(via Nitin Brahmankar)
‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’: Meg Whitman
Be nice, do your best—and most important, keep it in perspective, says the 48-year-old CEO and President of eBay.
“Several pieces of advice I’ve gotten in my life have really made a difference.
“‘Be nice to people.’ This sounds like a platitude, but I’ll never forget my father telling me that. I was 10, and I had been mean to someone. He said, ‘There is no point in being mean to anyone at any time. You never know who you’re going to meet later in life. And by the way, you don’t change anything by being mean. Usually you don’t get anywhere.’
“Remember that you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone say, ‘You’re not smart enough … it’s too hard … it’s a dumb idea … no one has done that before … girls don’t do that.’ My mom gave me that advice in 1973. And it allowed me to never worry about what others were saying about my career direction.
“‘Always do the best job you can do at whatever you’re assigned, even if you think it’s boring.’ Jerry Parkinson, an assistant advertising manager and my boss at P&G, told me this in 1979. Here I was fresh out of Harvard Business School, and I was assigned to determine how big the hole in the Ivory shampoo bottle should be: three-eighths of an inch or one-eighth of an inch. I did research, focus groups … and I would come home at night wondering how I had gone from HBS to this. But later I realized that any job you’re given is an opportunity to prove yourself.
“‘Don’t be a credit hog. If you’re constantly in the neighborhood of good things, good things will happen to you.’ Tom Tierney, who was my boss at Bain in 1981 and is now on the eBay board, told me this. It’s true—you get ahead by crediting other people.
“Finally, in 1998, I was in New York watching the ticker as eBay went public. My husband is a neurosurgeon. I called into his operating room and told him the great news. And he said, ‘That’s nice. But Meg, remember that it’s not brain surgery.'”
‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’: Richard Branson
Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive, says the 54-year-old founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and the Virgin Group.
“The person who had the biggest impact on me was Freddie Laker. He had been an aviator involved in the Berlin airlift and had made his money flying goods into Berlin at the end of World War II. He started a low-cost airline [Laker Airways, in 1966] that flew over the Atlantic. He was forced out of business by British Airways. I don’t know whether I would have gone into the airline business without seeing what happened to him. He was a very charismatic figure. He was taking on the big guys. He would fly his own planes. He created a lot of excitement.
“At the time, I was running a little record company; I was about 17 years old. The first time I met him was some years later. I was thinking about setting up my own airline. He gave me this advice: ‘You’ll never have the advertising power to outspend British Airways. You are going to have to get out there and use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.’
“The other advice he gave me: ‘They [British Airways] will use every trick in the book [against you]. When that happens, three words matter. Only three words, and you’ve got to use them: Sue the bastards!’
“I suspect if I hadn’t sued British Airways [in 1992], Virgin Atlantic wouldn’t have survived. And if I hadn’t used myself to advertise the airline, then it also wouldn’t have survived.
“I named one of my airplanes after him: the Sir Freddie.”
‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’: Ted Turner
Start young, says the 66-year-old founder of CNN and former vice chairman of Time Warner.
“The best advice I ever got came from my father. He told me to go to work at his billboard company when I was 12 years old. I worked 42 hours a week, just like an adult. I worked the first summer as a water boy, a runner, and an assistant to the construction crew. Over the next 12 summers, I worked in a different area every year. I learned sales and leasing. I could paint billboards. I can post bills. My father would explain how the business world works—how a good business depends on good labor relations, enthusiastic leadership, making a profit and reinvesting it. When I was 21 and went to work in the company full-time, I was ready. He passed away three years later, when I was 24, and I was able to take it over without a hitch. People couldn’t believe how successful I was. This turned out to be the best business course I could have gotten.”