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15 things successful CEOs want you to know

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SuccessAs a young CEO of a growing company, I find that the most valuable insight I’m gaining these days has been from other CEOs. Certainly this realization isn’t revolutionary – YPO, EO, Mindshare and a host of other organizations are set up just for this kind of knowledge exchange.

But who has time for that? This is a social media world. We’re live in 140-character sound bites. So I decided to ping my favorite CEOs via Twitter to see what kind of wisdom they could drop on me. Here’s the great advice they shared.

Daniel Ek, CEO, Spotify

Figure out what the top five most important stuff is, focus relentlessly on that and keep iterating. Less is more.

Dennis Crowley, CEO, FourSquare

Don’t let people tell you your ideas won’t work. If you have a hunch that something will work, go build it. Ignore the haters.

Sarah Prevette, Founder, Sprouter

Just do it. Get it out there, absorb the feedback, adjust accordingly, hustle like hell, persevere and never lose your swagger.

Sarah Lacy, CEO, PandoDaily

Follow your gut. it may be wrong, but you won’t regret it if you fail. You’ll regret it if you ignore your gut and fail.

Craig Newmark, Founder, Craigslist

Treat people like you want to be treated. Apply to customer service.

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO, VaynerMedia

Do work for your customers, not for press or VCs. The end user is what matters long term.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO, Automattic

Only reinvent the wheels you need to get rolling.

Jason Goldberg, CEO,

Pick one thing and do that one thing — and only that one thing — better than anyone else ever could.

 Alexis Ohanian, CEO, Reddit

Make something people want. Then give more damns than anyone else about it and you’ll make something they love.

Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works

Buy @ericries’s book. Beyond that? Build a platform. This is the big year.

Matt Howard, CEO, ZoomSafer

Startup wisdom: The number one job of a CEO is to not run out of money.

Brian Wong, CEO, Kiip

Always be learning from others. Whenever you meet someone, you don’t want something from them, you want to learn from them.

Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja, SCVNGR and LevelUp

Something my dad taught me: Ask forgiveness, not permission!

Hooman Radfar, Founder, Clearspring

Give away the wins, own the loses. Your job is to curate greatness.

Alexa Hirschfeld, CEO, Paperless Post

Users and employees are key predictive indicators of a company’s success; press and investors generally months behind.

Got some other great wisdom for your fellow CEOs? Leave me a comment!

Peter Corbett (@corbett3000) is the CEO of the creative agency iStrategyLabs, and is the founding organizer of DC Tech Meetup.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Search Engine People Blog.

48 Responses to “15 things successful CEOs want you to know”

  1. krishna Maddikara

    Team work is very important for any company,so every employee is very important,we have to treat them as customers, so they feel every project is important, so company can satisfy more client.

  2. Matt Levy

    How about these?
    – Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry
    – kisses of an enemy are less valuable than wounds from a friend (i.e., a friend tells you the truth)
    – a wife of noble character, who can find, she is worth far more than rubies
    – above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life
    – as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another
    – a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh answer stirs up anger
    google them for the author – best CEO ever

  3. Adam Smith

    Great pearls of wisdom. I would add that successful people and successful organizations do what unsuccessful people and organizations can’t, will not or even conceive as possible.

  4. Valentino V. Warren

    Remember that every employee is an important asset to the company, and treat them as such. Regardless of how tall a building is, without a strong foundation and bricks that help hold it together, it will crumble.

  5. Valentino V. Warren

    Remember that every employee is an important asset to your company, and treat them as such. No matter how tall a building, without a strong foundation, it can crumble.

  6. Rachelle

    Matt Mullenweg is right (so are the rest), but if you spend time fixing what isn’t broke or coming up with new policies/procedures/ideas for something that is still smooth, you lose focus and drive but mostly time.

  7. Laurens Reinders

    If employees know you will walk through fire, will take a stand for them towards others and take all responsibility, they will walk through fire for you and your goals to achieve!

    It is all about trust, understanding and confidence!

  8. Thank you for this inspiring post, some new classic quotes here. What works for me? Love what you do, believe in it more than you believe in anything, and be willing to flex and readjust the path when you realize there’s a better or different way.

  9. Linh Nguyen

    My favorite quote is from Brian’s:
    “Always be learning from others. Whenever you meet someone, you don’t want something from them, you want to learn from them.”
    and Seth:
    “Something my dad taught me: Ask forgiveness, not permission!”

  10. Awesome post! I like “Pick one thing and do that one thing – and only that one thing – better than anyone else could”. it’s similar to the advice Steve Jobs (peace be unto him) gave to Sergey Brin & Larry Page.

  11. Pete Ferling

    Love this, and you don’t need to be a CEO to think like one.

    At my previous job, I had a full production photo studio and a room full of gear. Co-workers would often ask me “How on earth did you get management to approve for all this stuff”

    My answer? “Never convince someone why it’s needed. Instead, let them know what they are losing by not having it.”


    • Peter Corbett 

      @Pete that’s a smart strategy. I’m going to share that with my COO who’s often convincing me of what’s needed – and I can see that when he tells me what we’re losing out on I’m much more responsive.

    • Munir Amani Dasheer

      I concur on that first statement, alas, not many would want to quote something from a lesser person, right?.
      My favorite so far “you treat a disease, you win you loose, you treat a person, I guarantee you that you will win, no matter what the outcome.”

  12. DeRoy Taylor

    Treating people like you want to be treated does work if those people are from another culture. Treat people like they want to be treated. Adapt to their culture and welcome their ideas. Examine those ideas and adopt the parts of those ideas that work. Research more information about those ideas and learn from them. DeRoy Taylor

  13. Anne Miner

    Great tips! As a young entrepreneur, I learned the hard way … “Cashflow is far more important than profits” … your business can be profitable but if the profit is all in your accounts receivable, your business will not thrive!

  14. B Lerias

    Brilliant in their simplicity. Although I’m not a CEO, I believe one major key to success is the ability, courage, and conviction to think situationally. Following a play book is one thing, but the ability to anticipate, and implement proactive solutions to unexpected problems is quite another. It’s amazing how many leaders are afraid to even question the norm, much less ignore it.

  15. Mr. Corbett,
    And, the hardest part: take these nuggets of wisdom and go to the lowest level in your organization, the person sweeping the floor, or answering the phone, or counting beans, and expect the same from them.

  16. Great post, concise and impactful. One advice from my line manager, who is both a great leader and a great engineer: effort and dedication are key, you can always be better prepared than the rest of people around you. Greetings from Spain!

  17. Mich Sineath

    Many defenders of Twitter’s recent announcement have jumped on board without the facts, just as quickly accusing naysayers of being ‘misguided’, even citing the move as being ‘good for activists’. Most arguments rely too heavily on trusting the company to share censorship requests on Chilling Effects, and fail to discuss its lack of complete transparency on the details of their new (?) practices, or the slippery slope it presents.

    Questioning censorship practices is important and necessary, as has been echoed across the world. The news is troubling to say the least.

  18. eAfricaTours

    Profound pearls of wisdom from these great CEO’s who has weathered more ecommerce storms than myself. I believe I will be utilizing these tips while coducting business. Thank you!