5 business lessons to learn from self-made billionaires

These icons started from scratch and their journeys hold valuable insights on how to make it to the top.
By Satyaki Sarkar

Mark Zuckerberg_Don’t be afraid to take risks

1. Mark Zuckerberg: Don’t be afraid to take risks
As a leader, you will face situations requiring difficult decisions. Sometimes, one course of action will seem risky, with stiff opposition from others, and it could potentially have a huge impact on the business. In that kind of a situation, you need to be able to use your gut feeling, experience and foresight to decide whether the risk is worth it. You need to trust yourself to take that leap. When Facebook’s News Feed feature was first launched in 2006, it faced huge backlash and opposition from users who demanded its return to how it used to be. However, creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to stick with it, trusting himself and his team, and today, not only is Facebook’s News Feed one of the best features of the platform, it has completely transformed social media and how information is consumed, with other apps/platforms  developing their own variation of it.

Bill Gates_Celebrate success, but learn from failure

2. Bill Gates: Celebrate success, but learn from failure
A good leader knows the importance of striving for success but also knows that success comes after several failures. And while it’s important to not let them dishearten you, it’s equally important to learn from them, so that you can eventually celebrate them when you do succeed. Bill Gates, currently the second richest man in the world and the founder of Microsoft, knows the important role failures play all too well. He was a college dropout, and quite a few of his philanthropic and technological ventures failed even before taking off. But Gates never let that stop him. He’d told his college professors that he would become a millionaire by 30 and he intended to get there. Gates was true to his word, and then some! He became the world’s most famous self-made billionaire by the age of 31.

Photograph: flickr

John Paul DeJoria_Know the product and market to invest in

3. John Paul DeJoria: Know the product and market to invest in
When it comes to business, one of the most basic and critical skills necessary is to know your product well, the market you’re selling it to and whether it has any value in that space. Will your customers keep coming back for more? Market research plays an important part in the start of any business/vertical. Before he became the co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron Tequila, billionaire John Paul DeJoria was actually homeless and collecting cans for money. While recalling his success story, the one thing that he makes sure to emphasise is how he chose the market and line of products to start with. DeJoria ensured his products were the kind that sold themselves or didn’t require hard selling. He wanted products that didn’t require a lot of persuading to buy, but rather became a part of the customer’s routine. He didn’t want to be in the “selling business” but rather in the “reorder business”, where his products or services are so good that people would want to keep reordering or reusing them.


Steve Jobs_Attention to perfection

4. Steve Jobs: Attention to perfection
In business, your product determines your success. And it is your responsibility to make sure that the product/service you are offering is of the utmost quality and doesn’t just meet but exceeds their expectations. Steve Jobs knew the value of perfection and built a company known the world over for its dependable products. As a result, he was known to be completely ruthless when it came to the quality of his products. Kara Swisher, the executive editor of Recode, who knew him personally, once said during a podcast with Tim Ferriss that Jobs’ ruthlessness was a result of his obsession with perfectionism. Jobs could not bear to see his products being below par and his customers being dissatisfied because he knew how much that could hurt his business.

Photograph: flickr

Richard Branson_Don’t let personal challenges hold you back

5. Richard Branson: Don’t let personal challenges hold you back
Personal challenges are a given on the road to success. It’s how you handle, overcome, and embrace them that will matter. Challenges can build you up, mould you to take on bigger difficulties or hardships, personally and professionally. No one knows this better than billionaire philanthropist and founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson, who suffers from dyslexia. As a child, the high school dropout had had to face the disdain and misconception of his teachers, who thought he was simply lazy and stupid. However, he never let dyslexia or people’s perception of it hold him back. He was determined to do better. In fact, Branson actually attributes his success as an entrepreneur to the drive that was born out of this personal challenge.


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