25 People Worth Following for Actionable Small Business Advice

July 22, 2016 Sujan Patel

In the world of small business, pitfalls — or wild success — could be around any given corner on any given day.

Markets can be stable or they can fluctuate. Ideas that were great a year ago become obsolete, while ideas that aren’t realistic now may be so in a few months, after a new technological breakthrough.

Whether you’re hoping to corner the market in the medical field, sell paper locally, or launch a corporation that will go on to become a huge business empire, it’s safe to say you don’t know what the future might hold.

Fortunately, thousands have walked the same road and succeeded.

Here are 25 people worth following for small business advice you can use now. These experts are at the top of their fields in leadership, technology, marketing, venture capitalism, and more. Their insights can help you discover all the actionable business advice you need to succeed.

1. David Hornik, Founder, VentureBlog and VentureCast 

“Entrepreneurship is about passion. Great entrepreneurs are not driven by a simple desire to make money. They are driven by a need to change the world. They may change the world by building a better operating system or a better search engine or a better social network. But whatever it is they are building, great entrepreneurs are driven by passion.”

Hornik is an innovator with a unique insight into his field: VentureBlog was the first venture capital blog  and VentureCast, the first venture capital podcast.

He doesn’t post often, but there’s a wealth of information offered in the archives. His blog offers advice on a stunning array of topics: wireless and telecom, venture capitalists online, finance, management tips, books, electronics, film, entrepreneurial success, legal advice, and more.

You can follow Hornik on TypePad and Twitter for more great insight.

2. Jeff Bezos, Founder/CEO, Amazon

“What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you — what used to be a tailwind is now a headwind — you have to lean into that and figure out what to do, because complaining isn't a strategy.”

Bezos has continually kept Amazon on the cutting edge of technology and entrepreneurship, expanding his empire from selling books to hawking almost everything under the sun.

He also maintains fierce competition in the tech world. Recently, Bezos has diversified his portfolio by investing in commercial space travel and utilizing drone technology for package delivery.

In light of such accomplishments, small business owners can definitely learn a thing or two from Bezos. His ideas on leadership, hard work, innovation, and staying relevant are useful both to new entrepreneurs and seasoned business leaders.

Business owners would do well to pay attention to the trends that Bezos and Amazon are starting.

3. Guy Kawasaki, Author, WSJ and NYT best sellers

“It doesn't matter whether the Dow is 5000 or 50,000. If you're an entrepreneur, there is no bad time to start a company.”

Venture capitalist, marketing specialist, author, speaker, and evangelist. Guy Kawasaki is all of these things and more.

Kawasaki’s career began when he started working for a fine jewelry manufacturer, where he learned the art of salesmanship.

Today, he gives over 50 keynote speeches a year on topics, such as entrepreneurship, evangelism, and innovation. Business leaders and professionals all over the world know and respect him.

Check out his Twitter feed. It’s interesting, edgy, and fun — 1.4 million followers can’t be wrong.

4. Jack Ma, Founder, Alibaba

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”

Ma’s story is a true rags-to-riches one. After growing up in poverty in China, he faced a series of setbacks. It wasn’t until he founded his third internet company, Alibaba, that he found success. Ma is very vocal about his story and likes to remind entrepreneurs that success is almost always preceded by failure.

In 2013, after Alibaba’s $150-billion IPO, Ma became the richest man in China, with an estimated net worth of $25 billion.

Ma inspires with his passion, sense of humor, and never-give-up attitude. His insights into the business world are a great resource for small business owners. 

4. Steve BlankAuthor, The Four Steps to the Epiphany

“What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based data/metrics feedback loop to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. That’s why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them, and implemented the fifteen that worked.”

After holding a wide array of jobs, Steve Blank eventually ended up in California in the late 70s, right as Silicon Valley began to skyrocket. Over the next 20 years, he poured his life into his eight startups.

After he stopped working in the world of entrepreneurship, he wrote Four Steps to the Epiphany, the book that paved the way for the Lean Startup movement.

Blank is a great resource for small business advice. His Customer Development Model is pioneering and extremely insightful. Blank has numerous presentations and student lectures available for other entrepreneurs to learn from.

6. Jeff Olson, Founder/CEO, Nerium; Author, The Slight Edge

“The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.”

Jeff Olson is a successful speaker, author, startup founder, and CEO. He has grown three different sales and distribution teams into multi-million dollar organizations.

Perhaps his largest impact, however, comes from his novel, The Slight Edge, which demonstrates how daily disciplines and perspective changes can have an earth-shattering impact.

