If you are following my blog postings or any of my content on YouTube or on my blog, you know that I have an addiction to analyze stuff that works. I do not have any scientific formula to this, or at least I am not consciously aware of any such formula. The things I analyze are mega successful companies, individuals, web businesses or anything that I have a keen interest in.
As you have already read the title of this blog, this blog post is my analysis on self-made billionaires. The majority of my findings come from my personal observations, but in this case a significant portion of the facts come from an audio-book I recently re-listened to called The Outsider’s Edge: The Making of Self-Made Billionaires.
Markets Self-Made Billionaires Like
Interestingly enough self-made billionaires are made in all sorts of markets. From computing to investing, from sports to education, from airline to talkshow host, from retailing to film production, you will find self-made billionaires. No matter what market you find them in, they all follow one rule, that is to not follow conventional wisdom (if they find it unhelpful). When Facebook goes public, I am sure Warren Buffet will not invest in it since he does not understand tech companies fully. Conventional wisdom would encourage one to invest in it correct?
Conventional wisdom also suggested Steve Jobs stay away from raging a war against pirated music. Still Jobs launched iTunes, which is now the leader in online music. Twelve publishing houses also rejected Harry Potter’s manuscript, but as we all know Joanne Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” novels, is a billionaire.
Hidden Emotional Challenges
- Bill Gates had a domineering mother.
- Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs were adopted and illegitimate. Steve Jobs even hired a private investigator to find his real parents.
- Warren Buffett had a mother who reacted unpredictably.
- Oprah Winfrey was born to a teenage mother who traveled north while Winfrey lived with her grandmother for the first six years of her life.
- Carl Icahn is a son of dominating parents.
Yes, you noticed it right, a few of the billionaires had emotional instability when it came to their relationship with their mothers. This topic did not have a lot of details, but it was a pattern that I noticed while listening to the audiobook.
The above bullets are only the stuff that was noticed. Potentially there could be more and more billionaires that had challenging relationships with their parents. Warren would spend minimum time at home and more time with his dad at work because he could not predict how his mother would react any hour of the day. Larry Ellison’s adoptive father was insulting, and this fueled Larry to over perform in other areas. Generally billionaires find business as their mode of performance when they did not find satisfaction in other parts of their lives. In many cases this was their relationship with their parents.
Most billionaires are generally poor managers. Bill Gates has set a culture of shouting at his employees. Steve Jobs had a similar disrespectful reaction with his employees before he was fired from Apple in 1985. Carl Icahn made his fortune mostly by intimidating corporate leaders, forcing them to buying Icahn’s equity-shares at ridiculously high values just to make him go away.
Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Carl Icahn, John Sperling, and Bernie Ecclestone were known to be social misfits while growing up. Their exceptional intelligence often made them standout. Some intentionally dummed down with the intent to fit in. Many billionaires seem uninterested in team sports. Maybe that’s just a side-effect of being antisocial.
There is always an exception:
Richard Branson has above average people skills and he has used them wisely to build his fortunes. Not to forget Oprah, who has built her fortune on the back of her amazing skill of connecting with people.
Another universal quality of a billionaire, besides their unacceptance of conventional wisdom, is that they are single focused workaholics. I do not mean workaholic in a negative sense, but in a sense that they will not give up easily.
IKEA originated from a mail order business that Ingvar Kamprad founded. When the mail order market industry was at its decline and the cost of mail was becoming unaffordable for the consumers, IKEA started a new concept of shipping unassembled furniture. Many competitors started to hate IKEA’s success and threatened and forced suppliers to stop supplies to IKEA. Many suppliers did stop their supplies.
Google and Microsoft, like many other corporations, have many lawsuits against them. Oprah was raped at age nine, Buffett sufferred a 77% drop in earning during Q3 2008 and many of his deals seem to be in a loss. Mega losses/challenges come hand-in-hand with mega successes.
Opportunities & Leverage
Steve Ballmer, now the CEO of Microsoft, has a net worth of 14 billion. Ballmer started working with the company as a manager in 1980, and was the first business manager Gates hired. Lucky for him, he was offered shares of Microsoft (approx 8% then).
Some early programmers of Facebook were offered shares of the company that equate to millions of dollars today. Indeed those programmers, Steve Ballmer and many other such people are smart. But I know most of you would agree that there are smarter people around with far less net worth, just because they did not embark on the opportunity to leverage their skill with a massive successful entity.
There is a right time for everything, or maybe for most things. If you tried to compete (starting today) in the smart-phone, operating system, database software, or film production industries, you would only need a miracle to succeed. But Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, David Geffen (founder of DreamWorks SKG), Steven Spielberg, John Sperling (founder of University of Phoenix – popular for online education for the working class) and Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA) started the right business at the right time.
There are always exceptions:
Richard Branson launched Virgin Atlantic in an unfavourable period in the airline industry and still made it profitable while others were suffering. Warren Buffet (among the top three richest people) made his fortunes from investing in select companies, while watching his share values grow. If Warren starts today, he will still do very well because of his exceptional ability to read and analyze financial statements.
Am I suggesting that if you embark on the right opportunity that you will become a billionaire?
Am I saying that if you have an unstable relationship with your mother that you are on a divine path to riches?
Billionaires come in all shapes and sizes. If I were to summarize the entire post in two words. I would say: Hate Conventional Wisdom and Perseverance. Sorry, that was four words, but there were two points. I honestly believe I had to write those 1000+ words to convey to you these two points. Tell me if I have done a good job conveying the message in the comments below.
Aziz signing out.