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Steve Case Quotes

Stephen McConnell Case

Steve Case quotes: former AOL CEO talks entrepreneurship, vision, hard work, and success.

“Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and you really work hard.”

“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do.  You should focus on why, perhaps, you can, and be one of the exceptions.”

“All great ideas start as weird ideas.  What now seems obvious, early on, is not obvious to anybody.”

“In the end, a vision without the ability to execute it is probably a hallucination.”

“If you believe that some day it’s going to happen, some day it probably will happen.  You just have to make sure you’re there when it’s happening, and ideally, you’re at the front of the parade, and the principle beneficiary of when it happens.”

“If you’re doing something new you’ve got to have a vision.  You’ve got to have a perspective.  You’ve got to have some north star you’re aiming for, and you just believe somehow you’ll get there, which kind of gets to the passion point.”

“It’s stunning to me what kind of an impact even one person can have if they have the right passion, perspective, and are able to align the interest of a great team.”

“Ultimately, you have the potential to build a significant business with the potential to have a positive impact on millions of people’s lives.”

“The idea of an entrepreneur is really thinking out of the box and taking risks and stepping up to major challenges.”

“It’s not about how to get started; it’s about how to get noticed.”

“Keep your eye on the prize and focus on your mission.  Remember what you’re trying to do, what your value is, why it’s important, and at the same time, change course and direction.  If the market’s telling you different things, how are you going to adjust to that?”

“Motivation is undoubtedly the single greatest influence on how well people perform.  Most productivity studies have found that motivation has a stronger influence on productivity than any other factor.”

“So you have to force yourself out of a comfort zone and really try to figure out what are the key ingredients, the key skill sets, the key perspectives that are necessary, and then figure out a way to attract the very best people to fill those particular roles.”

“And I’d say one of the great lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades, from a management perspective, is that really when you come down to it, it really is all about people and all about leadership.”

“When I was trying to popularize the concept of the internet, 10 or 15 years ago, I came up with this concept of ‘the five Cs.’  Services needed to have content, context, community, commerce, and connectivity.  After that, when I was trying to think of what the key management principles were to build into the culture, I started talking about the Ps.  The Ps were things like passion, perseverance, perspective, and people.  I think the people aspect is really the most important one.”

“I think it’s now clear to everybody the internet has arrived and everybody is talking about how to reinvent their business to take advantage of e-commerce.”

“Over the past 20 years, innovative entrepreneurs have been working to build a new class of companies that strive to do good as well as doing well.  The success of companies has demonstrated that ideas that once seemed on the margins are now becoming mainstream – as consumers strive to make better choices, seek to do business with companies they respect, and buy products and services that promote a more balanced and sustainable lifestyle.”

“For better or worse, that is true with any new innovation, certainly any new technological innovation.  There’s many good things that come out of it, but also some bad things.  All you can do is try to maximize the good stuff and minimize the bad stuff.”

“Choose your battles.  If rapid development is truly top priority, don’t shackle your developers by insisting on too many priorities at once.”

“A brute-force solution that works is better than an elegant solution that doesn’t work.”

“The problem with quick and dirty… is that dirty remains long after quick has been forgotten.”

“A blanket attempt to avoid mistakes is the biggest mistake of all.”

“Testing by itself does not improve software quality.  Test results are an indicator of quality, but in and of themselves, they don’t improve it.  Trying to improve software quality by increasing the amount of testing is like trying to lose weight by weighing yourself more often.  What you eat before you step onto the scale determines how much you will weigh, and the software development techniques you use determine how many errors testing will find.  If you want to lose weight, don’t buy a new scale; change your diet.  If you want to improve your software, don’t test more; develop better.”

“Steve Jobs always believed that you didn’t want to do focus groups or research and ask people what they wanted.  You wanted to create products that they didn’t know they wanted yet and that they would fall in love with.  And I think that was part of the magic of his design philosophy.”

“In the entrepreneurial world, when you launch a company, you have a particular idea, a particular product, a particular service, almost always you pivot, you shift.  The market reacts to your initial idea.  You make some adjustments.  It’s only after making a few adjustments that you see the success.”

“Disruption is about risk-taking.  But then you become a Fortune 500 company, which is about risk mitigation.”

“You have to get along with people, but you also have to recognize that the strength of a team is different people with different perspectives and different personalities.”

“I want to find people who have had to work hard and who have learned from their failures.  Perseverance is no guarantee you’ll succeed, but without it, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t.”

“At the end of the day, the team you build is the company you build.”

“My father and his brothers were all lawyers, so I think that the expectation was probably for me to grow up to be an attorney, but it never really fascinated me that much.  I was more interested in building things.”

“From a relatively early age I got interested in business.”

“I’m not sure I knew what an entrepreneur was when I was 10, but I knew that starting little businesses and trying to sell greeting cards or newspapers door-to-door or just vending machine kind of things… there’s just something very intriguing to me about that.”

“I was not an outstanding student.  I did a reasonable amount of work.  I got generally good – pretty good grades – but I was not that passionate about getting straight As.”

“I enjoyed high school and college, and I think I learned a lot, but that was not really my focus.  My focus was on trying to figure out what businesses to start.”

“I think the more you have a generalist perspective, I think sometimes the more you can kind of see through the forest and the trees.  And when it gets a little bit cloudy, you know, have some sense of, ‘Well, maybe this might happen or maybe that might happen.’  So I really am a big believer in liberal arts education.  I think it’s better – particularly in these kind of uncertain times – to know a little bit about a lot of things as opposed to being expert in one thing.”

“So my degree was in political science, which I think was – the closest I could come to marketing is politics.”

“I think it took us nine years to get one million subscribers to AOL, and then in the next nine years we went from one million to 35 million.  That’s great, but a billion people watch CNN.”

“I continue to have a special pride and passion for AOL, and I strongly believe that AOL – once the leading internet company in the world – can return to its past greatness.”

“If you can build a company and make money, great.  But eventually, my intention is to give all my money away.  I told my kids that.  Wealth is not particularly helpful to kids.  It’s almost a burden.  It’s better to allow them to do their own thing and have their own successes.”

“I do think that people have an obligation to give back but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you give back just the traditional way.  Maybe there’s new ways to give back and make a contribution.  I’m looking forward to some mix of philanthropy – maybe through a somewhat different prism – as well as helping entrepreneurs build some significant new businesses.”

“We need that same mentality in philanthropy – trying things, taking risks; recognizing the first try, maybe the second try, maybe the third try won’t work.  But if you stay at it and you’re learning, you’re talking to others, and you’re learning together, eventually you’ll break through and see the kind of impact you were hoping for.”

“The pace of change and the threat of disruption creates tremendous opportunities.”

Now invest five more minutes and go through Steve Ballmer’s tips.

About the author: Cory Johnson. Writer. Wears shirts sometimes. Once tipped your grandpa for greeting him at Walmart. Net worth of $11 million. Yes, really. (He’s as shocked as you are.)

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