Favorite Quotes, followed by False Predictions


100 Classic Business Quotes I Relate To

This list was inspired by The Executive Club on Linkedin.

  1. "You can't steal 2nd with your foot firmly on first."

  2. "Good enough never is."

  3. "Emotion Motivates. Reason Justifies."

  4. "Don't just bring doughnuts, bring value."

  5. “Do not follow where the path may lead – Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

  6. "Do you want to win business or do you want to win arguments?"

  7. "Don't judge a company by their price or lead time, but rather how they fix their mistakes."

  8. "Better to remain silent and have them suspect you're an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"

  9. "9 Women Cannot Make a Baby in a Month."

  10. “Not to make a decision is a decision, and Not taking risk is risky.”

  11. “Keep is Simple, stupid.”

  12. “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.”

  13. "Don't battle the plan, plan the battle."

  14. “At the end of the day, you have to decide if the benefit of the egg is worth the wear and tear on the hen's @ss."

  15. "Lead follow or get out of the way."

  16. "Contribute to the good of society...Not to its demise."

  17. “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”

  18. "Nothing cooks unless it gets Hot."

  19. “Vision without Execution is Hallucination.”

  20. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

  21. "Sometimes You Have to Step Out, to Step Up!"

  22. “You can't ride two horses with one [backside]."

  23. “Be careful what you ask for because you may get it."

  24. “A man saying something is impossible shouldn't interrupt man doing it."

  25. "We learn little from success. The most important lessons come from mistakes, miscalculations, misjudgment and failed ventures.”

  26. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

  27. "If you're not part of the parade, you're part of the pavement."

  28. "The people that get you to 1 million are not always the people that will take you 100 million."

  29. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

  30. "If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else."

  31. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

  32. "If you are leading and no one is following, you're just taking a walk."

  33. "That which does not kill me, only makes me stronger."

  34. “Don't be an ostrich. Just because you stick your head in the ground doesn't mean you're not going to get bit in the butt.”

  35. “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

  36. “In sales, 5 x 25 = less than 1 x 100.”

  37. “The joy of low prices is long forgotten in the presence of poor quality & dissatisfaction.”

  38. “Chose Character over Talent: What talent can build over a life time, bad character can destroy in a moment.”

  39. “The most dangerous people in the business world are highly charismatic incompetents.”

  40. “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and have a contingency plan.”

  41. “Cheap is expensive.”

  42. “Perception is reality.”

  43. “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”

  44. “If you pay peanuts, you'll get Monkeys.”

  45. “When the only tool you have is a hammer -- everything looks like a nail.”

  46. “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.”

  47. “Before you can stand in the shoes of another, you must first take off your own.”

  48. Regarding change, "Would you rather cut the cats tail off an inch at a time or all at once? (We know the cat's answer!)"

  49. "Ships in harbor are safe. But, that's not what ships were made for."

  50. “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

  51. "Follow the money.”

  52. “If you think you can, or think you can't - you are probably right.”

  53. “There is no ‘I’ in team.”

  54. "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse."

  55. "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"

  56. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford

  57. "Plan the work and work the plan."

  58. "Don't tell me about the pain, show me the baby."

  59. "If winning isn't important, then why do they keep score?"

  60. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

  61. “If we can afford to do it over we can afford to do it right the first time.”

  62. "The only people that never make mistakes are the ones that don't do any work."

  63. "Successful people do the things unsuccessful people don't like doing!"

  64. "Don't confuse activity with results."

  65. "If you ain't the lead dog the view never changes."

  66. "Anyone can deliver ‘Good News.’ That's easy. It’s the great sales person that delivers the ‘Bad News’ quickly, accurately, and honestly."

  67. “A cook cooks from the wallet and a chef cooks from the heart.”

  68. “Nothing is more wasteful than to make something more efficient that should not be done at all!”

  69. "You can't talk your way out of something you behaved your way into."

  70. “The reason you got two ears and one mouth - double intake and single output.”

  71. "If you're selling watermelons on the side of the road for a quarter and it costs fifty cents to pick them, you don't buy a bigger truck!"

  72. “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

  73. "It’s easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn't."

  74. “Delegation without control is abdication.”

  75. "If you get stuck with lemons, make lemonade."

  76. "A manager's success is achieved through the team's success.”

  77. "It is an irrefutable law of business - promises are promises, and explanations are explanations, but performance is reality."

  78. “Disorganization on your behalf does not constitute an emergency on my behalf.”

  79. "The biggest risk to a successful company is success itself.”

  80. "In a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Be that pig!"

  81. "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.”

  82. “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”

  83. "The Lord gave us two ends --- one to sit on and the other to think with. Success depends on which one we use the most."

  84. “You always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”

  85. "If you need a machine (or solution or employee) and don't acquire it, ultimately you will find that you paid for it, but don't own it."

  86. “Success is not measured by how good you are at what you do, but rather by the impact of what you did and how well you did it.”

  87. "Our success is not determined by what happens to us but how we respond to what happens, not by what life brings us, but by the attitude we bring to life."

  88. "Well done is better than well said."

  89. "Always hire people who are smarter than you are."

  90. "Some are so perfectly prepared for the expected that they are defeated by the unexpected."

  91. “Management is about getting the right people in the right seat on the bus."

  92. "Reach for the stars. You may not get one, but you won't get a handful of mud either."

