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12 Inspiring Quotes for Small Business from Evan Williams

Evan Williams Small BusinessLike so many other successful entrepreneurs, Evan Williams dropped out of college to pursue a career in the world of technology, working for companies like O’Reilly Media, HP, and Intel. In 1999, he co-founded his first small business—Pyra Labs—to make project management software. Early on the Pyra team created a note taking feature which was spun off into its own service, called Blogger (Mr. Williams is credited with inventing that turn of phrase.) The launch of Blogger was well-timed—the popular service was adopted by millions of bloggers and eventually acquired by Google.

In 2004, Mr. Williams left Google to co-found Odeo, which eventually became the micro-blogging powerhouse Twitter. He spent two years as Twitter’s CEO, stepping down in 2010. Last year, Evan Williams and his Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, founded Medium, a new publishing platform set to launch later this year.

As you can imagine, someone with this much entrepreneurial energy (and success) has had a lot to say about turning a small business into a successful company. Here are thirteen things he has said that we find especially inspiring:

“Our problem wasn’t that it blew up and was impossible to scale, but there were some bad choices made. One of the biggest lessons time after time was to focus. Do fewer things.”

“Creativity comes from constraint.”

“…realize that no sufficiently interesting space will be limited to one player. In a sense, competition actually is good—especially to legitimize new markets.”

“I was surprised by the success of something so simple. That’s a mantra for many people in the technology world—simplicity. But what we built wasn’t that amazing. It was the idea of putting a couple of things together and being able to establish a lead by doing something really, really simple. How far you can get on a simple idea is amazing… Simplicity is powerful.”

“There are different ways to approach startups. One thing I admired about Google is we said, ‘This thing is huge, and we’re going to kick ass at it.’ …The other approach is ‘This might be a thing if we pull it off.’”

“Be a user of your own product. Make it better based on your own desires. But don’t trick yourself into thinking you are your user.”

“User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don’t know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board.”

“When I meet with the founders of a new company, my advice is almost always, ‘Do fewer things.’ It’s true of partnerships, marketing opportunities, anything that’s taking up your time. The vast majority of things are distractions, and very few really matter to your success.”

“I think one of the things that kills great things so often is compromise—letting people talk you out of what your gut is telling you. Not that I don’t value people’s input, but you have to have the strength to ignore it sometimes, too. If you feel really strongly, there might be something to that, and if you see something that other people don’t see, it could be because it’s that powerful and different. If everyone agrees, it’s probably because you’re not doing anything original.”

“When you’re obsessing about one thing, you can reach insights about how to solve hard problems. If you have too many things to think about, you’ll get to the superficial solution, not the brilliant one.”

“Luck comes in many forms—and often looks bad at first. I always look back on the deals that we didn’t do and the things that didn’t work out, and realize what seemed like a bummer at the time was really lucky. …if you have some plan and it doesn’t go that way, roll with it. There’s no way to know if it’s good or bad until later, if ever.”

Finally, Mr. William’s formula for Entrepreneurial Success:
1. Work with Amazing People. Don’t compromise on who you choose to found your company with and hire. Do not put up with ego-centric personalities or downer attitudes. 2. Take on Big Challenges. It’s pretty simple: Hard things are valuable; easy things are not so valuable. Reaching the mountaintop is rewarding because it is hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it. 3. Focus. Say no to most things: Features. People. Partnerships. Coffees. Projects. Only a few of them really matter. (Yes, it’s hard to know which.) Don’t get distracted. 4. Take Care of Yourself. When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. 5. Love those Close to You. Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.”

—Evan Williams, Entrepreneur, Founder of Blogger and Twitter