Over the years, I've had one-on-one discussions with hundreds of successful executives and entrepreneurs. Here are the 10 most memorable and useful examples of business wisdom that I personally heard.

1. Bill Gates

"A programmer's ability to envision a strong product and methodically map out the code that must be written to build it is analogous to a manager's ability to envision a strategic new line of business and delineate the appropriate steps to create it."

2. Michael Dell

"There's a limit to the number of productive hours a person can actually work. There's also only so much fun you can have before it starts to be not as much fun."

3. Masayoshi Son

"Keep your organization flat to avoid the friction and overhead of bureaucracy."

4. Stan Shih

"The customer comes first, then the employees, and then the shareholders. If you put the shareholders first, you'll never find the time to grow your company."

5. Shiv Nadar

"The moment a manager thinks his job is to ask employees 'Did you do task X?' you introduce a layer of cost that adds no value."

6. Jim Manzi

"When compared with cookie-cutter white men of the same age and cultural background, people of diverse backgrounds bring valuable perspectives to a common problem."

7. Ann Winblad

"The companies with the least amount of burnout are those that have a team approach and don't make people feel as if they're just a cog in the machine."

8. Scott McNealy

"If you don't make money, you lose the pride, you lose the funding, you lose the lifeblood of the organization, so be a community but never a nonprofit."

9. William Campbell

"Always remember that the board made you the boss but your people make you a leader."

10. Steve Jobs

"There's definitely some Tao in computer programming."