When renowned founders and innovators speak, the world listens. From Steve Jobs to Jeff Bezos, their words have become tantamount to law in the entrepreneurial playbook. But just because they have achieved massive success doesn't mean their advice is right for you and your business.
These six entrepreneurs offer their own business insights inspired by the oft-cited advice that they disagree with.
Find fulfillment in your work and personal life.
Bill Gates has achieved monumental success since co-founding Microsoft, but it didn't come without sacrifice: "I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one," he has said. On the other hand, Anthony Davani, managing partner of custom marble and stone manufacturer The Davani Group, agrees with the growing school of thought for startup founders: balance.
"The narrative that we were taught from baby boomers like Bill Gates is that you can either have financial success or personal success. Our generation believes that you can have both, which is why we place such importance on work-life balance," says Davani. "I don't want to be a slave to my work. I want to be healthy, be fulfilled in business and have meaningful relationships."
See the value in competition.
Artur Kiulian, co-founder of venture studio Colab, appreciates competition because it can push you to improve on ideas and create better ones. And trying to do something just because it hasn't been done before is no guarantee of success.
"[PayPal co-founder] Peter Thiel's advice framed as 'competition is for losers' often hurts early-stage entrepreneurs. I see all these crazy ideas coming out with the assumption that no one else is doing it, and founders try to justify it with his advice," says Kiulian. "Take this concept with caution and a much deeper analysis than simply 'competition is bad.'"
Hold meetings without an attendance limit.
"Jeff Bezos's 'two pizza rule' misses the point of meetings and puts an arbitrary attendance constraint on them," says Mamie Kanfer Stewart, founder and CEO of productivity software Meeteor. While Bezos advises keeping it small by "never [having] a meeting where two pizzas couldn't feed the entire group," this limit can defeat the objective at hand.
"Meetings should have the right people present to accomplish the meeting's objective, whether that's two or 200 people," she says. "I've participated in meetings with hundreds of people where great thinking and decisions have emerged."
Don't be too hard on your team.
Steve Jobs is regarded as an exceptional visionary, but one thing he wasn't known for was being an approachable boss. In his own words: "My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better." But Diego Orjuela, CEO and founder of patient monitor accessories company Cables & Sensors, believes you can get hard work out of your employees without fostering an unwelcoming environment.
"You can achieve greatness without the negative impacts of being hard on your team," Orjuela says. "Our best years are those when we work best and hardest. Life happens while you are at work; it's a waste to be hard on others."
Do the ordinary extraordinarily well.
Marc Lobliner, CEO and CMO of workout supplement company TigerFitness.com, emphasizes the importance of honing a strong base of skills to build off of -- even though self-help guru Tim Ferriss might consider this a waste. He asserts that, "doing something unimportant well does not make it important."
But Lobliner says: "As a coach, most would consider juggling in soccer a mundane skill. But by practicing the ordinary and becoming extraordinary at it, you put yourself in a place to grow from an excellent base. Emailing is a normal task, but if you email extraordinarily well, you will close many deals with that skill."
Go to college for more than just the classes.
"Gary Vaynerchuk [of VaynerMedia] swears college is a poor investment for aspiring entrepreneurs," says Scott Baxter, founder and CEO of golf lesson booking service PlayYourCourse. But this philosophy doesn't take into account the social connections and personal development that college facilitates.
"I get it -- college is expensive and the curriculum is more important for engineers than entrepreneurs," says Baxter. "But college helped me get more comfortable in social settings and develop into a confident adult with the personality required to start and run a business."