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20 Shakespeare Quotes that Apply to Business


To be a success in business, the business must not only deliver superior goods and/or services to their customers, but they must also take advantage of, and implement good business practices. Whether it's knowing your market and competitors, or the simple act of keeping good records, it's the adherence to these best practices that help businesses survive in lean times, as well as prosper during the good years. William Shakespeare is the perfect example of a man who was cognizant of this. He was not only the greatest dramatist in English history, but he was also a savvy businessman via his involvement with the Globe Theater, a second theater, and production company. He then invested in real estate and grains. So, it's quite easy to see why his quotes regarding business are so popular today. He knew about business, implemented its best practices and became a very wealthy man. Below is a list of 20 Shakespearean quotes designed to enlighten and inform, as well as reflect his own philosophy regarding business and how it applies in today's world.

20. Importance of Recovering From a Failure

"Wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss, but cheerily seek how to redress their harms." -- Henry VI

This quote is reminiscent of the old adage, "Make lemonade from lemons". From Henry VI, Queen Margaret explains how important it is to be able to recover from loss and failure. So a wise and resourceful business person, will emotionally feel the loss, but at the same time, be able to see it for what it is: Opportunity to grow. Basically, apologize for the failure if applicable, proceed to fix it, and finally, simply move on. Easier said than done, but the success of your business depends on it.

19. Never Let a Good Thing Pass You By

"There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries " -- Julius Caesar

Spoken by Brutus in Julius Caesar, this conveys the wisdom to never let an opportunity slip by, or you may never have access to that opportunity again. So, if presented with a golden opportunity to accelerate your business, being cautious is fine, just to be so cautious or patient that the opportunity is swiftly grabbed up by a competitor or two. As Henry Ford once said, “Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.”

18. Having a Clear Leadership Hierarchy is Crucial

"How, in one house, should many people under two commands hold amity? Tis hard; almost impossible" -- King Lear

Here, the king's daughter is attempting to sound the alert that without a clear leadership hierarchy, any house can waver and fall to the ground. In business, it's not only crucial to prioritize duties, but also leadership roles. There can be no fuzzy lines as to who is in charge of what, or who takes cues from who. To have no clear boundaries, only leads to confusion and chaos, which in turn, can result in profit losses. An example of poor leadership is the fall of Blackberry as a leader in the smartphone industry. Their issue was that they decided to promote individuals based on tenure rather than their proven ability to lead. As such, other smartphone companies such as Apple, took over the lead.

17. Fulfillment and Satisfaction in Business Can Lead to Happiness

"To business that we love we rise betimes and go to 't with delight" -- Antony and Cleopatra

Spoken by Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, he's telling a soldier that life is much easier if you love what you do. In contrast, if you dislike your daily grind, you'll not be content in life. In business, those who enjoy their time have no issue putting 12 hours or more into their business, which if applied correctly and with skill can lead to both profit and a life of contentment. A 2010 study found a link between happiness and money. They found that once someone made $75,000 a year their happiness rose. This was also associated as having a job you love made one feel fulfilled. When you love what you do, and you get paid well doing it, you'll wake up every day eager to do accomplish the goals of the day.

16. Surround Yourself With Those Who Deliver Results--Not Talk

“It is a tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” -- Macbeth

If one is not careful, getting into business with someone is all dreams and talk can be devastating to you. The world is full of great talkers. Some of these people measure up, and stand behind what they speak. Others, are what you call, "blowhards". They consistently talk about making deals, but have never made a successful deal. Either that, or they make promises that they can get you the deliverables you require on a certain date, and either disappear, or simply don't honor their promise. Success in business depends on action not talkers. An example of the process of "doing" rather than "talking" is the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. Here, one is required to complete certain actions which are designed to deliver results. By surrounding yourself with doers instead of talkers you'll put yourself in a better position of achieving your goals.

