Guy Kawasaki: 10 Tips for Small Business Owners


By Jondi Gumz

Guy Kawasaki, the marketing guy for Steve Jobs’ Macintosh computer in the early Silicon Valley days, is now a prolific author and podcaster, interviewing “remarkable” people such as Jane Goodall, Steve Wozniak and Kristi Yamaguchi.

But did you know he is deaf in his right ear and relies on a cochlear implant to hear?

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Rebeca Villafana at the Small Business Summit

He shared his situation with the audience of about 200 at the Santa Cruz Small Business Summit hosted by Cabrillo College in Aptos.

It’s a great example of not giving up in the face of adversity and finding a workaround to achieve what you set out to do.

The Small Business Development Center at Cabrillo is one of many scattered across America, a part of the U.S. Small Business Administration, created to help aspiring entrepreneurs.

In Santa Cruz County, some 87% of businesses are small businesses, defined as fewer than 500 employees. Last year, the local SBDC provided 1,851 hours of advising, assisting 697 businesses, creating 499 jobs, retaining 1,233 jobs and helping launch 27 new businesses.

Alex Pedersen, director of the local SBDC for the past year and a Cabrillo mechanical engineering alum, invited Kawasaki to give the keynote and bought his new book, “Think Remarkable,” to give to every attendee.

Kawasaki, 70, who moved to Santa Cruz so he could spend more time surfing, is known for giving “top 10” talks. These are his top 10 tips for small business owners.

  1. Alleviate the pain in your customers’ lives. One example: Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce customer relations software affordable for small and medium-size businesses.
  2. Embrace envy. Kawasaki, who grew up poor in Hawaii, wanted a better home, better neighbor and better car. That was his motivation. “Use your envy to drive you to success,” he said.
  3. Face it until you make it. Notice he does not say “fake it,” like Elizabeth Holmes, the face pushing the Theranos blood test even though it did not work. Don’t worry that you don’t belong. Everybody’s thinking that. Confront your fears and keep trying.
  4. Make yourself unique and valuable. If you’re the 5th Mexican restaurant on 41st Avenue, what makes you different?
  5. Go and see, go and be. Watch your customers to find out what they need. Better yet, experience what your customers experience and you’ll get insights. Example: Try using your own website. Is it customer-friendly or not?
  6. Work backwards. In other words, stop trying to persuade customers to buy in to what you offer, find out what customers want. Example: A guy at Kodak created the first digital camera but the company never pursued it because that would bury the film business.
  7. Put skills first. Can the people you hire do the job? Kawasaki got a college degree, majoring in psychology, and a master’s degree in business, and he learned to sell by selling jewelry. Education exposes you to new subjects and connections – Kawasaki got his job at Apple through a classmate.
  8. Plant many seeds. It’s hard to predict which will grow, so planting many improves your odds of success. Networking with people at random can pay off. Thanks to local surfer Neil Pearlberg, Kawasaki was able to interview Chris Bertish, the 2010 Mavericks surf contest winner,
  9. Become mission driven. Kawasaki used a vulgarism to describe Steve Jobs, who would steamroll anyone who got in the way of his mission to introduce the first successful personal computer with a mouse and onscreen icons and images rather than typing commands. Let your mission be: Let’s create the best (fill in the blank, whatever your business is) possible.
  10. Make your decisions right. There is no perfect decision so take your best shot and don’t look back.

This Year’s Winners

Alex Pedersen, director of the Small Business Development Center at Cabrillo College, presented awards to outstanding small businesses at the Small Business Summit.

Business Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comSmall Business of the Year
Living Swell Kombucha, Santa Cruz
Founded in 2021
Founders: Sophie Slosberg and Summer Torrez

Business Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comOutstanding Achievement in Job Creation
Santa Cruz Afoot, Santa Cruz
Reopened in 2020 after CZU wildfire
Founder: Karen Ehlers

Business Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comOutstanding Achievement in Sales Growth
Seal Rock Dental Care, Soquel
Founded in 2022
Founders: Dr. Joshua Sanchez and Joann Whippy

Business Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comOutstanding Achievement in Capital Funding
Life at Sea, Tim Ward Art Studio, Live Oak
Founded: 2008 by Tim Ward
Creator of Santa Cruz mermaid stickers
Sales enabled $85,000 donated to ocean cleanup

Photos Credit: Jondi Gumz • TOP PHOTO: Guy Kawasaki

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