When Clients Ask for Discounts, Ask Them … Why?

When Clients Ask for Discounts, Ask Them … Why?

I bought several new vests recently. One was from G-Star, another from Banana Republic. They were not cheap, but not unreasonably expensive, either. I paid the price the shop asked from me. What I did not do was haggle over the price with the vendor.

Related: The Danger of Frequent and Predictable Discounts

As a professional public speaker, I have fees, as well, which are listed publicly on my website. I am not cheap, but I’m also not unreasonably expensive. And I always try to be transparent in my pricing. That means that I prefer not to waste my time on price negotiations.

Sometimes, though, potential clients contact me and say, “We’d love to hire you as a speaker. But can we get a discount?” I’ve found a great way to deal with these discount requests: I ask my customers, “Why?”

My usual reply also includes something alone the lines of, “Is there a specific reason you believe you are entitled to a discount?” Without my directly saying yes or no, I’ve thus bounced the question back to the customer(s), forcing them to consider what they’re asking and to give them a chance to point out something that could be of value to me.

Sometimes, clients tell me they cannot afford my standard fee, so they’re hoping to get me at half my regular price. Sometimes, they even ask me to do my work for free. “It will be a great opportunity to present your book!” they say. But this always baffles me. I have never considered asking G-Star or Banana Republic to sell me a vest at half the price, or to just give it away for free: “It will be a great opportunity to show off your t-shirts!”

If I found such vendors too expensive, I wouldn’t have shopped with them at all. Instead, I would have checked out H&M or Zara. So, faced with the discount question, my next move is to tell such clients that I will happily refer them to other speakers.

Sometimes, clients are so big or famous and consider themselves so important, that the magnitude of their arrogance itself seems to qualify them for a discount. They say (or at least obviously think): “You will be able to add our name to your list of clients!”

Fortunately, my own arrogance is quite flexible and, when needed, strong enough to match that of the client: “Indeed, I will! And you can tell everyone that I visited your company, after you paid what everyone else pays!”

Sometimes, clients just love haggling, assuming there are always margins that can be squeezed. My problem with this attitude is that such clients assume that I am intentionally overpaid and that, with some negotiation, it should be possible to talk the fee down to the “proper” price. In other words, they assume I have a lack of integrity (i.e., I’m asking too much.)

Related: The Danger of Discounts and How to Avoid Them

Another possibility is that they assume that I so desperately need the sale that I’m willing to be underpaid, which (to me) seems like a lack of integrity on the side of the client. They might say, “You probably have a special price for friends,” to which I might reply, “I have many friends and my fee is what they pay. I assume you want me to treat all my friends equally and fairly?”

And, last but not least, after I ask them, “Why?”, the clients sometimes tell me, “Oh, never mind. We were just wondering.” Then they proceed to pay my regular fee. I have no objections to that at all.

Notice that I don’t say “no” to people who ask me for a discount. I merely ask them “Why?” because it’s quite possible that they have a very good reason! It all comes down to customizing the value exchange.

It happens that some clients, for example, offer me a speaking opportunity right before or after an event that I have already booked in the same city. Having two or three events back-to-back in the same area saves me a lot of travel time and travel expenses. Obviously, that would be worth a #NoTravel discount.

It also happens sometimes that a client invites me for the third or fourth time. Obviously, I value repeat customers who develop a preference for a long-term relationship with me, which is worth a #RepeatBusiness discount.

There are some clients who order large quantities of my books. Despite the fact that authors like me earn very little per book in terms of royalties, I still appreciate that my message is distributed into the hands of many people. And so that scenario is worth a #BookOrders discount.

There is also value for me in being able to pick a topic of my own choosing and to experiment with unconventional ideas and formats in my presentations. Customers who give me the freedom to do whatever I want are entitled to an #Experimentation discount.

And then there is my much-beloved discount to discourage bureaucracy, which reduces my fee when clients don’t ask me for contracts, tax records, travel receipts, bank statements, procurement forms, visa forms, birth certificates, etc. This #NoBureaucracy discount is basically a reward for good behavior.

