in a quagmire – always look for ways to adjust and improve with the times. For example, if you’re a traditional publisher, why not consider creating a digital sector of your organisation? Or, if you’re a brick and mortar shop, perhaps you should try creating an e-commerce site where you can sell your goods.

“On my desk I have three screens, synchronised to form a single desktop. I can drag items from one screen to the next. Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity.”

The takeaway: This isn’t so much advice for your business as it is a tip for how to manage your day-to-day tasks. With a trio of screens, you can have one monitor dedicated to incoming emails, one displaying whatever email you’re working on and one for regular activities. By being able to switch from task to task seamlessly (and doing so without neglecting one particular issue for a prolonged period of time), you’ll see your output grow exponentially.

“I have a mixture of encouraging people, telling them what's right, what's not. Obviously, that's how you run a big enterprise like this, and get the best people to want to keep doing these jobs.”

The takeaway: Be a leader, not a boss, and give positive feedback when an employee does an exceptional job, or, when needed, give them some constructive guidance. In an organisation, the workers will always outnumber the boss and will, in effective, produce the most manpower – so if you want the engine to really roar, you’ve got to treat it well.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

The takeaway: Even if you think your product is flawless, it’s the general public that will ultimately use it – so, if buyers feel that something could do with improving, then listen. That’s not saying that the customer is always right – far from it – but what Gates is trying to tell you is that a less than satisfied customer can help point out any shortcomings with what you’re making, and, as a result, will have you tweak and perfect your services.

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