Finding Business Motivation in Industry Leaders

Starting and running a company can take a level of commitment that few individuals understand or experience. Entrepreneurs may get the motivation required for all of that dedication in the work of business owners and business leaders.

Motivation — that thing which compels us to do it — can be the fuel, if you will, that gets you through the hard work and many challenges of running an ecommerce company or inspires those first entrepreneurial ideas and actions. But where do you find business motivation capable of frequently filling the entrepreneurial tank? Here are some industry leaders which may serve to motivate.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

Tony Hsieh might be the most famous ecommerce ever. In about ten years from 2000 to 2009 Hsieh grow Zappos from nothing to an online retailer with about a billion dollars in annual sales before selling the company to Amazon in a deal worth roughly $900 million.

Zappos’ success was in part the consequence of Hsieh’s fanatical devotion to providing superb customer support. Through hard work, preparation, and insight Hsieh managed to make an ecommerce brand which shoppers respected and loved.

Zappos, with all its success, wasn’t even Hsieh’s first real success. He’d already started, grown, and sold a business before becoming involved with Zappos.

That first entrepreneurial enterprise, LinkExchange, was a banner-advertising network founded in 1996 and sold in 1998. Microsoft paid $265 million to the company.

For inspiration and motivation from Hsieh, check out his book, Delivering Happiness, along with the site,

You might also need to see Hsieh’s interview with 20/20 from 2011.

Dov Charney, President and CEO of American Apparel

Dov Charney began in the apparel industry at 15 when he would buy white cotton t-shirts in america, transport them to Canada, where t-shirts tended to be created from a cotton, polyester blend, and wholesale them to other teenagers who would sell the tops on Montreal street corners or in front of the iconic Montreal Forum.

Now, Charney leads a multi-channel, vertically integrated apparel company that had over $650 million in annual sales this past year.

Charney’s American Apparel brand sells goods which are completely manufactured in america, and Charney is an outspoken advocate of workers rights, such as offering low cost healthcare.

Charney is also famous for his firm’s provocative and not-safe-for-work advertising and online product photography along with a willingness to openly encourage controversial social issues, including immigration reform and civil rights for homosexuals.

Charney has also been the subject of several lawsuits, but nonetheless still tirelessly runs his small business and remains involved with almost every aspect of manufacturing, retailing, advertising, and ecommerce.

Check this out Vice interview with Charney from May 2013.

Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify

Tobias Lütke apprenticed as a computer programmer in Germany, but grew tired of working on banking and financial applications, so he began an online snowboarding merchant with spouses Daniel Weinard and Scott Lake. Lütke soon realized that”there was no freakin’ way” they could build the online store they wanted using the ecommerce applications available at the moment, so his focus turned from selling goods online to creating a better solution for selling products online.

Now, Shopify, that was launched in 2006, has over 60,000 customers selling on the internet. The lesson, if you will, may be that occasionally starting one company, like a ski store, might result in finding different requirements or companies, like creating an ecommerce platform.

To find out more about Lütke and how his experiences might motivate you in your company, see his 2013 interview with This Week in Start Ups.

Finding Your Own Inspiring Figures

Together with Tony Hsieh, Dov Charney, and Tobias Lütke serving as examples of inspiring entrepreneurial leaders, consider looking for other inspirational tales and profiles. For example, check out the Practical Ecommerce podcasts, which have recently included interviews with Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker, Dr. Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems, and SumAll CEO and co-founder, Dane Atkinson.

The “Build My Online Store” podcast series is another way to become acquainted with business leaders whose stories are sure to motivate. Recent episodes included discussions with Mark Manson, a professional writer and blogger and Jack Zerby of Goodsie.

Finally, think about learning how your favorite shops or companies came into being. The stories of the founding and growth will probably direct you to many motivating stories.

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