And You Can Quote Me on That!

Eight memorable quotes to run your business by.


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 A great quote is the perfect combination of brevity, deep insight and inspiration. Years ago I started collecting a list of quotes that, for one reason or another, caught my interest. The standard for making the list is relatively high. The quote must be out of the ordinary. It must be relevant to my business or personal life and, of course, it must be inspiring in some fashion. Over the years the list has grown to 106 quotes. To follow are some of my all-time favorites, each of which applies in its own way to leading a finishing industry company or department:

"Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate." – Bossidy, Larry, & Charan, Ram. (2002) Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York City: Crown Business. Anytime I struggle in the leadership area I ponder this quote from a book co-authored by Larry Bossidy, the retired CEO of Allied Signal (later Honeywell). If you’re not getting the performance from your team that you think you should, ask yourself whether you are setting the right example and expecting the right behavior or are you tolerating less from your team than you should be.
Do or do not. There is no try.” I’m not a Star Wars geek, but I love this one by Jedi Master Yoda directed at Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Pull this self-explanatory quote out of your quiver whenever you ask someone to complete a task or meet a goal and they respond with the words, “I’ll Try.” The quote is especially effective when expressed in a higher pitched, gravely Yoda voice.
“We can argue about whether the glass is half full or half empty. This guy wanted to know who took HIS water.” I heard this one in a speech delivered by Wayne Oldenburg, founder of Oldenburg Group Incorporated, a Wisconsin-based heavy equipment and architectural lighting products manufacturer. He was referencing one person in particular but the point is a great one. Some people, no matter how hard you try to be fair to them, will manage to convince themselves they are getting the short end of the stick. Don’t let them wear you down.
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." This quote by the infamous founder of the Ford Motor Co., Henry Ford, reminds us that it’s not always enough to just deliver on what our customers say they want today. True innovators anticipate what customers will want tomorrow and create new products, services or even entire markets where none currently exist.
“The money you make is in the deals you don't do.” I hear this one from time to time in Mergers and Acquisitions circles. The idea goes that the distraction and poor cash flow that result from a bad acquisition deal can be so disastrous as to more than cancel out the benefits from the good ones. In the finishing world it also applies well when that really, really big prospect waves a ton of work in front of you – but only if you agree to an unreasonably low price. Will you have the discipline to walk away?
”Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). Another quote ripped from a film, but a great one. A chemical leak into the ground beneath a plating tank—that only you know about. A missed bank covenant that could be easily covered up with a journal entry. Making a tough personnel decision that you know is right for the business. You get the idea.
“If Wishes were Horses, Beggars would ride.” I forget where I first heard this line that purportedly spawned from a 16th Century English Proverb. Wishing for what you want your organization to be or just hoping for better results is pure folly, action is what matters.
“You're an 800 pound man wondering if your mustache is keeping the girls away.” I saw this quote in the May 2006 edition of Bicycling magazine. First, I think it’s hilarious. It’s the comedic version of another of my favorites, “Don’t watch the pennies while the dollar bills are flying out the window.” Do you ever catch yourself getting all balled up in petty details that have no real impact on the overall performance of your business? Interpersonal issues, resentment, bickering amongst the team, chasing a $10 variance in an expense account. Let it go and focus on what really makes a difference.