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5 Business Tips You Can Learn From Thomas Edison


Thomas Edison, “the Wizard of Menlo Park,” earned his fame through his inventions. His light bulb, phonograph, movie camera, and more shine their light through history and have changed the modern world. He was also a shrewd businessman, however, organizing the first industrial research lab and focusing on a constant improvement of technology and the wealth those improvements brought. Take a look at these business thoughts from the man who invented the stock ticker, and put them to work for you.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Edison knew about determination. He didn’t develop the first workable light bulb in a flash of inspiration; he went through a thousand different materials before finding the recipe that brought him long-lasting light. It’s likely he would look positively on our modern new lightbulbs, too, because they show the same principle: always keep trying to do better. Likewise, when you have a product that you believe in, don’t throw in the towel if your sales don’t jump to the sky immediately. Keep improving your product, your approach, and your sales strategy. Keep trying and you’ll find your own “light bulb” to stand the test of time.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

You may have noticed it yourself: many people will take huge detours around things that look like hard work, only to end up wasting time they could have spent addressing the problem itself. Sometimes that appetite for convenience makes a market. Edison’s light bulb was better than the old solution of candles and lamps, and it drove business for the bulbs as well as the fixtures they needed and the power stations that lit them. Edison and his team not only developed that system, but the plan that brought it to market as well. It took years of hard and often thankless work before fame and fortune came along, however. Don’t give up on a goal because it will only pay off with time, effort, or both, or you might end up stuck in the dark.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Once again Edison reminds us of the value of hard work. Often we get an image of an “ideas guy,” who just sits around and comes up with new ideas for widgets all day long. Some of us may want to be that person ourselves. As valuable as setting policy, goals, and building a vision can be, though, none of that can replace hard and smart work advancing that goal. Modern technology can ease the chores; using CRM software, for example, can take some of  the headaches out of the relationship management process in sales. Edison wouldn’t think poorly of leveraging  information technology to improve processes, and indeed developed tools like the stock ticker to do just that for himself. But these tools are there to save you from wasting time, not to spare you from working hard in developing products, making contact with clients, or keeping current in your field. Push yourself to excel, and you may find yourself called a genius.

I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.

At a glance, this sounds like a slacker’s philosophy, but that was not how Edison lived. What Edison did was find meaning in what he was doing in life. Whether you get that meaning from changing the world through your products, improving people’s daily lives with your top-notch relationship management techniques, or handling the “dirty work” of a vital industry, every job offers a chance at fulfillment. Find that meaning, and make a game out of it: do better every day, and find ways to improve things. You’ll feel better, be happier, and you might just find a valuable innovation of your own along the way.

I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.

In a manner similar to his previous thought, Edison touches here on the importance of motivation.  Apply this insight to your team and your co-workers, and ideally to your own efforts as well. If you can help them to find the joys and triumphs buried in every workflow and sales procedure, their motivation will rise, perhaps faster than it could in the face of any purely incentive-based selling system. Find ways to take the drudgery out of their daily labors, and you improve productivity, cut waste, and increase staff morale all at the same time. Figuring out an outlook like this is as much of a mark of “genius” as revolutionary technology, and it’s one anyone can achieve.


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