30 small business quotes guaranteed to inspire

Reading time: 4 minutes

Running a small business is a huge leap of faith, one that takes time, money and a whole lot of self-belief. But you’re only human (we haven’t heard of any robot entrepreneurs – yet!), and even the world’s most successful business owners need the occasional pick-me-up when things get tough. 

So, when you’ve got a serious case of small-business struggles, where do you turn? 

How about the wisdom of fellow entrepreneurs and industry experts? Maybe even an ancient Chinese military strategist or a country music singer? 

We’ve compiled a list of 30 small business quotes that speak to the highs and lows of life as a business owner. If you’re in search of some extra motivation, inspiration or even commiseration, read on for quotes about hard work, failure, risk-taking and work-life balance from the likes of Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Sun Tzu, Dolly Parton and more.

Table of contents:

Small business quotes about going with the flow

Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce. – Vivian Komori, CEO and founder of The Broad Perspective

Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it. – Lou Holtz, American football coach and analyst

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. – Alan. W. Watts, British writer and philosopher

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost, American poet

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Small business quotes about work ethic 

Play by the rules, but be ferocious. – Phil Knight, co-founder and former CEO of Nike

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. – Arthur Ashe, American tennis player

Be so good they can’t ignore you. – Steve Martin, American comedian

I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. – Thomas Jefferson, US president

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. – Robert Collier, American writer

Plan for what is difficult while it is easy. Do what is great while it is small. – Sun Tzu, Chinese military strategist and philosopher

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Small business quotes about failure

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. – Vidal Sassoon, British hairstylist 

Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dreams become impossible: the fear of failure. – Paulo Coelho, Brazilian writer 

Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. – Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company

Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable. – Coco Chanel, French fashion designer

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison, American inventor

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. – Truman Capote, American writer

Plan C is sometimes best, with plan a and plan b crossed out

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Small business quotes about taking risks

Whatever you do, be different – that was the advice my mother gave me, and I can’t think of better advice for an entrepreneur. If you’re different, you will stand out. – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

“[Don’t] let anyone convince you that your dream, your vision to be an entrepreneur, is something that you shouldn’t do. What often happens is that people who are well-meaning, who really care for us, are afraid for us and talk us out of it.” – Cathy Hughes, American entrepreneur 

Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself. – Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish writer

Small business quotes about work-life balance

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. – Dolly Parton, American country singer

You can have it all, just not all at once. – Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and media magnate

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you. – Anne Lamott, American writer

I work for myself, which is fun. Except when I call in sick, I know I’m lying. – Rita Rudner, American comedian

You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. – Marissa Mayer, business executive and former CEO of Yahoo! 

Other helpful quotes for small business 

Content is fire. Social media is gasoline. – Jay Baer, customer experience consultant 

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, American writer and poet

If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t know it yourself. – Albert Einstein, physicist 

Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like. – Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb

The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come. – Steve Jobs, co-founder, Apple

Keep inspiration in mind

Whether you’re running a small business or just thinking about starting one, keep these business quotes on hand for the tricky days, weeks or months when you need a little extra emotional support. Or, you can turn one of these pearls of wisdom into a mantra for your business, something to add to business cards or write on your office wall. Just a few words that have meaning to you can help you refocus, make tough decisions and remember why you’re in business in the first place. For more inspiration, feel free to check our branding quotes article.

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