There is something else important to realize here: All the good reasons for offering discounts that I listed above can (and should) be translated to clear, unambiguous pricing rules. After all, if you want to be seen as fair, transparent and honest, you have no other option than to apply the same rules (and discounts) to all your clients.
And, yes, the rules are additive, and thus the discounts, cumulative.

When I introduce a new discount rule (sometimes because a client inspired me with a new good reason), I also decide on the start date of the new rule, as if I’ve just passed a new law. All customers invoiced on or after that date will be entitled to the same discount. They don’t even have to remind me.

Today, I sent one of my clients an invoice with a #NoTravel discount. The client didn’t ask for it. He didn’t even know about it. But he earned it because he committed to adapt his own schedule to an existing conference I was attending so that I didn’t have to make an extra trip.

Related: The 4 Types of Online Discount Websites You Could Start

It makes me feel good to offer a surprise discount to those who don’t request one for no good reason. To make myself feel even better, I plan to be wearing one of my lovely new not-too-expensive vests.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

3 Important Business Skills They Don’t Teach You in School

3 Important Business Skills They Don’t Teach You in School

History is filled with thousands of examples of entrepreneurs who changed the world without any formal education. In recent years, most of us knew about Steve Jobs’ exit from the Ivy League to pursue his dreams. But I am not about to rest on one side of the debate or the other.

The fact is that a formal education will bring you up-to-speed on the latest develops, and history, of your chosen field. In addition, your dedication to post-secondary education will help you to create business networks that it will take decades to re-create without the college / university environment.

Related: 5 Skills Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Master

Regardless of your personal opinion of formal education’s role in business success and entrepreneurial endeavors, here are three skills that you will not learn in school but are crucially important to your success as an entrepreneur / founder.

1. Communicating 

Entrepreneur are only as successful as their ability to explain their vision. Communicating with other people is likely the most important skill of any entrepreneur. Knowing when to communicate — and when not to — is the difference between the business have’s and have-nots.

Your communication skills will be needed in every aspect of your job.  You will have to inspire your employees with your words, build confidence with your investors and explain your actions to your shareholders.

Now, make sure that you are not committing the worst sin of communicating. I have consulted for CEO’s in the past who fancied themselves as great communicators, however, what they really did was run over people and talk everyone around them into submission. I have seen executives who waste hours of time over-talking in meetings. They feel like they have to be heard and over-explain everything. They do not let others get heard and, as a result, end up creating a suppressive environment, where other people’s thoughts never get heard.

Do yourself a favor and find a good mentor or executive coach to help you do a personal check and work on increasing your communication skills. You can never be a good enough communicator.

Related: Whether You’re Starting a Business or Not, It Pays to Think Like an Entrepreneur

2. Multitasking

As an entrepreneur, you are going to be expecting to know everything, about every part, of your endeavor. In the early days, you will be the “chief cook and bottle washer.” As your enterprise grows, so to will your personal tasks.

In the early days, you will have to run the company and take care of shipping / receiving. As your business grows, your tasks will change, and you will still have a multitude of them. If you are lucky enough to get into the big leagues, you will eventually get to manage your business and your shareholders at the same time.

Regardless of the stage, you will need to be involved in many different things at the same time. You have no choice — so get good at it! I have never met a successful big-league founder or CEO who didn’t have a great handle on time management and keeping important things — like family and health — in perspective. Again, if you are struggling in this area, hire a coach or consultant to help you.

3. Attention to detail

We’ve all heard the old saying — “The devil is in the details.” I personally believe it would be better to say, “Your ultimate success is in the details.” Managing details is likely the most important skill of any successful business person.

People who are weak in this area will tend to ignore the details. They will categorize them as “little things.” But if you let enough “little things” build up, they will turn into a “big thing.” Big things kill businesses! As the primary of your own business, you need to become an expert (and example to others) of how to deal with the details.

Examples of important details are reviewing, and understanding, your daily financial reports, emailing your key people with little “thank-yous” for a job well done, managing email in general and about 1000 more things.

If you are struggling in any of these areas, you already know it. Let this little piece be your slap in the face. Your company, and employees, are depending on you to make the venture successful. The fastest way to improve these skills is to hire one of the many awesome management consultants or coaches that are available.

