Mike Bloomberg and Lloyd Blankfein: Advice to Small Business Founders

Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, gestures as Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., reacts during a panel session at the 10,000 Small Businesses (1OKSB) Partnership Event at their offices in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. The "pendulum happily has swung by" the era when people criticized Goldman Sachs executives taking positions in public service, Blankfein said at the event. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg West, June 3, 2014

10,000 Small Businesses is a philanthropic initiative launched by Goldman Sachs in November 2009 with a pledge of $500 million to aid small businesses in US and UK. Lloyd Blanfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and Mike Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg and former mayor of New York City, give advice to small business founders on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West”.


  • Work hard. You’re going to need some luck, but the harder you work, the luckier you get
  • If it doesn’t work out, get on with it and start another business or career but be honest, understand why it did not work out – Skill set? Temperament? Wrong place, wrong time?
  • Wish I have gotten the advice not to be intimidated, to break all the myths out there
  • Being intimidated is not a vice if it forces you to over-prepare, rehearse, review one more time; if it paralyzes you, then it’s a bad thing
  • Best thing we can do for small business founders is to help them break the myth bubble that they can’t do something
  • I don’t know any business where sales, cooperation and collaboration are not big parts of it
  • You can be a difficult person to get ahead but you better be really good at other things; you can be meek instead of having a salesy personality, but you better be really good if you are going to rely on the world being a path to your door
  • To really get ahead, give credit to somebody else. By doing so, you get the credit as well, you’ve made a friend, and others respect you


Full paraphrased transcript:

What’s your advice to these small business founders today?

Bloomberg: Work hard. You’re going to need some luck but the harder you work, the luckier you get. And if it doesn’t work out, that’s not the end of the world. I just don’t have anything in common with people that sit there and say “Oh my god, it was terrible.” It’s water over the dam, under the bridge. Get on with it and start another business the next day or another career. And be honest, look in the mirror and say “Why didn’t it work out? Was it the skill set? I didn’t have the temperament for it? I was in the wrong place, wrong time? Maybe I can afford to do it again, maybe I can’t?” But people aren’t honest with themselves. What I’ve always done is I’ve taken a yellow pad, I draw a line down the middle, write out the pros on one side and cons on the other, in a sense that if I had let you see it, you wouldn’t laugh at me. And then when I am done, I just rip it up and throw it away because I’ve worked out in my mind what is real and what isn’t and what I can present to people.

Lloyd, when you look at mistakes, is there something or piece of advice you wish you got as you were climbing up the ranks?

Blankfein: I wish I have gotten the advice not to be intimidated, to understand to break all the myths that are out there. It’s not a vice, it’s not a bad thing to be intimidated – if instead of paralyzing you, it forces you to prepare, to over-prepare, to rehearse to try to get it right, to go back and review one more time… I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But if it paralyzes you, if it intimidates you from going on, then it’s a bad thing. One of the things that I have learned and I think the mayor sees clearly is how terrific these people all are. They are fantastic. You would think that the people we’ve talked today, the couple of dozen people that we spoke today, were from central casting – the 3,500 people that we’ve already brought to this program could all be like that, could all substitute. Very often, the best thing we can do for them is break the myth bubble that they can’t do something, that it’s hard to do something. And what this program has done for people is it’s given them kind of a mini-MBA, they get to hear stories of other entrepreneurs but they learn a little about accounting, how to negotiate, how to make a business plan, they hear experiences from others. And slowly but surely, it takes away the mythology and they say, “I can do what that person has done.”

You didn’t say how to sell. How important is it to have salesmanship?

Bloomberg: I don’t know any business where sales isn’t a big part of it or cooperation and collaboration isn’t a big part of it. I suppose if you are a monk that vowed silence, maybe. But an author, for example, you got to work with an editor, you got to talk to your publisher, and you have to deal with your family. This is a world – and I think it’s good – where you don’t do anything by yourself. Nobody just works for one person or just works for themselves, nobody does anything independently –  whether it’s your family, outside life, business life, or whatever.

Do you think that’s today, more than ever to be part of a collaborative environment? I mean, back in the day on Wall Street, it seemed like it was a survival of the fittest – I am trying to elbow any other guy out there.

Blankfein: I think everybody always has to collaborate forever. It’s not to be all end all – you can be a tough, difficult person to get ahead but you better be really good at other things. Same thing with being meek versus being a sales personality. You don’t have to be the salesiest personality but you better be really good if you are going to rely on the world being a path to your door.

Bloomberg: I don’t remember being in a competitive world where I wanted to beat the person next to me. If you wanted to advance, you work hard. I grew up in a family where hard work – wasn’t expected – it’s just the way it was.

You never wanted to beat your competition?

Bloomberg: No, I wanted to be successful. You work with other people. One of the ways incidentally to really get ahead is to give credit to somebody else. When I say, “I didn’t do it. Lloyd did that and he involved me.” I am telling everybody it’s me as well but I’ve now made a friend and you respect me because I’ve shared the credit. And if you say “me, me, me, I, I, I”, nobody likes it and nobody respects you and they think you are exaggerating everything. But to the extent you give credit to else, the thought of “are they exaggerating” doesn’t even come up.

Image Source: Bloomberg



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