  93. “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” ~Henry Ford

  94. About change: “About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” ~Herbert Hoover

  95. “Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets.” ~Henry Ford

  96. “Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.”

  97. “Failure doesn't mean you are a failure it just means you haven't succeeded yet.”

  98. “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”

  99. “It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.”

  100. “It's not your salary that makes you rich; it's your spending habits.”


Note that it's risky to say that something can't or won't be done, especially when technology is concerned. Here are some past quotations that still haunt their speakers today:

Invention – "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the US Patent Office, recommending that his office should be abolished (1899)

Computers – "I think there is a world market for about five computers".

Thomas J. Watson Jr., chairman of IBM (1943)

Computers – "Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1 ˝ tons."

Popular Mechanics (March 1949)

Computers – "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home."

Kenneth Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (1977)

Computers – "640 K [of computer memory] ought to be enough for anybody."

Bill Gates, founder and CEO of Microsoft (1981)

Computers – “By 1990 75-80 percent of IBM compatible computers will be sold with OS/2."

Bill Gates, founder and CEO of Microsoft (January, 1988)

Computers – "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't gone through college yet.'"

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's PC

Computers – "I predict that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996."
    Stewart Alsop, InfoWorld columnist (March 1991)

Computers – "We see a corporate market of maybe 15,000 PCs a year by 1990."
    DataQuest (1984)        Compare that with this one:

Copiers – "The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most."

IBM to the founders of Xerox as it turned down their proposal (1959)

Internet – "Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet (1995)

Telegraph – "I watched his countenance closely, to see if he was not deranged ... and I was assured by other senators after he left the room that they had no confidence in it."

U.S. Senator Smith of Indiana, after witnessing a demonstration of Samuel Morse’s telegraph (1842)

Telephone – "Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value."

Boston Post, on the telephone (1865)

Telephone – "This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

Western Union internal memo (1876)

Telephone – "The Americans think we need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys."

Sir William Preece, chief engineer of Britain's Post Office (1876)

Phonograph – "The phonograph has no commercial value at all."

Thomas Edison

Music – "Guitar music is on the way out."
    Decca Records, declining to record a new group called The Beatles (1962)

Radio – "Radio has no future."
    Lord Kelvin (1897)

Radio – "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

David Sarnoff's associates responding to his urgings for investment in radio (April 1912)

Radio – "The radio craze will die out in time."

Thomas Edison(1922)

Movies – "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers (1927)

Television – "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming."

Lee DeForest, radio development pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube

Television – "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

Darryl Zanuck, Movie Producer, 20th Century Fox (1946)

Television – "Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan."

Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts (1948)

Television – "The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; The average American family hasn’t time for it.”
    New York Times (1949)

Television – “The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; The average American family hasn’t time for it”
    New York Times (1949)

Electricity – "Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever."

Thomas Edison (1889)

Nuclear – "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."

Albert Einstein (1932)

Nuclear "That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives."
    Admiral William Leahy, when President Truman asked for his opinion on the project to build an atomic bomb

Global Warming"The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only in ten years. The resulting famines could be catastrophic."
    Newsweek (1975)

Rate of Change – “When the Rate of Change Outside is Greater Than the Rate of Change Inside, The End Is In Sight” (actually NOT a false prediction)
    John F. Welch, Jr., Chairman / CEO, General Electric’s 2000 Annual Report

Population explosion "In the 1970's the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate. Population control is the only answer."
    Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (1968)

Cars – "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty--a fad."
    President of the Michigan Savings Bank, speaking to Henry Ford's lawyer, Horace Rackham.
    Rackham ignored the advice, invested $5000 in Ford stock, and sold it later for $12.5 million.

Cars – "That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced."

Scientific American (Jan. 2, 1909)

Planes – "No possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air."
    Simon Newcomb, astronomer and head of the U. S. Naval Observatory (1835-1909)

Planes – "Heavier-than-air flying machines are fantasy. Simple laws of physics make them impossible."
    Lord Kelvin, president, British Royal Society (1895)

Planes – "Man will not fly for 50 years."

Wilbur Wright, to brother Orville after a disappointing flying experiment in 1901. (Their first successful flight was in 1903.)

Planes – "There will never be a bigger plane built."
    A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin-engine plane that holds ten people

Planes – "The Americans are good at making fancy cars and refrigerators, but that doesn't mean they are any good at making aircraft. They are bluffing. They are excellent at bluffing.
    Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe (1942)

Space – "A rocket will never be able to leave the earth's atmosphere."

New York Times (1936)

Space – "Space travel is bunk."

Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK (1957, two weeks before Sputnik orbited the Earth)

Space – "There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States."

T. Craven, FCC Commissioner (1961)

Tanks – "The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous."

ADC to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration (1916)

Tanks – "Caterpillar land ships are idiotic and useless. Those officers and men are wasting their time and are not pulling their proper weight in the war"

Fourth Lord of the British Admiralty, regarding the introduction of tanks in war (1915)

New Businesses – "The concept is interesting and well-informed, but in order to earn better than a 'C' the idea must be feasible."
    Yale professor's comments on a term paper submitted by Fred Smith for an overnight delivery system. Two years later, Smith founded Federal Express.

New Businesses – "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, market research and focus groups confirm that America wants soft, not chewy, cookies."
    Investor rejection letter to Debby Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields' Cookies

Stocks – "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
    Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University (1929)

Stocks – Would you have invested in this 10-person company?