The ideas Olson brings forth are great for the small business owner. He shares his success from the perspective of someone who has both made great gains and suffered great losses.

He has been extremely prosperous — watched his success slip away — and has overcome his failures with a slight edge. The attitude he promotes is essential for any entrepreneur to develop a sustainable, disciplined lifestyle.

Olson also drives home the important truth that even the most successful entrepreneurs must learn how to deal with their failures — a crucial lesson that small business owners can learn from a man who has seen more larger successes and failures than almost anyone on the planet.

7. Robert Kiyosaki, Author, Rich Dad Poor Dad

“Critics only make you stronger. You have to look at what they are saying as feedback. Sometimes the feedback helps, and other times, it's just noise that can be a distraction.”

After a few failed business attempts, Robert Kiyosaki established Cashflow Technologies in 1997. Through this corporation, he wrote the bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad, which offers insight into how the rich think about money.

While much of his writing is aimed at the general public and is intended to educate people about business, Kiyosaki remains an important figure in the arenas of real estate investment and precious metals commodities. He has had plenty of real estate successes and failures, which give him a unique platform to make predictions about the future of the market. There’s a lot to be learned from Kiyosaki.

8. Caterina Fake, Founder, FinderyCo-founder, Hunch.com and Flickr

“Inspiration is really all around us. I pay attention to a lot of different fields. I stay up on current events. I go to community meetings to see what concerns the people in my neighborhood. Paying attention to social interactions offline really inform interactions online. The real world is a bottomless source of inspiration for what you can build.”

Fake’s blog is a great resource for those who want to keep up with business culture. While she might not discuss the latest merger market trends, she is full of sage advice in the creative entrepreneurial arena.

The struggle to stay relevant, which Fake knows all too well, is a driving force for entrepreneurs. She is a fantastic resource for cutting-edge social technology trends and has great advice for angel investors and those looking to find them.

9. Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates

“Maintain 'baseball cards' and/or 'believability matrixes' for your people. Imagine if you had baseball cards that showed all the performance stats. You could see what they did well and poorly and call on the right people to play the right positions in a very transparent way.”

Dalio’s success had humble beginnings — he started out working as a golf caddy.

He ended up attending Harvard and launched Bridgewater Associates when he was just 26. The company has grown steadily ever since.

Dalio’s work with Bridgewater is a clear indication of his unique insight into the world of investing, hedge funds, and commodities. His attitude towards business is one of pushing past mistakes and rising out of the ashes to become something better.

He even calls himself a “professional mistake maker” showing tenacity and resilience in an ever-changing market. His advice has stood the test of time and entrepreneurs in the investing sector can learn a lot from his words and actions.

10. Tory Burch, Founder, Tory Burch and the Tory Burch Foundation

“Entrepreneurs have a great ability to create change, be flexible, build companies and cultivate the kind of work environment in which they want to work.”

In less than ten years, Tory Burch’s high-fashion brand has expanded to over 80 boutiques and more than a thousand department stores nationwide.

In addition, Burch and her team founded the Tory Burch Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting the empowerment of female entrepreneurs. The Foundation offers female entrepreneurs access to funding, education, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

In her “Words of Wisdom” section, Burch gives entrepreneurial advice and includes words of wisdom from other successful businesswomen. This resource can be a wealth of knowledge for your small business needs.

11. Fred Wilson, Founder, Flatiron Partners and Union Square Ventures

“Customers are a great way to finance a business for many reasons. First, customer financing is typically non-dilutive. They want something from you other than equity in your business. Customers also help you fit your product to the market. And customers will help debug and improve the quality of the product.”

American venture capitalist, writer, and businessman Fred Wilson is listed in Forbes’ Top Ten Venture Capital Investors in The World: Midas List 2016.

Most notably, he invested in Twitter, Tumblr, and Zynga. His return on his investments has been massive, with Twitter alone being valued at $1.5 billion dollars at one point.  

Wilson not only knows what to invest in, but he also knows when to sell. He’s proven himself to be a very shrewd businessman — and best of all, he’s more than willing to share his advice with others. You can learn from him by following him on his blog or on Twitter.

12. Tony Hsieh, Founder, Zappos

“My motivation for Zappos is to build a business where culture is the number one priority. Our belief is that if you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like great customer service and building a great brand, will happen naturally on its own.”

Tony Hsieh’s business philosophy revolves around company culture, which is something every small business owner should strive to master. Hsieh tries his utmost to make his place of business somewhere his employees want to work.

These ideas show up in his 2010 book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. An entire website, dedicated to the idea expands on the book, is a great resource for entrepreneurs who strive to improve their company culture.

