The difference between successful people and really successful people

Warren Buffett is considered to be one of the most successful investors in the world. I love his simple quotes about life and investing – there are some great ones. This one is my favorite:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

I’m sure it’s easy to say no all the time with billions of dollars in your bank account and not many worries and tons of confidence – but it’s a thought provoking quote either way. It’s definitely not easy to do – which is to his point I think. Saying no in business, especially in the beginning, when you have very few customers is not natural. It’s hard to know where the the business may take you so you entertain many ideas and requests. That’s what happened with us anyway.

We didn’t get stubborn and really focused for several years. We entertained many things and early on we said yes to some things we probably should have said no to – but we certainly didn’t know better then. Now we are confident enough know better. The only way it’s a yes for us – is if it’s a HELL yes. And that’s rare. We’ve blogged about that before and have recorded some recent podcasts on this topic. One of those topics, for example, is about partnerships and integrations with other companies. We don’t integrate with other products – and for good reason (in our minds). Without integration – the 5 of us completely control our customer experience 100%. I’d honestly rather create our own point of sale system then try to build a reliable POS integration with 15 different systems run by 15 very different kinds of businesses with different service models than us. Integrations and partnerships are great selling tools – but they are not great for ensuring a kickass customer service experience every day. We’d lose the ability to control the entire customer experience if we counted on other companies to do their part – so it’s a no. That’s just one example, but one that defines us (good or bad) in our industry. Will that helps us become really successful one day? I don’t care.

The way I read Buffet’s quote is that there are many ways to become successful and in the beginning there are probably more yes’s – but to pass everyone and become REALLY successful – you eventually have to start saying no most of the time. I mean heck – if everyone else is saying yes all the time – won’t they all eventually become the same one day anyway? Why not do the opposite? I’ve always loved the idea of doing less than the competition and being known for that. The competition thinks we lack things, but our happiest customers feel the opposite.

So I guess “really” successful is a relative term for everyone and is only measurable when being compared to someone else, but I’d bet most people that have become really successful – say no to nearly everything.


p.s I still love the story of when Wil emailed the owner of a very successful software company that we admired early on and asked if we could fly to Chicago to visit him and buy him a cup of tea (it was known he digs tea) and talk business for 30 minutes. He responded with simply: “Wil, I’m sorry, I just don’t have the time”. Back then I thought that sounded tired – but now I totally get it. I bet he had plenty of time. Just not for us.