11/17/2006 11:19 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Top 10 Nuggets of Business Advice

Last night I attended "Standing Out In the Crowd", a forum presented by American Express featuring maternity fashion mogul Liz Lange, celebrity chef Mario Batali, and the founding members of the Blue Man Group. The purpose of the event was to gather small business owners who use the AmEx OPEN card so they can network with each other and listen to advice from the successful businesspeople on the stage.

Here's the Top 10 nuggets of advice from the panel:

1) Be Different But Not Too Different.
Batali explained that his restaurants are "not incredibly unique" -- he sticks to the traditional Italian way of cooking but makes it "a little bit different"

2) Create Your Own Niche.
The Blue Man Group hates being competitive but that is not a problem because nobody else is painting themselves blue and doing performances

3) Many People Can Succeed.
More performance acts in Las Vegas brings people to the city to see Blue Man Group, the restaurant across the street exposes new people to Batali's place, and a growing market for maternity fashion helps other companies and Liz Lange.

4) Do What You Love, But Also Take Care Of Business.
The passion is the spark that gets you started, but you need to make money to keep cooking, designing, and performing.

5) Optimism.
Only people who are irrationally optimistic should start their own businesses.

6) Viral Marketing = A Good Product.
If customers like what you do they will tell their friends and the word will spread.

7) Blind Dumb Luck.
But you need to know how to take advantages of the openings that luck creates.

8) Be In The Game.
You only have a change of getting lucky if you are out there trying.

9) You Don't Need To Make All The Money.
Batali says he can grow because he shares the money and equity, takes on partners, and let's other people have a shot at reinterpreting his brand.

10) Get AmEx To Buy Advertising On Your Site.
Hey, it works for HuffPost. ;-)