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The Most Inspirational TED Talks for Small Business Owners

Do you need a little inspiration or motivation for your small business, but don’t have time to watch lengthy videos of entrepreneurs talk about their best practices? Here’s the good news: Many TED talks are extremely short (think a few minutes) and give you a large amount of information in that timeframe. So whether you choose to listen on your morning commute or watch on your lunchbreak, you’ll be glad you did. We’ve even gathered our favorites for you, so you can skip the search.

Take a look at the following TED talks and see which ones resonate with you—there may be some words of wisdom you can use for your small business now—or save for a future opportunity:

  1. Why some startups succeed…but others don’t. In six short minutes, speaker Bill Gross details five key factors of small business success, and then whittles that list down to one, based on his research. He looks at the big idea, funding, and timing, among others. Following his research that included small business startups such as Airbnb, Uber, GoTo.com and more, he found timing was the largest predictor of success. Watch the video here to see more about how timing can make or break your business.
  2. What are the top five ways to kill your dreams? This talk features Brazilian entrepreneur Bel Pesce as she discusses five myths that could squash your success, including following what other people think you should do to realize your dream business, when you shouldn’t settle (“Okay” is never “Okay”), and why other people are responsible for your failure. She says, “If you have dreams, it’s your responsibility to make them happen.” Her no-nonsense video can be seen here.
  3. Three ways to be a successful female entrepreneur. Businesswoman Leila Hoteit studied amazing female small business owners in various countries, from war-torn Bosnia to business mecca China, to discover what helped them succeed. What lessons did she learn? Don’t “aim low or think small” when you’re a woman in business, and don’t think “micro,” but instead “macro.” Hoteit even states women run 40 to 50 percent of small businesses in the developing world. Find out more facts and tips from this inspirational woman here.
  4. How to be an “original” (hint: You don’t have to be first to an idea). Psychologist Adam Grant analyzes what he calls “originals”—creative people in the world and how they come up with amazing ideas. He found “originals” are neither procrastinators nor “pre-crastinators,” but instead lie somewhere in the middle of the chart. He lists Leonardo Da Vinci and Martin Luther King, Jr. as two of the great “originals” in history. Grant is not only humorous and self-effacing, but also has some incredible ideas on how to find that sweet spot he believes can help you achieve your most unique and innovative ideas. For more on Adam Grant’s theory, watch or listen here.
  5. Here are two reasons that companies fail. Here are two ways to avoid them. Don’t fall into the pitfalls of only doing more of the same, or only doing what’s new. Business strategist Knut Haanaes instead describes how he sees the balance between finding what’s new and perfecting what you already have as the key to avoiding failure for your small business. Exploration and exploitation are his key words in this TED talk. Haanaes discusses how when we’re young, we explore more—and the same goes for companies. But when we get older, we explore less and exploit more. He says, “Doing both well at the same time is art.” Watch the video here to see more about how you can master this balance for your company.
  6. How to run a company without rules. Interesting concept, right? Brazilian CEO Ricardo Selmer talks about the opposite of work being idleness—not leisure, as some people believe. As a CEO of a large business in Brazil, he takes this concept to his company. He lets employees do everything differently—he sells them back their Wednesdays for 10 percent of their salary. He doesn’t care what time you arrive or leave work, as long as you do good work. A fascinating and novel concept on life and work at a higher level, you can watch this thought-provoking video here.
  7. What makes for happy work? You can “train your brain” to be cheery. Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor discusses happiness in this humorous TED talk. He talks about positive psychology and ultimately he believes that happier people are better workers. Achor believes you can change your level of happiness by how you view the world; those who see stress as a challenge or have an optimistic view of the world do better in work. He says, “We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. Your intelligence, creativity and energy rise when you’re happy—and then your business success rises, too.” Listen or watch this happiness guru here to see if this TED talk brings a smile to your face.
  8. How to have better meetings. We’ve all been in them: Boring, unproductive meetings with no agenda. In this TED talk that is not boring at all, David Grady talks about what he calls a global epidemic of “MAS,” or Mindless Accept Syndrome. While he realizes collaboration is key in business, he believes we are foolishly accepting meetings that aren’t helping us and are instead sucking our precious time away from us. What’s a worker to do? Watch the video or listen here—you’ll never sit through another dull meeting again.
  9. What leads to success? Here’s the Big 8. Analyst and Marketer Richard St. John gives you his answer in this three-minute talk. St. John believes passion is first, and the money comes anyways. He also quotes Ruport Murdoch, and states working hard comes next. Focus and push come in after that, as well as serving others something of value. Persistence is up there, too. In his words, “There’s no magic—just simple ideas.” If you have three minutes to hear the rest of the ideas, this TED talk has some simple reminders to help you on your way.
  10. Is rejection good for us? Even the word “rejection” tends to send shivers up most of our spines. In this TED talk, Jia Jiang describes how he sought out rejection for 100 days and posted his experiences on a video blog—and learned a lot in the painful (and humorous) process. By doing this, he desensitizes himself to the pain and shame of rejection. Jiang also discovers asking for what you want truly does pay off in the end. Entertaining and powerful, view the video here.
  11. How to be an inspiring leader. Simon Sinek leads this talk asking why Apple is so innovative, and why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so inspirational. Sinek says, “All of the inspiring leaders of the world think, act, and communicate in the exact same way. And it’s the complete opposite of everyone else.” Describing it as “The Golden Circle,” he talks about how these leaders reverse the order of information. Instead of buying what you’re making, they buy “why” you do something. Ready for your mind to be blown a bit more? View his TED Talk here.
  12. Why to say “yes” to the things that scare you. Shonda Rhimes is a famous writer, creator, and producer for Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, among other network shows. In this TED talk, she discusses how saying “yes” to the things that scared her the most (think public speaking or being on TV) for an entire year, changed her life. It all happened when Rhimes lost interest in the work she once loved that drove her for years. When she lost the drive, she realized saying “yes” to playing with her daughters enabled her to find happiness again. Inspirational and emotional, the video can be seen here.

Feeling Inspired?

Now that your creative juices are flowing and you’re armed with inspiration and ideas from these leaders and entrepreneurs, you may be ready to find out more about pre-qualifying for a small business or franchise with Guidant Financial.

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