The Fourth of July is naturally one of the most patriotic days of the year, full of family cookouts, festive events and fireworks shows. By honoring the day when the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, we celebrate our freedom and the American way.
The founding fathers that blazed this brave trail had an impact that is difficult to truly quantify. Many of them were successful business owners as well. So in honor of Independence Day, here’s a look at some words of wisdom that are attributed to them, and how they can relate to the modern entrepreneurial spirit that millions of Americans enjoy.
“Still I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man, as well as prove (what I desire to be considered in reality) that I am, with great sincerity & esteem.”
Business lesson: The nation’s first president is forever connected to honesty, thanks to his leadership, along with the myth about chopping down a cherry tree in his youth (“I cannot tell a lie …”). Honesty is always an essential element of being a leader. For a small business owner, it is needed to develop a customer base and to create good working relationships. And as Adelaide Lancaster wrote in a piece for Forbes, it goes beyond simply being truthful.
“It’s about owning a mistake when you mess up and admitting when you’re wrong,” Lancaster wrote. “It’s also about refusing to pretend that you’re something you’re not. It requires acknowledging the state of the business to your employees. And, when it comes to customers, it requires selling only what you can deliver effectively and always living up to your word. Done properly, this kind of honesty begets a tremendous amount of loyalty from both customers and employees. Both groups know they can trust you and more importantly, that you value the integrity of the relationship.”
“I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough … the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.”
Business lesson: The thirst for knowledge was an unquenchable one for our founding fathers, including Adams, our second president. “Never stop learning” is as valid now as it was then. For some small business owners, that can mean continuing education. As John Rampton writes for American Express’ OPEN Forum, there are a number of ways to approach this.
“Going back to school doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a four-year university or comprehensive master’s degree program,” Rampton explains. “There are so many other options for continuing education. This means school can work for you because you can control when, where and how you do it. Many conferences and trade shows for your industry offer certification courses at the event, as well as seminars designed to hone certain skills. Since you may already be at these conferences, it may be a great time to fit in extra education.”
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
Business lesson: The third president and primary author of the Declaration of Independence was known as an innovator. This spirit can go hand-in-hand with starting a new business. As Gordon Tredgold explains in a story for Inc.com, it can be “a never-ending process.”
“Many people think of innovation in the form of a ‘Eureka!’ moment,” Tredgold writes. “Someone has an amazing idea, it changes the world, and that’s that. True innovation is actually much more complex. Innovation comes in several steps. First, there is the idea. This might come in a brilliant flash, and it provides the foundation for the innovation. Then, there is the solution. This is how the idea comes to fruition. Finally, there is the transformation. This is when the solution transforms a business or industry. This can take several years to achieve. In some cases, it even takes several decades.”
“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”
Business lesson: The fourth president’s statement can relate to one of the most vital needs in business. Trust is a crucial factor for entrepreneurs to develop — both with employees and clients. In a story for Forbes, Martin Zwilling explores ways to build trust, noting that it helps to “become trustworthy before you start a business.”
“We are hard wired to seek out trustworthy people, and to test others to see who we can trust,” Zwilling writes. “But the first step is to be become trustworthy ourselves. Like attracts like, and if you invest early in becoming a person others can trust, business people who you can trust will be attracted to you.”
“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”
Business lesson: The statement by this founding father — whose life earned renewed interest thanks to the hugely successful Hamilton Broadway musical — points to how learning and hard work serve as prime factors in achieving success. Shobhit Seth explains in a story for Investopedia that this work ethic can be boosted by a sense of self-confidence.
“Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and are confident and dedicated to their project,” Seth says. “Their intense focus on and faith in their idea may be misconstrued as stubbornness, but it is this willingness to work hard and defy the odds that make them successful.”
“Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things, but we possess the most precious of all — liberty!”
Business lesson: The fifth president’s words in describing a fledgling country can be similar to how a new business owner regards his or her venture. There’s nothing wrong with starting out small. The independence that being your own boss and making your own way can bring can make it all worthwhile, as Clate Mask writes for Inc.com.
“True freedom in America today is the ability to spend your time and money as you see fit,” Mask explains. “Creating financial freedom for yourself means that you can not only grow your business and pay your employees, but to also give your family the quality of life you want for them. Just as importantly, freedom enables you to invest time and money in causes that matter to you, whether that is with your family, friends or hobbies.”
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”
Business lesson: The influential scientist, politician, author and inventor had such varied interests that preparation and organization likely played a big role in his successes. Small business owners or those looking to start a business can benefit greatly from this sort of focus, as John Rampton writes for Entrepreneur, published by Business Insider.
“Running a business requires plenty of organizational skills,” Rampton says. “At some point you may want or need to hire some experts, such as accountants or lawyers, but in the beginning you’ll probably rely on yourself to track finances, delegate responsibilities and present ideas to investors. You can’t do any of that without being organized.”