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10 Entrepreneurs Weigh In On The Business Icons Who Have Inspired Them The Most


Many professionals look up to entrepreneurs for their determination, perseverance and freedom to have more control over their day-to-day lives. But even entrepreneurs have role models they look up to. Whether they’re other highly successful entrepreneurs, billionaires or simply inspirational people, the world is full of those with amazing stories who serve as inspiration for today’s business leaders.

Below, members of Young Entrepreneur Council each share someone they look up to in the business world, an important business lesson they learned from them and how that lesson has impacted the decisions they make as an entrepreneur.

1. Anand Mahindra

I admire Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group. His dedication to ethical business practices, innovation and philanthropy is particularly inspiring to me as an entrepreneur. One important lesson I have learned from him is to always focus on the customer experience. This has had a major impact on my decisions as a business owner in that I strive to ensure every interaction with customers reflects my company’s commitment to quality service and satisfaction. Through his example, I have also come to appreciate the importance of giving back. It has become a cornerstone of my mission as an entrepreneur—creating positive change by investing in people, communities and technology for long-term success. – Pratik Chaskar, Spectra

2. Bob Parsons

I look up to Bob Parsons, the founder of the GoDaddy group. The story of how this Vietnam veteran went on to build one of the biggest domain registrar companies worldwide is inspiring. To quote him, “You got to go down a lot of wrong roads to find the right one.” This has been an important business lesson. I learned persistence from him and the knack for finding riches in the most unnatural places. When he started GoDaddy in the 90s, he tried many things like building networks and selling education, but it did not work out. He lost millions of dollars until the domain name registration business caught on. Any company has to reinvent itself again and again to stay relevant and successful in business. – Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas

3. Tim Cook

I have deep respect for Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple. He has continued to move the brand forward, even after the death of the legendary Steve Jobs. One quote that sticks out to me is, “Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal.” I think we would all do well to remember this advice. The suggestion is that if you spend all of your time focusing on the next goal instead of enjoying the journey, you’ll never truly feel satisfied with your accomplishments. This advice helped me open up and enjoy my journey as a business owner instead of focusing solely on numbers and our next big win. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

4. Sam Walton

I look up to Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and a man admired globally for his work ethic. His hard work and leadership paved the way for Walmart to be the massive brand that it is today. He grew the company and did it in a humble yet effective way. Walton’s vision led Walmart to be one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The lesson I learned from him is that the key to making your dreams a reality is hard work. It can take countless failures and years for you to acknowledge success, but if you continue to work hard and believe in what you’re doing, nothing can stop you from achieving your goal. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

5. Oprah Winfrey

I look up to Oprah Winfrey as a businesswoman. She is a great example of someone who has achieved success through hard work and dedication. An important business lesson I learned from Oprah is that no matter how hard the journey may be, you must never give up. Her determination to succeed has been an inspiration to me. This lesson has impacted the decisions I make as an entrepreneur by reminding me to stay focused and never give up, no matter how difficult things may seem. It also reinforces the importance of taking risks in business and believing in yourself, even if others don’t. Knowing that failure is a possibility, I am encouraged to make well-informed decisions and to remain persistent no matter the outcome. – Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP

6. Jack Ma

I regularly cite Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group, and his example of using his company vision to make business easier as a filter for every business decision he has to make. With all of the proposals brought to his attention, he would run each idea through the decision filter of “Does this make doing business easier?” Staying aligned with a clear company vision by using it as a filter for the choices you make keeps you on course with the direction you want your business to grow in. Having a vision, mission and core values is something I always have in the forefront of my businesses, but I also apply this practice to my personal and family life. By always making decisions according to the principles I devised for myself, I know my time and energy are conserved for what matters most. – David Henzel, TaskDrive

7. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton has a very “calculated risk” approach to business and life. She admits to having more guts than talent, and that is a brave thing to say as someone who became famous decades ago when women were often expected to play roles of mother, wife and supporter to the man of the house. Part of the reason why she is so successful in life, love and business is because of her courage, self-awareness and how she embraces failure as part of the process. She has thick skin and can take the pokes at her for being “too blond” or “ditzy” because deep down she knows who she is, what she values and what she wants to accomplish. She also has a program that mails books to kids for free, so she’s someone who uses her profit for philanthropy. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office

8. Bill Porter

He isn’t well known, but I’ve always been inspired by the late Bill Porter, a former salesman with Watkins. Porter’s story was told in a book and the film Door to Door. He had cerebral palsy and had to beg to be allowed to work as a salesman for Watkins. He then asked to have the worst area for sales. Porter worked in that area for years and became the company’s top salesman. He worked for Watkins for probably 40 years or more. It made me chuckle that he even plugged Watkins’ sales at the end of the movie, asking people to contact him if they wanted Watkins products. The lesson I learned from his life is to not limit yourself. Stick with what you know you can do well and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from doing it the best way you know how. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

9. Arianna Huffington

I take inspiration from Arianna Huffington. She is an inspiring entrepreneur who has built successful media companies that promote workplace well-being. She is an inspiration to many people, and I believe her success reminds us of the importance of finding balance and meaning in our work. – Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO

10. Richard Branson

Richard Branson stands out for his innovative approach to business and his ability to pivot from one industry to another. To pivot isn’t necessarily something I strive for myself, but it does show an incredibly creative mindset. For example, Virgin Records was a very influential company in the music business, but Branson eventually sold it as the music industry evolved and new technologies began to replace record stores. Like many airlines, Virgin Atlantic has struggled the last few years, but I expect Branson will always find a way to land on his feet and offer services that are needed in the coming years. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

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