Related: Embrace Change: The 4 Skills Needed to Reinvent Yourself

I have hired several consultants to help me in my career. I have also been hired to help CEOs in major corporations. The biggest reason to consider improving yourself and hiring help is that it is very hard to determine what is holding you back. Its much easier for someone who you trust to help you.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

It’s 2016, But Nearly Half of U.S. Small Businesses Still Don’t Have a Website

It’s 2016, But Nearly Half of U.S. Small Businesses Still Don’t Have a Website

It’s hard to imagine the world without the Internet.

For some of us, that is: It may be 2016, but 46 percent of  U.S. small businesses still don’t have a website for their company, according to a report released by business-to-business research firm Clutch.

Of the more than 350 small businesses surveyed — the majority of which have less than 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue — cost was listed as the second-most popular reason for not having an online presence. Lack of technical know-how and the need for upkeep were other popular reasons, while 12 percent said that they use social media in place of a static site.

Image Credit: Clutch

Related: 5 Essentials for Building a Lucrative Ecommerce Site

The most popular justification for not having a website, however?

Nearly a third of surveyed respondents said that they didn’t have one because it wasn’t relevant to their business or their industry. That could be a problem. As Max Elman, the founder of Razorfrog Web Design, said in a statement released with the report:

“No matter what type of business you run, if you have customers, it’s necessary to have some sort of information online, at least a page describing who you are and offering contact information. It’s essential to have this information indexed and shown to those looking for you.”

Image Credit: Clutch

The founder of a company that builds websites, Elman is perhaps not the most objective source. But he has a point: More than 80 percent of Americans say they do online research before making a purchase.

Related: How to Market Brick and Mortar to the Web

For the 64 percent of small businesses that do have a website, many could use a technological upgrade: Nearly a quarter of these businesses said their websites weren’t compatible with mobile platforms. Of the online improvements business owners planned to make, search-engine and social engagement topped the list with 40 percent each, followed closely by improvements in content and design.

Image Credit: Clutch

Image Credit: Clutch

The report concludes, as expected, that all small businesses in every industry can benefit from a website, be it a single page or more elaborate setup.

In other words, if your business doesn’t have a website, it’s probably time to change that. And if your business already has a website, particularly one that works on mobile, you’re further ahead of the game than you likely thought.

Source: www.entrepreneur.com

How to Use Live Chat on Your Website to Maximize Conversions

How to Use Live Chat on Your Website to Maximize Conversions

Live chat is the ultimate sales hack. It’s a big call, but I stand by it. The reason is simple. It’s the easiest way to bump your website conversions in real-time without split testing.

This won’t come as a surprise to many of you who have already tried live chat to increase leads (and save on customer service). But, for most of you, it didn’t work right away.

Websites like Kissmetrics and SaneBox (which trialed our service when we founded) have tried live chat, and the data was conclusive. There was no increase in conversions, and in some cases a reduction.

In this post, I’m going to deep dive into the data science and psychology of a successful live chat install, one that increases conversions.

The Theory of Chat as a Conversion Optimizer

In the past, businesses used advertising to drive customers to a phone number. Customers would engage with a sales person. Every phone call had a person on the other end.

Then the internet took off and put something called a website in the middle.

Now, all those customers see a website before they talk to a real person. We expect a website to do the heavy lifting. It’s cheaper than humans, right?

Not always. Statistics show that, on average, only 2% of website visitors convert to an enquiry or sale. There’s an argument that lots of money is being left on the table.

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Non-optimized websites convert at 2%

Live chat is well positioned to be the fix. Real humans have a way of talking to the people you drive to your website.

And, with live chat, businesses won’t need to worry if they don’t have the money, time, or resources for A/B tests or a landing page designed by Oli Gardner.

In fact, you can have the world’s worst site, or even a blank website, and still convert.

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When you or your team sit on live chat, you should notice that between 10 and 50% of all your website visitors engage with you.

If done correctly, typically, a third of those should become a lead or, in the case of E-Commerce / SaaS sites, buy or sign up.