15. The Decision is Yours to Make

“It is not in the Stars to hold our Destiny but in ourselves” -- Julius Caesar

It seems even in Shakespeare's time, there were those who lauded the importance of astrology, while others did not. This statement states that we alone can create our place in the world, and cannot depend on the stars. Perhaps there is room for both, but in the end, in order for us to make our own mark in the world, the choice to do so, falls upon us. For instance, Ashish Rangnekar of BenchPrep, believes that by incorporating a system where decisions are based on sound data, you'll be able to have more control over the how your goals are achieved. After all, the acquisition of knowledge is the most important a business owner has when it comes to crafting their own destiny.

14. The Importance of Business Protocols

“Strong reasons make strong actions.” -- King John

In order to function properly, a business must follow certain protocols. Nothing can be slip shod. In fact, one needs a strong hand to wrangle the various tasks, especially if you're a small business, sole proprietorship, one must wear quite a few hats. The same can be said of big businesses, as proposals must have strong foundations, or they are not likely to take hold. These business protocols provide you with a reliable framework, which keeps you on track with your goals.

13. The Importance of Time Management

“Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.” -- Romeo and Juliet

Running a business or being part of the business world is pretty daunting. There are deadlines to meet, clients to appease, and projects to juggle. As such, it's tempting to pile too much on your plate, and then find yourself rushing too and fro, just to get your tasks done. This is not healthy and can lead to burnout. If one is overtired, or worse yet, approaching the stage of burnout, then our abilities to make sensible business decisions are challenged. Mistakes can be made, mistakes which could have been averted if we just eased up a bit. This is why learning to employ proper time management skills is so crucial to your success in business. By learning to prioritize you'll be able to meet your present goals in a timely manner, and plan ahead to meet the next set of goals without stress or conflict.

12. Time is Money So Don't Waste It

"Brevity is the soul of wit" -- Hamlet

Time is money in business, so one should avoid wasting it. This is especially true in business communications. For instance, consider the time involved in reading the days business emails and letters, let alone handling phone conversations and conferences. All of these activities can really take a bite out of your day. This is why it's critical that our written communications be brief, concise and to the point. The same goes for our conversations, meetings and conferences.

11. Do What You Love in Business

"Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” -- Troilus and Cressida

This refers to enjoying what we are doing when we are doing it. However, sometimes we are just so anxious to meet our milestones and deadlines, that we actually forget to enjoy what we're doing. While there's nothing wrong with that, it can make the time spent less pleasurable. In the end, we risk actually disliking our tasks, especially if we feel we are not completing them quickly enough. This can lead to dissatisfaction and job stress. On the other hand, if you do what you love you'll end the day feeling fulfilled, and on a productive note, which can all lead to your personal success.

10. Consider the Bigger Picture

“How far that little candle throws his beams!” -- The Merchant of Venice

When the day is done, and we kick back and drink a cold one, it's a good idea to reflect on the day's activities. Instead of feeling remorse if we didn't meet our deadlines, we should instead, consider how we reacted to and bested the day's challenges. If we do that, we just might realize how much we actually achieved. Try not to beat yourself up over the small things, and look at the big picture instead. If you do that, you may just find that you threw your beams quite far, indeed. When you consider the bigger picture, you're automatically envisioning the future, thus securing your company's growth. In effect, your thoughts are engaged in creative, strategic thinking, instead of centering on the smaller, more insignificant concerns.

9. Owning Your Mistakes Builds Consumer Trust

“And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.” -- King John

if you made the mistake, own it right off the bat. It's a tough thing to do, and that's why people will see it as a mark of good character, rather than if you passed the buck to someone else or made excuses for the act. In general, most people are understanding. if they don't, then just chalk it up to a lesson learned. If one keeps making excuses they then risk looking a fool, and digging themselves quite a large, often inescapable trench. In short, owning up to your mistake will impress others, who will then see your establishment as one of integrity and responsibility.

8. The Importance of Offering Excellence in Customer Service

“Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.” ---Twelfth Night

While this quote deals with romantic love, the gist of its message could also apply creating, cementing and nurturing business relationships. Consider your clients. if you treat them with the same robust attention that one often does in a romantic relationship, that could lead to better ties between you and your customers. By treating your business partners with respect, as well as your customers, you'll be seen as trustworthy and easy to deal with. Amanda Barbara,of Pubslush agrees, She puts customer service at the forefront, and believes that each business relationship should be nurtured, in order for a business to succeed.

