10 Classic CEO Quotes for Today's Economy

Last Updated Sep 28, 2009 6:13 PM EDT

If you're reading this, chances are your business or company is struggling. I know mine is. But this isn't my first recession and it won't be my last. Over the years, I've learned to look at down cycles opportunistically. No, I'm not on drugs. Down markets are absolutely the best time to retrench and take risks.

Here are 10 classic CEO quotes that matter now more than ever, along with my takeaway that can help your business today in today's economy.

"You have to pretend you're 100 percent sure. You have to take action; you can't hesitate or hedge your bets. Anything less will condemn your efforts to failure."

Andrew Grove, former CEO, Intel

Takeaway: Come up with an idea, a strategy, a plan, and act! Now.
"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple

Takeaway: I've said it before - failure and loss, especially getting fired, can really invigorate you and your career.
"When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for everyone telling you you're nuts."

Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle

Takeaway: Behind most great and successful products or businesses are entrepreneurs who were turned down a hundred times.
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

Bill Gates, Chairman and former CEO, Microsoft

Takeaway: Spend time understanding and analyzing your mistakes and failures. Any customer that turned you down - if you can get them to talk - is a tremendous resource for boosting your business.
"... be skeptical of history-based models. Constructed by a nerdy-sounding priesthood using esoteric terms ... these models tend to look impressive. ... Beware of geeks bearing formulas."

Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Takeaway: Buffett was talking about investing, but his advice is insightful. If you're a reasonably intelligent and experienced business person, trust your gut more than research.
"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn."

Bill Watkins, former CEO, Seagate

Takeaway: Don't get hung up on pride and principals when it comes to business, especially during tough times. If it works and it's legal and ethical, do it.
"A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets."

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple

Takeaway: While cash conservation is critical for many businesses, big companies that think cost-cutting and a nice bottom line will get them out of this cycle in good shape are in for a surprise.
"Watch, listen, and learn. You can't know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity."

Donald Trump, CEO, Trump Organization

Takeaway: Do some networking with smart people you haven't seen in a while, read some books, take a class, do something to expand your knowledge and your horizons. You'll be amazed at what ideas pop into your head.
"Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive."

Andrew Grove, former CEO, Intel

Takeaway: This is yet another reason why being down is a good place to be - you only have one place to go. Up. Those on top, on the other hand, have the reverse problem.
"The pending merger with XM will offer unprecedented choice for consumers and create tremendous value for stockholders."

Mel Karmazin, CEO, Sirius XM

Takeaway: Don't listen to BS. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. (Not only did the statement make no sense but the merger destroyed orders of magnitude of shareholder value.)

Okay, I did all that hard work. Now it's your turn: cough up a classic CEO quote that matters as much today as it did then.

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