Beware: Live Chat Can Sometimes Reduce Conversions

Most people make the assumption that live chat will work in all conditions. You get to talk to your customers so that’s a good thing, right?

Wrong.

Websites that convert well do not work well with live chat.

The psychology is simple. The visitor has likely come from Google and found their answer in 0.24 seconds. Then they hit your website, and it’s almost always going to take longer than that to find what they want.

When they see a live chat button, it’s an exciting moment. (Maybe for me, at least.)

Live chat is the path of least resistance.

But, this is not a good thing in situations where the website can outperform the live chat agent.

Take E-Commerce. Online stores are designed for buyers, and buyers are comfortable purchasing this way.

Proactive live chat can distract users away from the buying experience by seducing them into a conversation. Our research shows that a significant portion of visitors will choose chat over the prominent CTA.

And because the “add to cart” and “checkout sequence” is easier than trying to complete a transaction through a live chat agent, live chat reduces conversions.

Which Sites Work for Live Chat?

I get asked this all the time. Truth is, they all do.

But each type of site requires a different implementation.

The easiest way to prove the ROI of chat is to capture leads from the conversations. Tracking uplift in signups and sales is a little trickier.

  • If a website has a 5% or greater conversion rate, don’t use chat until you’ve mastered everything mentioned below.
  • If a website has a 2-5% conversion rate, get some data (I’ll explain shortly).
  • If a website has a conversion rate below 2%, launch chat immediately.

Get Me the Data!

On the sites that are converting well, I like to take a data-driven approach.

The homepage might have a great conversion rate, but what about the “About Us,” “Pricing,” or “Contact Us” page.

It’s possible those pages aren’t converting well.

Here’s a live chat data checklist you can use:

  1. Create a list of all the main pages on your site likely to get prospective customers.
  2. Find the conversion rate for each page, split into business hours and after hours.
  3. For each page, find the average time to enquiry or signup. For example, from the time someone hits the page, it takes, on average, 25 seconds for them to start filling out the enquiry form, which they submit by 50 seconds.

You can find this information using Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, or specialized apps like Formisimo.

Who’s Your Customer?

Before we look at how to use the data, we need to understand who the right customer is.

The idea is to move mountains in order to talk to your best prospects but not talk to time wasters at all.

Here’s your customer characteristics checklist:

Question: Which countries do your best customers come from? Which countries do the time-wasters come from?
Answer: We get this data from ChartMogul.

Question: Which pages on your site are your best prospects likely to visit? Which pages are time-wasters likely to visit?
Answer: We look at the leads generated via our platform, and we look at the page chat was initiated on.

Question: Which page on your site has access to a login/support/area where visitors can log in?
Reason for the question: You don’t want to waste resources annoying your existing customers.

Setting Up Live Chat for Conversions

Step 1 – Page Selection

Using the data above, install the live chat platform on the pages that mean the most to you.

Some chat platforms need you to install the platform on all the pages. This is to ensure that a conversation can continue if the visitor is clicking through pages.

Step 2 – Proactive Greetings

“Greetings” is industry lingo for automated chat popups. It’s a critical feature for generating leads.

With most good live chat providers, you can set triggers for proactive greetings, such as:

  • Time on website (popup after a specific time on site)
  • First-time or returning visitor
  • Current page address is “….”
  • Visited the following page(s) “…..”during this session
  • Referring website address is “….” (i.e., facebook.com, google.com, forbes.com)
  • User’s country or city is “….”
  • Searched keyword is “….” (from a Google paid ad, or Bing)
  • Custom variable (via API into your CRM, software, etc.)

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Good live chat providers let you customize the opening sentence based on the greeting. This creates a more personalized experience for your visitor.

Here’s Your Basic Greeting Setup Checklist:

  1. Have the “time on website” trigger set to “equal to or greater than the average time to completion of CTA/form.” That is, don’t distract people before you’ve given them a chance.
  2. If you don’t have a user login area on your site (i.e., no existing customers), set a greeting to returning visitors starting with “Welcome back.”
  3. If you do have a login section for existing customers, don’t show chat on any page where they can access it (unless you are providing customer support which is a totally different beast).

