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Five Lessons from Five Business Leaders

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The best and most recognizable business leaders of our time have much in common beyond the mansions and expensive cars: they all have made it to the top of their industries through a combination of determination, innovation and an unending desire to learn. And for anyone who wants to thrive in business, there are many lessons that these successful business leaders can teach.

Persistence Pays Off – In the days before the dot com boom of the late 1990s, Jeff Bezos struggled to secure funding for his concept of an Internet-based bookstore. Investors were skeptical of the idea and of the amount he was asking for. Still, he believed in his vision and didn’t give up. Using a business plan he developed on a laptop during a cross-country car trip, he was eventually able to secure the $1 million necessary to launch Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer.

Bezos teaches us the importance of not giving up. If you have an idea that you think will change the world, you must do everything you can to convince others to believe in it. And if the idea doesn’t sell at first, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to improve the plan and try again.

Every Penny CountsIngvar Kamprad founded IKEA with the purpose of offering consumers ready-to-assemble home furnishings at affordable prices. Kamprad realized that selling furniture items unassembled would reduce shipping and packing costs, and thus minimize costs for customers. Cost control remains crucial to the company’s operations today, and IKEA has been able to lower its prices by 2-3% over the past decade as it expands around the world.

While it’s certainly true that you have to spend money to make money, paying close attention to costs, and determining where they can be reduced, can mean the difference between profit and loss. By looking for innovative ways to reduce costs for both the company and the consumer, the organization can be more cost-effective and develop a loyal following.

Let Nothing Stand in the Way – As Oprah Winfrey may be in the spotlight much more than the others on this list; it’s easy to overlook just how much she has accomplished behind the scenes. Routinely listed as one of the most powerful women in business and media, Winfrey knows how to achieve results and continuously build her business empire. What’s even more impressive is how she overcame poverty and abuse in her childhood to become one of the most successful people on the planet.

Winfrey demonstrates how important it is to not let adversity hold you back. Whether challenges stem from personal life or hurdles in the business climate, it is important to never back down from the dream and to do everything possible to achieve success.

Love What You Do – As a young adult with a love of music, Richard Branson started selling records by mail-order out of a church basement. This successful business led to the establishment of a chain of record stores and the creation of a record label. Since those early days, Branson has created more than 400 businesses under his Virgin brand, many of which are based on his interests: airlines and rail companies, a mobile phone company, a comic book label, a video game company, and even a space tourism firm.

The key lesson learned from Branson is that it’s important to let your passions determine your pursuits.  Without a firm interest and understanding of whichever industry you’re in, it will be difficult to develop a prosperous and thriving business.

If You Build It, They Will Buy It – As people are still in mourning over the loss of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, his contributions to the world are clear. Listed as either the primary inventor or co-inventor of nearly 350 patents, Jobs certainly knew how to think outside of the box. And, based on the excitement and fervor with which each new Apple release has been welcomed by the public, Jobs’ ability to create innovative products that people wanted is apparent.

While not everyone has Jobs’ keen sense to develop products that consumers didn’t realize they need, Jobs still teaches us the importance of building a brand. By thinking differently, you can develop unique solutions and products that set your company apart and build customer loyalty.

Although replicating the success of these five business leaders may be tough, it isn’t impossible. Each person on this list started from humble beginnings, but they all ended up creating some of the most loved and recognized brands in the world. So, whether you’re browsing Amazon or IKEA on your iPhone, or reading O magazine on a Virgin Airlines flight, remember the lessons you can learn from the pioneers behind these products in order to create your own success.