10 Business Leaders All Entrepreneurs Should Follow
Originally published on Forbes by Shawn Porat
You can learn a great deal from successful business leaders, past and present. A good argument could be made that it’s more valuable to listen to an accomplished entrepreneur reveal his or her secrets than to spend months pouring over textbooks full of charts and abstractions. Not that you have to choose between the two; both formal and informal education have their places. But when it comes to the latter, you should make a lifetime commitment to learn from the smartest people in your field — and in business generally.
Reading someone’s books, blogs or tweets doesn’t mean you have to agree with them on everything, but when you encounter notions that you don’t relate to, it’s best to keep an open mind. Another tip: When you find someone who speaks to you, immerse yourself in their ideas for a while — read their books, watch their videos, check out their blog and follow them on Twitter.
So let’s look at some of the people who have a great deal of wisdom to impart to anyone who runs a business or has this aspiration. This list is in no particular order of importance and contains a combination of world-famous business gurus and younger, up-and-coming individuals worth following.
- Tom Peters – Peters is best known for the book “In Search of Excellence”, co-written with Robert H. Waterman, Jr. Some of his other books include “Liberation Management,” “The Pursuit of Wow!” and ”The Circle of Innovation.” He has been a leading guru on topics such as management and innovation since the 1980s. Although over 70 now, Peters continues to write influential articles and books that are read by millions. His advice is always worth considering.
- Ken Blanchard – The author of the best-selling “The One Minute Manager” (co-authored with Spencer Johnson), Blanchard is also the creator of Situational Leadership, a philosophy of business that emphasizes the unique traits and needs of individuals or teams in situations involving training or negotiating.
- Sarah Needleman – A popular Wall Street Journal reporter, Needleman writes on issues that are especially relevant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also quite savvy on topics such as social media marketing and getting funding for startups.
- Tim Ferriss – Famous for his book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Ferriss writes on a surprising diversity of topics, from cooking to physical fitness. His main concern, however, is helping people to use their time as efficiently as possible and to maximize their potential. He is especially popular among entrepreneurs who like to run their businesses remotely.
- Gary Vaynerchuk – This Russian-born entrepreneur got his start in business by creating a highly successful brand out of his retail wine store. For years, he hosted a popular internet TV show called “Wine Library TV.” He now focuses on providing advice on topics such as social media marketing and video blogging.
- Richard Branson – Founder of Virgin Group, a global business empire that includes more than 400 companies. New and aspiring entrepreneurs might think that someone on Branson’s level is too far removed from their situation to be relevant, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Branson started his first business at the age of 16 and likes to give advice that applies to startups as much as to established businesses.
- Tony Hsieh – The CEO of the online shoe company Zappos.com, Hsieh knows a great deal about starting and building companies. He sold a company called LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million at the age of 24. He imparts many of his principles for business and living in general in his book “Delivering Happiness.”
- Mark Cuban – A multifaceted businessman and investor, Cuban is known for being the owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks. Many people also know him from the TV show “Shark Tank.” Cuban has strong opinions on almost every topic, and given his considerable experience at starting and investing in businesses, he’s worth paying attention to.
- Caterina Fake – Co-founder of popular websites such as Hunch and Flickr, Fake has also been involved with large enterprises such as Netscape and Salon.com. On her blog, Twitter feed and other social media outlets, she covers a wide range of topics such as social media, culture and fundraising. One of her more recent projects is the website Findery, a social media site where people can leave and read notes on any subject.
- Jason Falls – Falls is one of the most well-respected experts on social media. He speaks and advises companies all around the world and has won numerous awards over the years. He has been at the center of social media since it became popular in the mid-2000s. His videos, tweets and other communications are extremely informative on business related topics.
Following some or all of the above 10 business leaders can help you in a number of ways. You may find their words inspiring, educational or provocative. Above all, listening to people who have started their own businesses, or built global empires, can help you clarify your own goals and perhaps motivate you to pursue your dreams.
Shawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a non-traditional and out of home media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.