Step 3 – SaaS vs Leads vs Support

Different applications need different setups. Getting it wrong will cost you.

SaaS Setup

Some companies want the website to do the heavy lifting without a sales person. Think E-Commerce sites or certain SaaS sites where you can sign yourself up without requesting a demo.

If the website is converting below 2%, do this:

  1. Answer a visitor’s first question (usually a common FAQ)
  2. Ask for the visitor’s name, phone number, and email, and tell them you’ll get an expert to get in touch
  3. Point the visitor to the sign-up link and suggest they sign up
  4. Send details captured in item #2 to your CRM or marketing system and use nurture sequence to drive them back to the CTA

The idea is that you’ll still have your same conversion rate on site, plus a few more people whose concern you solved.

And you’ll also have a whole bunch of leads who wouldn’t have converted during that visit, people you didn’t know and wouldn’t easily get back.

Then let email/content/automation or a direct response from your sales team do the work.

Lead Generation Setup

Using live chat for lead generation is becoming much more common.

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Have a FAQ or knowledgebase system that sits side-by-side with your chat console (or use a Google doc on another screen). This helps you answer visitors’ questions faster.
  2. Have an easy way to capture lead information (for example, set up a Wufoo form with fields for name, email, etc.) This ensures that you have a separate place for all your leads.
  3. During a chat conversation, don’t be afraid to control the conversation and ask for details.

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Expert Tip: I want you to imagine a scale with leads on one end and customer satisfaction (CSAT) on the other.

When a visitor comes to your site, what they’re hoping for is to have alltheir questions answered, instantly.

What your business wants is the largest number of leads you can capture from your traffic and a reduction in your CPL. If you are just robotic and go for the kill, you’ll get leads but tick customers off as well.

To each end, leads and CSAT are mutually exclusive.

The balance is to provide 5-7 FAQs in response to questions, and use an exit statement for anything else.

For example: “I’d love to get your question answered by one of our experts, who I’ll pass your details to ASAP.”

Customer Support Setup

Customer support is a different beast altogether.

The goal is to reduce the amount of email and phone tickets and resolve customers’ issues on the fly.

The reason support works via chat is you can have the backwards and forwards in real-time without chewing tickets and email responses, which can take days or weeks to resolve, ultimately infuriating your visitors.

From my experience, you do need dedicated agents – people who know your product inside and out.

The best way to begin is to have your sales and/or product people handle support requests for one month. Then you can create a knowledgebase of all the questions and answers and provide it to agents you hire to do your support.

How to Choose the Right Chat Software

There are a few key players: LiveChatInc.com, Zopim, Olark, LivePerson, SnapEngage, and I’d throw in Tawk.to (because they’re free).

Here’s my list of things to look for (all of those listed above have these as far as I know):

  • Proactive greetings with customizable triggers
  • A mobile app
  • Mobile responsive chat widget for the end user

At LeadChat, we actually use the LiveChatInc.com platform because it’s by far the most advanced.

LeadChat’s Top 4 Chat Tips

1. Don’t use offline chat (i.e., “Leave a message”)
It’s rude. People see chat, they expect chat. It’s not nice to trick them into an offline form. Either have chat online, or off.

We find offline message capture still distracts people from the core CTA, with the added issue that there are no agents to respond to questions.

2. Answer within 15 seconds
If you have chat, you should answer people when they ask. 15 seconds is our rule of thumb. Anything longer is unfair.

3. Chat needs to be 24/7
Your website doesn’t close, neither should your chat. After hours represents more than 60% of your week because two-thirds of the day is after hours and there are weekends. We see 50-60% of leads come through for our clients after hours. You can find chat agents on Upwork.com, Peopleperhour.com, or specialist companies like ours – LeadChat.com.

4. Use the data
Beyond leads, you will capture amazing insights through the chat transcripts.

Here are some things to look for:

  1. Traffic insights – Are you getting poorly qualified visitors and leads?
  2. Product opportunities – Are people asking for things you don’t do? Consider offering those.
  3. Missed opportunities – Why are people asking about things you clearly offer? Maybe your website is not communicating this well enough.
  4. Top 5 FAQs –What are the most common questions? Could you fix your homepage to address these better?