Delivering Happiness offers coaching/consulting, organizational development, workshops and training, and the tools and metrics to track real-world results. Every small business owner should be keyed into Hsieh’s ideas on company culture.

13. Tim Berry, Founder, Palo Alto Software

“In real business, from what I’ve seen, the best strategies aren’t creative. Instead, they’re obvious. Do what you do best – what makes you different from the others – and do it for the people who want it or need it.”

Berry is the official business plan expert at Entrepreneur.com and he freely shares his knowledge with thousands of readers. Since he has been a founder, consultant, and investor at different points of his career, Berry’s advice is useful to small business owners at any stage.

14. Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Records

“I think that there's a very thin dividing line between success and failure. And I think if you start a business without financial backing, you're likely to go the wrong side of that dividing line.”

Richard Branson is a billionaire business mogul who started his success story by dropping out of high school to start a magazine. Eventually, he founded Virgin Records, which expanded into Virgin Group that now consists of over 400 companies worldwide.

Branson shares his wealth of business experience on Virgin’s website. Branson and teams of writers churn out articles related to anything and everything in the world of business. Branson’s site is particularly helpful to new entrepreneurs looking for encouragement and useful advice for success.

15. Bernadeen McLeod, President/Owner, Mentor Works

“Government funding success starts with identifying business priorities.”

McLeod is a true visionary in the world of business. Her acumen as a business coach led her to found Mentor Works, which specializes in Canadian government funding and customized solutions for businesses.

McLeod is highly knowledgeable in mentoring small businesses, helping them overcome their challenges and grow. Entrepreneurs and business owners alike should follow her on Twitter, where she doles out handy business advice and provides helpful resources.

16. Gary Vaynerchuk, Venture Capitalist/Co-founder, Vaynermedia

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don't do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”

Investor, savvy entrepreneur, best-selling author, and media personality, Gary Vaynerchuk is a shrewd businessman to follow. He’s authored many successful books on business and the importance of using social media as a part of business strategy.

He’s also made a few notable investments in wildly successful companies such as Facebook, Uber, and Birchbox. He also has his own consulting company, Vaynermedia.

Vaynerchuk is generous with his business know-how and frequently answers questions on his Youtube channel. He’s well worth following.

17. Anita Campbell, Founder/CEO/Publisher, Small Business Trends

“Update a traditional element of your business with social media designs. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are hot right now, and leveraging their popularity can make your business stand out, be memorable, and seem fresh and up-to-date.”

Campbell’s site, Small Business Trends, reaches over six million small business owners every year. The site has twice won Forbes’ “Best of the Web” honors for small businesses blogs, so you know there’s plenty of actionable advice to discover.

His site includes information on almost anything a small business leader could want to know, including marketing, social media, management, technology, and finance tips, as well as advice from Campbell herself. It’s essentially a huge resource guide for small business

18. Tim Ferriss, Author, the NYT best-selling 4-Hour series

“You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn't making you stronger, they're making you weaker.”

Few entrepreneurs are as diverse and well-rounded as Tim Ferriss. He attended Princeton, is a national Chinese kickboxing champion, a proficient horseback archer, fluent in five languages, and the holder of a Guinness World Record in tango.

Of course, he’s most well-known for his books, The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef.

The 4-Hour Work Week is Ferriss’ entire business philosophy packed into an easily-digestible format. At a hectic and panic-inducing time of his life, Ferriss discovered how to streamline his productivity and make the most of his time, leaving plenty of room for the things he loves.

Ferriss’ wisdom is a must-read for small business leaders everywhere. Even if all of his suggestions don’t apply in every situation, his mindset is extremely beneficial for entrepreneurial pursuits.

In addition to his books, Ferriss has a TV series, The Tim Ferriss Experiment. Here, Ferriss interviews all types of people from YouTube overnight successes to hardened Navy SEAL leaders, further advancing his philosophy through the advice offered. Entrepreneurs in any field can benefit from Ferriss’ ethos and cutting-edge ideas.  

19. Loic Le Meur, Founder, Leade.rsSeesmic, Ublog, Rapidsite France and B2L

“I love the beginnings of a startup. I enjoy the process of finding an idea and creating something from scratch. I don’t care if it’s going to fail or not. It’s the adventure and the learnings that matter. The feeling of doing something new no one else is doing yet.”

French entrepreneur Loic Le Meur has tons of business experience, from starting and selling four businesses to being an angel investor in almost 50 companies, including LinkedIn, Evernote, and Lending Club.

