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!




Give Your First impression A Fair Shake

Thomas Jefferson is said to have popularized the handshake in Western culture as a more democratic form of greeting. I, and my back, appreciate that we no longer bow when greeting associates. Sounds like an awful lot of work to me.

Now, extending your right hand for a handshake is an important part of our culture and significant in the first impression you make when meeting someone. I’ve written before about the importance of first impressions. In my column, “The First 15 Seconds,” I listed three things I could tell about a person I am interviewing in just one quarter of a minute.

A demonstration of the Lobster Claw, one of the top 10 bad business handshakes as demonstrated in a video of the same name

A demonstration of the Lobster Claw, one of the top 10 bad business handshakes as demonstrated in a video of the same name

Another crucial aspect of making a good first impression is that handshake. I got a big laugh out of this video I came across, done by an Australian company called “The Top 10 Bad Business Handshakes.” Maybe it’s even funnier because of the droll Australian accent but it does illustrate several handshakes that will definitely not make a good first impression. These include the Lobster Claw, the Fist Bump, the Wrestler and the Phantom.

Watch the video and see if you fall into any of those 10 categories of bad handshakers. If you have the slightest bit of concern that you may, here are a few tips from David Gregory at NBC on the “Today” show.

• Have a firm grip

• Make eye contact

• Shake once of twice from the elbow

• Should last about three seconds.

Those three seconds of contact can really pay off. An interesting study done by the Income Center for Trade Shows found that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. They will also be more open and friendly with you. People whose handshakes are evaluated as good are seen as extroverted and emotionally expressive, according to an article in on “Why Women in Business Should Shake Hands.”

Here are a few of the tips the writer Carol Kinsey Goman shared in the article, which apply for both men and women.

• Be the first to extend your hand.

• Stand when being introduced and extending your hand.

• Say something like “It’s great to meet you,” before you let go.

• When you let go, do not look down. That is a sign of submission.

In another study, researchers Frank Bernieri and Kristen Petty screened 300 students, selecting five men and five women with contrasting personality profiles. Their job was to introduce themselves to people of the same sex, who were playing the role of the interviewers.

The interviewers met with five “candidates” who introduced themselves briefly. Half of the time the greeting involved a handshake. The interviewers then rated the candidates on extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The one area where the handshake seemed to really make a difference was in conscientiousness, particularly when men judge other men. The researchers concluded that engaging in a handshake could help you predict whether that person would show up for their next appointment with you.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? How much you can tell about a person in an act that takes three seconds. Make those three seconds count in your favor.