Summary

Live chat is here to stay and is an amazing tool for communicating with visitors if it’s done right.

Determine why you want live chat: More leads, more conversions, or to offer customer support.

Take a data-driven approach and create a benchmark. Follow the guide above and you’re sure to get some great results.

8 U.S. Presidents Who Started as Entrepreneurs

8 U.S. Presidents Who Started as Entrepreneurs

U.S. presidents sure like talking about the importance of small business to the country’s overall health. For instance, Barack Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan tapped into [the fact that people wanted] a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

But, how many U.S. presidents have actually been in the trenches, running their own enterprises? Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made business experience the principal reason for his election in 2012, recently saying, “I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution, to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.”

While the jury’s still out on whether business know-how makes for a better president, here’s a look at eight U.S. leaders who were hard-working entrepreneurs.

1. George W. Bush, Invested in Texas Rangers

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Term: 2001 to 2009

The first U.S. president with an MBA, Bush invested $600,000 in Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. In 1998 he sold his stake in the team for $15 million — a 2,400 percent return on his initial investment.

Quote: “Prosperity results from entrepreneurship and ingenuity.”

Credit: George W. Bush Library

2. George H.W. Bush, Formed Oil Development Co.

george-hw-bush

Term: 1989 to 1993

After graduating from Yale, Bush, along with neighbor John Overby, formed the Bush-Overby Oil Development Co. in 1951. Family connections helped him finance its operations, with Bush’s uncle Herbert Walker investing nearly a half million dollars. By 1953, Bush-Overby had merged with another independent oil company to form Zapata Petroleum, and in 1959 Bush moved to Houston as president of Zapata Offshore.

Credit: MSNBC

Quote: “Equality begins with economic empowerment.” 

3. Jimmy Carter, Managed Peanut Farm

jimmy-carter

Term: 1977 to 1981

When Carter’s father died in 1953, the family farm was in danger of being lost. So, Carter made the tough decision to resign from the Navy and return to Plains, Ga., to run the struggling peanut farm. Carter reportedly threw himself into farming the way he had with his naval duties, and hard work and effective management made the Carter farm prosperous by 1959.

Quote: “It’s not necessary to fear the prospect of failure but to be determined not to fail.”

Credit: Mind the Image

4. Harry Truman, Opened Men’s Clothing Store

harry-truman

Term: 1945 to 1953

After serving in France during World War I, Truman returned to the U.S. and opened a men’s clothing store in Kansas City, Mo., with his wartime friend, Eddie Jacobson. The shop flourished for three years, but unfortunately failed in the postwar recession.

Quote: “I studied the lives of great men and famous women, and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.”

Credit: American Gallery

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Opened Rehabilitation Center

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Term: 1933 to 1945

A victim of polio, Roosevelt founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in 1927. Still operating today, the Warm Springs, Ga.-based institute serves about 4,000 people with all types of disabilities each year.

Quote: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Credit: Franklin Roosevelt

6. Herbert Hoover, Opened Mine Engineering Business

herbert-hoover

Term: 1929 to 1933

With a geology degree from Stanford University under his belt, Hoover launched his own mine engineering business in 1908. His company employed 175,000 workers and specialized in reorganizing failing companies, seeking new mining prospects and finding investors to pay for developing the best mines.

Quote: “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.”

Credit: Old-Picture

7. Warren G. Harding, Purchased a Struggling Newspaper

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Term: 1921 to 1923

In 1884, when Harding was 19, he and several partners purchased a small, struggling newspaper in Ohio called The Marion Star. His wife Florence helped manage the business operations for the newspaper, which became a financial success.

Quote: “America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.”

Credit: Gerrysburg Daily

8. Abraham Lincoln, Owned a General Store and Ran a Law Practice

abraham-lincoln

Term: 1861 to 1865

The only U.S. president to receive a patent, Lincoln invented a device to lift riverboats over sandbars. He also owned a general store and ran a law practice. He has become a symbol of perseverance, always rising up in the face of failure.

Quote: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” 

Credit: About