Inspiration for CEOS and Business Owners From Our Founding Fathers

They were lawyers, farmers, merchants, writers and physicians. Those are some of the professions of our Founding Fathers, a topic I wrote about in “Professions of Our Founding Fathers.” Some were wealthy. Some lost everything during the Revolutionary War.

Thomas Jefferson left behind a mountain of debt when he died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which he primarily wrote.  His rival John Adams, who died just hours later that same day, died free of debt and the owner of 275 acres of land.

No matter their financial situations, these men were successful in creating a new country, one with the largest economy in the world. At $18 trillion, the economy of the United States is close to one-quarter of the economy of the entire world.

As we approach the 241th celebration of that fateful day in Philadelphia, when 13 colonies started the process to create our country, here are some quotes from our Founding Fathers that can inspire any business owner or CEO along with some of their beliefs I find to be self-evident.

founding fathersThey believed in hard work and persistence.  

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” – George Washington

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin

“A people…who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.” – George Washington

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Applause waits on success.” – Benjamin Franklin

They believed in keeping their minds sharp and continually learning.

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order. – John Adams

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

They believed in the power of principles, confidence and reputation.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; it is better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington

“The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.” –– James Madison

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton

“One man with courage is a majority.” – Thomas Jefferson

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Tis more noble to forgive than to revenge an injury.”  – Benjamin Franklin

They recognized that we the people are only human and it’s important to forgive.

“A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.” – Alexander Hamilton

“I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.” –  Alexander Hamilton

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson, as I make a living as a consultant and turnaround authority. It’s always good to seek help on matters where you need it.

“He who knows best knows how little he knows.”

Professions of Our Founding Fathers

As we approach 4th of July, which marks the 238th anniversary of the birth of our independence, I found myself pondering the professions of our Founding Fathers, in particular those who signed the Declaration of Independence, and what they would think of the world today.

There is little doubt in my mind that as representatives from the 13 colonies sat sweating in those heavy, uncomfortable clothes in the sweltering Philadelphia heat, struggling to craft what would become the Declaration of Independence, they could never imagine the business world of the 21st century.

It’s interesting to speculate what would have shocked them the most. Would it be the acension of women to positions of power? The huge number of large global companies? The size of the United States and its population growth from 2.5 million in 1776 to more than 320 million today would certainly present a surprise.

Of course, the advances in technology alone in the past 238 years would be enough to astound every one of the delegates. I like to imagine Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, amateur inventors themselves, adapting quickly and rushing out to buy the newest Apple products and carefully selecting their Twitter handles.

All white males, those 56 delegates who gathered in 1776 to craft a document to tell Great Britain to take a hike and form a new country ranged in age from 26 (Edward Rutledge from South Carolina) to 70 (Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania.)

There were several lawyers, which was the most popular career at the time. Others were farmers, merchants, businessmen, writers and physicians. Some attended seminary, with a few ministers among them, while many were serving in public office.

Most were well-educated, although Benjamin Franklin had no formal education past the age of 10 and like several others, was self-taught. While many were from wealthy families, several of them lost their fortune during the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Rush from Pennsylvania was a professor and physician who published the first American textbook on chemistry.

A few didn’t fare so well as businessmen. Samuel Adams from Massachusetts was an unsuccessful brewer, who would be mighty surprised at the success of a beer named after him. Two signers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, later became president.

There’s no way of knowing what the Founding Fathers would be most blown away about the state of American business today. But one thing I believe would make them all smile. They each had a hand in creating the United States, which has the world’s largest national economy with a GDP of approximately $16.1 trillion. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Happy 4th of July!




The Importance of Preparation as Taught by Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

– Alexander Graham Bell

I’ve recently seen some rather poor planning, and I want to take a moment to emphasize the value of preparation.

The initial preparation-based document of most businesses is the Business Plan. You know, that document that your angel investor, banker, spouse, partner, etc. wanted to see to make sure that you weren’t totally out of your mind when you told them you were going to start a business that did this, that and the other?

The point of that document was, in part, to prepare you for many of the issues that arise over the course of doing business. Do you need special permits or authorization? How much will your operating expenses be the first five years? When do you initially expect to turn a profit? What are your competitors’ barriers to entry or can anyone steal your idea?

See? These are questions of preparation. Despite Mr. Bell’s assertion, answering these questions does not guarantee your success, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Have you found that your business is flagging recently, that there’s a certain stagnation or that things aren’t headed in the direction you’d hoped? Perhaps things are going well, but you’re about to embark on a huge project.

Don’t just flail around grasping at straws and hoping for the best outcome. Do some preparation before you have a crisis and things move too fast for you to adequately prepare. I’ll invoke one of my 10 Ways not to Hire a Guy Like Me: leverage your business plan! That document is probably buried away in saved files – or maybe you put it together before the ubiquity of computers and it’s in your file cabinet, weathered and dusty.

Either way, pull it out!

Now make an effort to leverage it. What did you say you would do if things turned south? What were your contingency plans? Even if you’re not in this state, updating your business plan for posterity and ensuring that there is a plan in place should something happen to you and your ability to move the business forward is important.

Not sure where the business plan is, you don’t have one or it’s not proving helpful? It’s time to rethink your business plan, and use that as a means of preparing yourself to solve your problems before you have a crisis on your hands.

Remember the company that thought it was going to move from Minnesota to Orlando over the weekend? That was not preparation. We went in and got them adequately prepared for their move – and it was successful. In order to be successful yourself, I encourage you to spend more time preparing – before anything else.

Are you ready?