Keys to Success

In this edition of Keys to Success, we will see what we can learn from entrepreneurs who looked at the conventional wisdom and walked in the other direction. A good idea is a good idea because it works most of the time. However, sometimes, you need to take time a moment to consider the context. A good idea in the wrong situation is actually a bad idea. Savvy business people know when to break the rules, when to do something a little unconventional, and how to land on their feet in the process.

Is it all about the bottom line?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and President of, is probably one of the most well-known technology business leaders in the world. In an interview with WIRED, he was asked if the company could be earning more.

“Yeah. I guess we could. There are really simple things we could do. For one thing, we keep advertising pretty sparse. If you look at how much of our page is taken up with ads compared to the average search query. The average for us is a little less than 10 percent of the pages and the average for search is about 20 percent taken up with ads… that’s the simplest thing we could do. But we aren’t like that. We make enough money. Right, I mean, we are keeping things running; we are growing at the rate we want to.”

Comfort and safety are overrated.

Sara Rotman is the founder of the advertising agency MODCo. She told Business Insider that the best advice she ever received was from her first accountant, who offered some nontraditional wisdom.

“We were speaking about my business plan and how much money to borrow to launch. She wisely said, ‘Only have enough cash on hand to barely survive; never so much that you are comfortable. It’s important to stay scared in the beginning.’ While I prefer to describe that feeling as staying hungry rather than scared, I thought it was indeed great advice. I have found this hunger to be an incredibly important motivator during my entire career. Being comfortable is the enemy. Staying hungry forces you to push yourself to continue to survive, grow, and evolve.”

Sometimes asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.

Brian Chesky, founder of, created a service that helps users offer their apartments for short-term rentals. In many cities, it requires registering with the local government and paying hotel taxes. Airbnb leaves it to its hosts to worry about those matters.

“I want to challenge the status quo, but in a way that’s constructive. There were laws created for businesses, and there were laws for people. What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses…. They don’t know whether to bucket our activity as person or a business.”

“‘We’re not against regulation, we want fair regulation. We’re trying to help take this from an activity that existed under the table with Craigslist and bring it out of the shadows. We want to work with cities to streamline the process for hosts to pay occupancy taxes.”