Forbes magazine’s first list of the world’s billionaires consisted of 140 names. That was in 1987. This year’s roster, presented in the publication’s March 26 issue, tallies 1,226 billionaires with a combined worth estimated at $4.6 trillion. Both figures are records according to Forbes.com.
In case you’re wondering, Mexican telecom and real estate magnate Carlos Slim Helu is listed as the planet’s richest person with an estimated worth of $69 billion. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates checks in at number 2, with $61 billion. Others of note include Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet at number 3 with $44 billion, and Facebook founder Michael Zuckerberg at 35, with $17.5 billion to his name.
According to Forbes, the United States continues to lead the world with 425 resident billionaires. Russia is second with 96. Mainland China and Germany are third and fourth with 95 and 55, respectively. India rounds out the top five with 48.
On an encouraging note, Forbes claims that 840 of the world’s billionaires, or slightly better than two-thirds, are of the self-made variety. So it turns out that cracking the ranks of über the wealthy may be über difficult, but not impossible.
If you’re interested in the techniques and strategies historically implemented to help generate a ten-figure net worth – and how they might potentially benefit your company – you couldn’t find a much better resource than Martin S. Fridson’s How to be a Billionaire: Proven Strategies from the Titans of Wealth (2001, John Wiley & Sons).
How to be a Billionaire. Don’t let the somewhat obnoxious title throw you. Fridson, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch and currently a Global Credit Strategist for BNP Paribas, treats the subject matter with absolute seriousness and a knack for peeling-back the layers of the complicated men (they’re all men, in his examples) he profiles.
Though billed as a manual for the aspiring mega-rich, How to be a Billionaire is actually a very straightforward work about starting and growing a hyper-successful business. Fridson’s analysis is impressive. The strategies he outlines are scalable and applicable to companies of any size and for business owners of differing ambitions. Even if you hope to grow your business and fortune to a relatively modest (by the book’s standards) million-dollar level, there is still much to be gained by spending a couple hours with Fridson’s work.
Fridson’s research reaches all the way back to early last century and extends into the new millennium. Most of the names are household words: Rockefeller, Perot, Walton, Hunt, Gates. If there were a Cooperstown for entrepreneurship, these guys would all make it on the first ballot.
But beyond just telling their stories, Fridson identifies and explains the methods and strategies at the core of their success. He contends that certain Fundamental Strategies are common to nearly all the billionaires he profiles. These range from the fairly obvious (Dominate your market) to the enlightened (Do business in a new way) to the in-your-face controversial (Resist unions and Invest in political influence).
But the most instructive parts of the book are where Fridson presents case studies that illustrate how certain obstacles were overcome on the road to mega success. Bill Gates’ strategic and legal defense of Microsoft’s market share (he claimed to not understand the term “market share” during Congressional anti-trust hearings) and Carl Ichan’s proven methodologies for negotiating the terms of a deal deserve books of their own. In many cases, you’ll find yourself considering how their tactics might be applied to your situation.
Fridson also draws your attention to key rules for wealth accumulation, like the importance of holding on to your equity in your company and stressing the value of hard work. Both points are apparent enough. But he also makes great cases for more subtle principles – encouraging you to “develop a thick skin” and to “pursue the money in ideas.”
The book wraps-up with “Your Turn,” a chapter which encourages the reader to formulate a specific plan for moving forward, while re-emphasizing many strategic points made earlier in the text.
Like any good business title, How to be a Billionaire will provide any reader with enough insights to benefit his or her particular situation. But the real value is in the time – perhaps even years – it can potentially shave off your learning curve as you grow your company.
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