7. The Method and the Madness

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't" -- Hamlet

In the business world, there will be times when you will feel as if you are caught in the middle of a madhouse. This is especially true with those who work in the customer service field. Though the day may be fraught with madness in meeting deadlines, trying to appease the unappeasable, and offering the same explanation to several different people, in the end, it all contributed to a satisfactory outcome. The method in the madness can also be seen when a business decides to restructure itself. At such times, chaos seems to reign supreme, yet as Kishore Biyani's Future Group, proved during it's restructuring, then end result was a positive conclusion.

6. The Importance of Securing a Good Reputation

"The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation—that away, Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay." -- Richard II

Your business must maintain a good relationship with both clients and other businesses that it deals with. One should consider themselves a link within a very long chain. To avoid being the weakest link, it's critical to maintain good relationships with others. This secures you with a good reputation. Without that reputation, there's no way you'll be able to maintain a business. In order to maintain that relationship, the business owner will have to take complaints seriously, and if there is an issue where the business was at fault, to admit it immediately.

5. Failure is Part of the Journey to Success

"If we should fail? We fail. But screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail." -- Macbeth

Franklin D. Roosevelt once noted that it's common sense to try a new thing, and if that fails try another. but above all "try something" In business, this could be considered applicable to risk taking. There wouldn't be a Disney empire if Walt had quit after his first try, but he didn't. He kept his courage up, never truly faltered, and in the end he did not fail. The amount of self-belief it must have took Disney to stay in the game, with a dream so huge and so different from those of most people is the perfect illustration of how much he put at stake, and backed it by courage.

4. Be Prepared to Put in the Effort

"Talking isn't doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well; and yet words are not deeds." -- King Henry VIII

Talk is cheap everywhere, but in business it's absolutely worthless unless you have something strong to back it up. Whether you're searching for investors, a new product or looking for the best employee, keep in mind that it should always be the other way around: Deeds are to be backed up by words. In other words, the phrase "actions speak louder than words", would apply here. A big part of that is marketing research. While it's a romantic idea, that an apple falling upon one's head will lead you to great things, in business it's marketing research. A good marketing strategy warns you of probable pitfalls, while identifying areas of opportunity.

3. The Importance of Following a Well Designed Business Plan

"See first that the design is wise and just; that ascertained, pursue it resolutely." --

Here again, we can see the importance of having a well designed business plan, and back it up with a vision statement, business statement and of course, a vision board to help you stay on track. If you've constructed a great business plan, and your vision is clear as to where you see yourself 5 years from now, all that's left is to dig your heels in, and follow it resolutely. You'll need to stay centered on your goals, and don't stray from them unless it is something that you can add to your plan which will help to fortify it.

2. Be Open to New Ideas

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." -- Measure for Measure

While it's important to stick with your business plan and goals, it's also true that you shouldn't be afraid to try new things. Here, this could refer to anything from adding a new office technology to your department, or listening to an employees idea on adding a new twist for a product. Remember, customers can be fickle, some will always want an updated version of the products design or functionality. Looking at a Model-T Ford is nice, but no one really wants to make them the family car. Instead, they're waiting in anticipation for Fords new model. Getting stuck in old ways can mean the death of your business. In fact, in business, leaders who are open to new ideas gain traction in the company as their employees are not afraid to offer up ideas during meetings, ideas which could prove very profitable if taken seriously.

1. Recognize the Importance of Opportunities

"There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures." – Julius Caesar

According to famed management consultant Peter Drucker, “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.” One must be on the lookout for the next, great opportunity in business at all times. It's the opportunities taken that increase your businesses potential, as each new opportunity brings with it the potential for expansion, new products, and profit. If one ignores opportunities, know that once you, that ship has sailed and may never return. In order to do this, you'll have to always be one step ahead of the competition by looking out for trends. As long as your information is solid and based on good intel, then grab that opportunity.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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