No two self-made billionaires are the same. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all have different backgrounds, different goals and different products that have them recognized on a first (or last) name basis. One does not need to be a billionaire to be considered great or successful in their field. However, these entrepreneurs are examples of what one can accomplish when intelligence, timing and most of all desire come together.
Despite their differences in their fields and their experience, these entrepreneurs all have common mentalities and characteristics that separate them from the rest. Here are four perspectives that separate the great entrepreneurs from the rest.
Focusing on the present, not the Future
Goals and projections are a must for any business or entrepreneur. Having a five year or ten year plan is great, but one cannot let those plans get in the way of day to day operations. No matter the product or the company, everyday problems and obstacles will come up and one must adapt and overcome these problems.
Sometimes a five year plan can change to an eight year plan, or needs to be sped up to become a three year plan – In fact, it can often change just a few weeks in. Apple computers did not start up with the iPod or the iPhone in mind. These products were part of the natural progression of the company. Technology had to advance and also be advanced. Patents needed to be applied for and fulfilled. In each product there are thousands of small steps that push it along its way.
It is not the easiest road, but it’s the most logical and efficient. By taking each day as it comes, these entrepreneurs are able to advance their companies further than the other 99% of workers and entrepreneurs out there.
Elon Musk’s company SpaceX was essentially down to their last shot before they finally got a rocket into orbit. Many things went wrong along the way, the goal never changed, but all Musk and the company could do was focus on the tasks at hand. They embraced their failures and that enabled them to eventually enjoy their successes.
Be it fame, fortune or early retirement, great entrepreneurs are not blinded by long-term goals. Great entrepreneurs embrace the present, as they know that is all they have.
Embracing the Malleability of the World
Most people take the world as it appears. Others, see what needs to be changed or what does not exist that needs to be created. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said it best when he said:
“… Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
He was nearly correct, Elon Musk may be smarter than you, and there is nothing wrong with that. But names like Musk, Jobs and Bill Gates saw opportunity where others didn’t see anything at all.
Jobs had the realization that World can be changed, re-shaped and re-built. The solution will not be right in front of you, the solution has to be created from scratch. Not anyone can do this; one has to see the need for a product where a product does not currently exist. As Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Instead Ford created the Model-T and the world was never the same, quite literally. Without Ford perhaps someone would have invented the car, perhaps not.
Without the drive of Elon Musk at Tesla Motors, the electric car may not have become as prevalent as it is now and will continue to be.
It is because of entrepreneurs like them that technology has advanced so quickly these last 100 years. It will grow even faster in the next 50, as people like Musk and Ford, Gates and Jobs seek what is not yet found and strive to create what does not currently exist.
Seeking Guidance when Guidance is needed
What started as one search engine in a sea of dozens, Google has grown into one of the world’s most valuable and ubiquitous technology companies. It has come to represent much more than a search engine.
A good product can only take a company so far, a great business mind can take it further. Google had a great product, possibly the best product in the world of search engines. The algorithm designed by co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Sergey Brin and Page also had the wherewithal to know that they were not the best suited to run the company on their own. They were able to convince Eric Schmidt, a tech CEO with years of experience in Silicon Valley. This was in 2001 when Google was still a fledgling company, so it may not have been an easy sell to get Schmidt on board.
When Apple was a small startup, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak hired Ronald Wayne to oversee the business practices of the company. Jobs and Wozniak, while eager and brilliant, knew they had to have someone with both experience and expertise on the business end to oversee the company. Wayne ended up leaving the company a few years later in 1978 and gave up his 10% share, which today would be worth roughly $30 billion. Perhaps Wayne should have looked for some guidance himself.
Jobs eventually became Apple’s CEO, and aside from getting fired and re-hired, it was a role he filled until his health no longer allowed him to continue. Larry Page has since taken over the day to day operations as Google’s CEO while Schmidt has stepped down to a smaller role. These men learned how to run their companies by hiring and following more experienced people.
There are ideas out there that have the potential to be worth a lot of money, but ideas, are technically worth nothing. A business plan, prototype or MVP and execution are what truly start allowing the cash register to ring. Having the idea is great, knowing you need help in order to make the idea a reality is even better. Finding help and the right kind of help separates the great from the rest.
Ignoring Written (or unwritten) Rules
Vincent Kennedy McMahon took over control of the then World Wide Wrestling Federation from his father when Professional Wrestling was a territorial business. There were a number of small companies across North America, each with their own geographical territory. The WWF was in the North Eastern United States and, NWA had control of the South East. It was an unwritten rule of wrestling that these factions would not infringe on each other’s territory.
McMahon did not take these rules to heart. Rather than avoid other territories, he went right at the smaller wrestling companies and ended up taking them over. Before long, the now WWE spread across United States and became the largest wrestling company that has ever been. Though there have been high and low points for the WWE, it is still the one and only wrestling company in the World.
Vince McMahon readily admits that his father would have hated the fact that he broke the unwritten rules of the business, but, without McMahon’s aggressive rule breaking, perhaps the entire wrestling industry would not be where it is today or even exist.
Rules, written or unwritten are made to be broken.
When Apple computers was potentially on its last legs, well before the invention of the iPod, Steve Jobs reached out to an unlikely person, Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates. Jobs had been away from Apple for many years and in coming back, realized the company was in dire straits. Gates and Microsoft threw Apple a lifeline to the tune of a $150 million investment and to put it mildly, the rest is history.
It seems obvious now who got the better of the deal, but it shows how both Gates and Jobs were not confined to conventional thinking.
There was no fear in reaching out to a competitor or helping a competitor in need. It is safe to say, most people would not consider either option. It need not matter what others thought, the rules of others did not apply to Gates or Jobs.
While no two self-made billionaires are alike, these examples show you the similarities that great minds share. With the right mindset and drive, the limits of your job, your business and your world are only defined by you. What others want or have done, need not apply to you. Focus on the present, forget the rules set by others and realize when outside help is needed. The term “self-made” can be a misnomer; the help of others can be a great boost. Apply these perspectives, and those of your own design to build your own business and yourself.