A few nights ago, ABC TV aired a special 20/20 with Barbara Walters who interviewed four billionaires. It was fascinating.
I decided that their interviews were so intriguing that I would share them with you, in addition to my own notes and lessons learned from the interviews.
Here they are…
Founder, Cirque du Soleil
Note 1. He took his last penny and spent it on taking his show out of Canada and to California. He said it was basically a “live or die” decision. That decision launched Cirque du Soleil into the big time.
He was asked, “Do you still take risks?” He responded, “I take risks every day.” By the way, Guy Laliberte has the distinction of losing the most money in one hand of poker. $815,000! (But he’s won over $7 million dollars.)
LESSON: Billionaires are risk takers. They take calculated risks. They risk their money by investing high percentages of it in new ideas, projects and people.
Note 2. He convinced the director of the Los Angeles art festival, Thomas Shumacher, to allow him into the festival. Thomas said, “He exuded so much confidence. He could charm anybody.”
LESSON: Billionaires are usually great salesmen. They have an uncanny ability to persuade people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
Note 3. He paid $35 million dollars to be a passenger in space. When he was asked why, Guy responded, “I need a personal challenge.”
LESSON: Billionaires are always looking for a challenge. They thrive off of tackling new and different challenges.
Note 4. He was asked what he does with his money and his first answer was, “I reinvest most of it in Cirque du Soleil” and his second answer was, “I give a lot of money to charity.” He gives millions to his “One Drop Foundation” to help bring water to people of the world.
LESSON: Billionaire reinvest their money into their business. Instead of spending it on other things, they take their profits and reinvest them to help the business grow.
(Largest online shoe sales site)
Note 1. When asked about his company culture he said, “We think it’s important for employees to have fun. Companies with strong cultures tend to outperform the ones that don’t have strong cultures. We recognize and celebrate people’s individuality.”
LESSON: Company culture matters. Creating a strong company culture gives you a competitive edge.
Note 2. Tony was asked about college and he said, “I encourage students to take the money they would have spent on going to college and start a business — if your ultimate goal is to be an entrepreneur.”
LESSON: Colleges do not do a good job of teaching people how to start and grow their own businesses. It’s better to invest the large sum of money you would have spent on college and use that to get real world experience in starting your own business.
Note 3.He asked to be the CEO of a company that sold shoes online. He wasn’t interested at all in shoes and still isn’t, but the idea intrigued him and he thought it had a lot of potential for growth.
LESSON: You do not have to be a fanatic about your product. It certainly helps. But to be a billionaire you DO have to be a fanatic about running a great company.
Note 4.He decided that if he was going to go into an office every day, he wanted to work with people that he liked and would have a good time with.
LESSON: Billionaires know that hiring employees is one of the most critical tasks of a business owner. You might as well slow down and take the time to hire the right person with the right personality because your employees will have a big hand in determining the success of your business.
Note 5. Zappos was bought out by Amazon.com for 1.2 billion dollars and he stayed on as CEO for a salary of only $36,000. He said he did it because, “That’s my way of making sure that I’m only there for my own happiness and not staying for the money.”
LESSON: Billionaires love what they are doing or they don’t do it. Their company becomes less about the money and more about personal fulfillment and happiness. If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop it and start doing something that you like to do.
Note 6. When does the definition of success mean to you. He responded, “The ultimate definition of success that you could lose everything you have and truly be okay with it.”
LESSON: Billionaires rarely define their success in terms of money but more in terms of their personal happiness and fulfillment. You don’t have to be a billionaire or millionaire to be successful. You just need to find your own happiness.
John Paul Dejoria
Co-founder of the Paul Mitchell
(Hair products manufacturer)
Note 1. What John was asked, “What’s the best thing about being a billionaire?” he said, “I can make some major changes in the world.”
When he was told that he was unapologetic about his wealth, he responded, “I like to live well and I feel good about it because I know how much we give back. There’s plenty for my family, now let’s take care of the rest.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that giving back, giving to the less fortunate, helping others who can’t help themselves is an important part of success. Don’t wait to start until you have a lot of money. Start right now.
Note 2. John Paul Dejoria talked about rejection. He said, “I sold encyclopedias, I sold life insurance, I sold photo copy equipment, I sold medical equipment, I sold dictating equipment. Rejection is part of being successful. You knock on a door 50 times and they slam it in your face. Be as enthusiastic on door number 51 as you were on door number 1.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. In fact, John himself said in the interview, “Successful people do all the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.” If you want to be successful, you have to expect failure and rejection and keep on going.
Note 3. John Paul was fired from three different hair products jobs. He said, “There are no coincidences. It was meant to be for me to be fired to learn these various things that I really needed to start the company.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that things happen for a reason. Failures happen for a reason. Setbacks happen for a reason. They are all teaching and learning opportunities that you need to eventually become the success that you’re meant to be.
Founder of Patriarch Partners
(Buys and rebuilds distressed businesses)
Note 1. Lynn was asked why she didn’t settle for retirement after leaving Wall Street. She said, “I had a dream of my father (who died when she was a young girl) who told me that it wasn’t what he had in mind for me. To save people from what I suffered we lost a working parent. The crumbling of the family. That for every job I could save, that was a family that would be kept together.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that every great company starts with a dream. And that dream needs to be so powerful that it becomes bigger than any obstacle you might encounter.
Note 2. Lynn was told that she has a reputation for ruthlessness. She responded, “I think I’m tough on everyone. I speak the truth. And that means that sometimes people don’t want to hear exactly where they stand.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that you must be a great communicator. You need to be clear, concise and open. Employees need to know clearly what is expected of them and if they are failing to meet those expectations.
Note 3. Lynn was asked, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a billionaire one day?” She said, “Don’t do what you do for the money. Do whatever path you choose because it makes your heart beat fast. Success comes from following your passion.”
LESSON: Billionaires know that if you follow your passion, you’ll never work another day in your life. Work will be fun and you’ll be more likely to overcome any hurdles and challenges that are inevitable.
Listening to these billionaires was fascinating. Their insights were fascinating. These are people who started from scratch, with no money and built empires.
If they can do it, you and I can too. These billionaires aren’t wizards. They aren’t specially gifted. They just have an abundance of tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile.
I hope you can implement some of these lessons into your own business in your quest for success.
But always remember, “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” That’s my all time favorite quote from David O. McKay.
All the best.
P.S. If you want to become a successful marketer, take a moment and check out all the interviews we’ve done with some of the top marketers on earth.