His blog, which has different sites in different languages, offers solid advice and tackles current business issues. Le Meur is a risk taker at heart, as his penchant for extreme sports shows. Venture capitalists and startup hopefuls can learn a lot from his no-holds-barred approach to life and business. Subscribe to his newsletter to stay current with his most recent advice and insight.

20. Jason Falls, Senior Vice President, Elasticity

“There's a disconnect when brands say, ‘We want to use Facebook to engage our audience,’ but then expect the result to be purchases. It's also misleading to think that your Facebook fans are the same type of captive, opt-in audience that you might find in, say, your email marketing list. They clicked a like button. It's a virtual high-five. The barrier to entry there isn't much of an obstacle.”

Falls has co-authored two books, writes for,  Entrepreneur, and, most notably, has worked on digital strategy for brands, like General Motors, AT&T, and Humana. His specialty is content and social media marketing.

The world of social media is ever-changing and Falls knows the importance of entrepreneurs keeping themselves on the cutting edge of that change. He’s a tremendous resource for small business leaders, particularly because of his marketing know-how.

Any business, large or small, can have stellar social media marketing. Falls shares his experience to help entrepreneurs get started with social media and boost sales with their social content.

21. Ken Blanchard, Founder/Author/Business Consultant, Ken Blanchard Companies

“When you look at leaders around the world – whether they’re running departments or countries, businesses or religious institutions – you see too many people focusing on self-serving goals. We need a new leadership model that focuses not only on goal accomplishment, but also on the greater good.”

Ken Blanchard is a writer, speaker, and business consultant who has been one of the foremost leadership and management pioneers in the business world. His books The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level, offer great insights into the world of business leadership.

He formed the Ken Blanchard Companies in the late 70s as a mentoring resource for business leaders to learn how to be better managers.

Whether they become clients of Ken Blanchard Companies, or simply tap into the vast amount of available leadership resources, business leaders at any level can benefit from Blanchard’s wisdom.

22. Brad Feld, Co-founder, Techstars, Foundry Group, and Mobius Venture Capital 

“Startups are about testing theories and quickly pivoting based on feedback and data. Only through hundreds of small – and sometimes large – adjustments does the seemingly overnight success emerge.”

Feld is a fountain of knowledge, writing for three different entrepreneurship blogs that provide a wealth of valuable resources for small businesses.

His own personal blog, FeldThoughts, covers issues ranging from relationships to philanthropy to tech startups.

He’s also the main contributor for Startup Revolution, which contains articles and book recommendations pertaining to startups, as well as information on angel investors and building startup communities worldwide.

His third blog,  Ask the VC, is all about “relevant issues in the venture capital and entrepreneurial ecosystem.” You’ll want to follow all of these super-informative blogs.

23. Tom Peters, Management Consultant/Author, In Search of Excellence

“Business is about people. It's about passion. It's about bold ideas, bold small ideas or bold large ideas.”

Tom Peters is a management consultant and leadership guru who has co-written what has been called “The Greatest Business Book of All Time,” In Search of Excellence.

He has received praise for his managerial ideas and has authored and co-authored over 15 books, remaining one of the industry’s top leadership experts.

His website has a section called “Tom’s Topics,” which covers many useful scenarios for business owners. The topics aren’t just about leadership and management, either — entrepreneurs can find great information on startups, the economy, sales, and politics, as well.

24. Mark Suster, Founder/CEO, BuildOnline & Koral, Venture Capitalist

“Be real. Be authentic. Only start a business that you are truly passionate about because it is very seldom that success comes from a ‘money making idea.’ Most businesses are not huge financial winners so doing what you love is the only way to truly be happy.”

Suster’s blog, Both Sides of the Table, delves into all aspects of business and is especially helpful for small business advice in the arena of startups, venture capital, and entrepreneurship. As one of the most respected startup bloggers in the industry, Mark's blog is a must for any startup founder seeking VC angel investment advice.

25. Chris Brogan, CEO/Owner, Media Group; Author, chrisbrogan.com

“Disruption has become the norm in business. But this doesn't always mean massive and world-changing disruption. Sometimes, it just means that the world is a bit more open to conducting business the way you'd prefer to do it these days.”

Along with being a successful author and CEO, Chris Brogan is a well-known public speaker and has consulted with brands, like Disney, Google, and Coca-Cola. His website has appeared on Forbes’ list, 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs should take advantage of Brogan’s website features, taking online courses, learning tricks and tips, and even booking Brogan for a public speaking engagement.

Who are your favorite people to follow for small business advice? Let us know in the comments below. 

Image sources: Business Finance News, Fast Company, Addicted 2 Success, Nation Swell, Psychedelic Times, ytimg

 

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