Success Mantras From Radically Successful Founders And CEOs

(As featured in Forbes- January 30, 2017)

Written by: Patrick Hanlon

There are many theories about what creates success, business school libraries are filled with them. But no one knows better than the brand founders and CEOs who started out with nothing but a scratchpad and a dream.

We thought that it would be interesting to learn what the leaders themselves think about how to create success, so we asked some of our favorite 21st century companies like Warby Parker, SXSW, as well as a few fledgling startups. Some of these companies are established names. For others, success is still a work in progress.

Whether the companies are new or old, large or small, we think the responses will inspire.

Thanks to everyone who helped fill in the blanks on this story.

So, how do you make, create, imagine or inspire success?

“Treat others as you they want to be treated,” says Neil Blumenthal cofounder and co-ceo at Warby Parker (the crossed-out “you” is intentional). And also, “A deliberate, holistic and relentless pursuit of an ever-improving customer experience.”

“For me it comes down to recognizing and championing talent while steadfastly protecting ideas, creativity and craft.  Ideas need to be confidently questioned.  Does this resonate, is there a reason for it to exist.  Is this the right medium for it.  When that’s as satisfied as it can be, then you have to become an evangelist of sorts,” says Patrick Milling Smith cofounder of SMUGGLER and Here Be Dragons. Milling Smith is also producer of the Tony- and Grammy-award-winning Once and a board member Punchdrunk Global.

“We always act as if we’re still in Beta!” declare leaders Tony Kretten and Ryan McIntyre at online fashion retail phenom JackThreads. (Note, Ben Lerer is CEO but VPs Tony and Ryan supplied the quote.)

“The deep fear of failing. We never get comfortable and are always thinking of the next thing,” counsels Bob Novogratz, principal at The Novogratz.

“Know your audience and, in some cases, BE the person you’re looking to reach with your business. Figuring out your next big step as a brand is as simple as understanding your consumer’s pain points and where they’re going to find relief/solutions,” advises Kellee Khalil, founder and CEO at bridal website Lover.ly.

“Innovation and looking at the big picture are essential to success,” says Philip Krim, co-founder and chief executive officer at Casper, everyone’s favorite new mattress company. “A fresh, new approach to a basic need can go a long way. We try to create an experience that customers want to be a part of, rather than just selling them a product.”

“Success is creating an emotional connection that leaves a lasting impression,” says Isaac Muwaswes , cofounder of Palette Creative, which runs the brand creative (non-music) and merchandise for G-Eazy, an American rapper from Oakland, California. G-Eazy won Favorite Hip-Hop Artist at People’s Choice Awards 2017. Most recently, Muwaswes was head of brand development at Twitter. “We push the creative freedom to express yourself, in whatever way we feel is most authentic to G and to his fans. Creating experiences and not products, is one of the ways that we evaluate what we do—whether that’s a show, or piece of music or piece of clothing. That’s how we shape the world of Eazy.”

“Just do what you say you’re going to do,” says VC Demetri Argyropoulos atAvant Global. “It sounds so simple. But it’s surprising how many people don’t.”

“It’s called work for a reason. It is supposed to make you feel tired at the end of each day. And yet daily you grow stronger,” says designer Mike Perry, founder ofMike Perry Studio.

“Do what you love. Never forget your roots, and when you wake up everyday to do what you do,” says Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech and Rad Campaign, “surround yourself with people who have/had different experiences then you. Don’t let money cloud your judgment.”

“It’s the DNA of organizations to resist change. Whenever you hear ‘but we’ve always done it that way, that’s a cue to rethink things.” Roland Swenson, CEO ofSXSW.

Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman did not go to business school. Instead, he was a professional clarinet player. He admits freely to being outside the business school template. “I habitually find myself taking significant solace in the words of other, greater minds, often to the benefit of the people I work with,” writes Freeman in an email. “With this spirit in mind, below is a list of things that some of my literary and artistic heroes have said which we have benefitted from recently at Blue Bottle.”

Freeman’s “list of things” is four pages long so that, with his consent, we crudely abbreviated it to the following three quotes:

“Everything is the same but always in a different way.” Goethe

“Everything has been figured out except how to live.” Sartre

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Mike Tyson

And just one more, because it resonates with us, from the New York Philharmonic’s most radical conductor, world-famous Leonard Bernstein, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”

“What drives our day to day, keeps us going during difficult times and the thing we always fall back on is creating an emotional experience for the women who buy our product and simultaneously creating a platform we can use to empower them,” declare Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern, cofounders/designers of fashion brand Co.

“We never think that we’ve made it. This is just one step in a much longer process,” declares Agris Kipurs atAirDog, winner of the 2014 CES Award. “I’m sure that one day we’ll look back and say, ‘That was interesting, that was fun!’ But that’s not right now. We’ve certainly had some successes, but right now we’re still looking forward to overcoming our present challenge—however that presents itself!”

“Startups move so fast, every second counts. You can’t pat yourself on the back for too long, just like you can’t dwell on past disappointments,” advises Colleen Broomall, founder of YSBnow.com a pop-site for GenZ. “Learn from them, but keep moving forward and working as a team. Remember why you started, and always keep your eyes on the prize.”

“Persistence is vital,” advises Lesley Jane Seymour, founder and CEO of startup CoveyClub.com. “Every day you have to get up and try and figure out how to move the ball one more yard down the field. I’ve heard many successful entrepreneurs say others would have given up when they kept going–because they believed.”

“Community is really the future of work,” declares Adam Neumann, cofounder of WeWork.

“Most of success is knowing what you want, defining what success looks like for you and then going out and making it happen,” says Lauren Schiller creator and host of the radio show and podcastInflection Point, which features world-changing women. (Schiller is also executive producer of audio for Salon.com.)

“We try to stay focused on our priorities and not schedule too many things at once. There are lots of things that we want to work on, but we know that we can’t do our best work if we do them all at once,” says Steph Liverani, cofounder of free photo site Unsplash.

Finally, Jaunique Sealey, whose latest company is fledgling Regroup Nation, says, “Based on everything I’ve learned in these past years of launching and building businesses, working for Prince, and fighting tooth and nail for my own dreams and those of others, I’ve learned that ‘never give up’ is actually a process, and I hope that sharing my perspective on it will help to change our World for the better.  I hope that by giving the best of what I know, and what I’ve learned from some of the incredible people that I’ve been fortunate to call mentors, I will be able to help inspire and encourage others to follow through, and to find the hope in the midst of uncertainty.”

And finally, “Always forward!” from Luke Cage, comic book superhero.

Patrick Hanlon is CEO and founder of Thinktopia and author of The Social Code: Designing Community In The Digital Age.

Find the link to the full story below: http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickhanlon/2017/01/30/success-mantras-from-radically-successful-founders-and-ceos/2/#690e0db4799b