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11 Mistakes Billionaires Learned the Hard Way

11 Mistakes Billionaires Learned the Hard Way

It’s been said it’s easier to learn from your mistakes, but you don’t always have to, particularly in business. Working your way to the top can be extremely difficult and mistakes in the business world can be costly. It is important for the entrepreneur to learn not only from their successes, but also from their failures. Although there’s much to gain when it comes to experience, you can save a lot of time and money by learning through the mistakes of others.

Even today’s top grossers have had their dull moments. Here are 11 mistakes billionaires learned to avoid the hard way:

The 1 Percent
    1. Failure to research.

    When making an acquisition or starting a new business, research is essential. Is there competition? Is there a big enough market? Is your acquisition worthwhile? In 1999, the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, did not do his research and acquired CompUSA for $800 million, only to see the company’s value plummet because desktop computers were quickly being replaced by laptop computers and other emerging technology.

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    2. Fixation on the wrong investments.

    Few things are worse than a missed opportunity. Focusing on the wrong investments can bring disastrous results. Take Bill Gate’s mistake of ignoring search engines, for example. Focusing on the loss of profit that came from piracy lead Microsoft to completely ignore the development of the search engine. This neglect left plenty of space for other companies, such as Google and Yahoo, to fill the gap. By the time Gates realized he had made a mistake, it was too late. Presently Bing has picked up some of the search engine market, but in 2011 it cost Microsoft $2.5 million more than it earned.

    3. Lack of communication.

    When offering goods or services, communication from the top directors to the employee team and from the employees to the customers is vital. You cannot expect the members of your team to immediately know what you are thinking and this is a mistake billionaire Larry Ellison experienced first hand. After acquiring Island Air, Paul Casey was quickly appointed as CEO. The lack of communication that ensued regarding the changes resulted in various flight delays (one of which was seven hours long) and many disgruntled customers.

    4. Cutting vital costs.

    Maximizing profits and cutting unnecessary costs is a natural part of business. However, it’s easy to get lost in the profit frenzy and so one should be careful such costs do not damage quality or the brand. Take for example the case of billion-dollar company Hewlett Packard. Once known for innovation, everything started to go wrong once innovation was replaced by cost cutting. Current owner and CEO Meg Whitman has seen stock price plummet 39% from one year ago.

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    Billionaire Status

      5. Letting good opportunities go.

      If you think you have a good idea or your research has proven your idea to be a sound choice, go for it. Do not let a good opportunity go by, because just like you are capable of coming up with great ideas, so are other people. Larry Page of Google learned this the hard way. In 2003, after he noticed the success of Friendster, he offered to purchase the then social media giant instead of focusing on developing his own. The offer was turned down and the result was disastrous, as Facebook swooped in to take the social media market by storm. Google+ was eventually released in 2011, and to this day has yet to match the social capital and earnings of Zuckerberg’s giant.

      6. Refusing to explore other options.

      Not all acquisitions are in great shape, and sometimes the industry you want to focus on may be shrinking. These things can difficult to accept but it is important to know when to explore other ventures. Billionaire Warren Buffet admits to having made this mistake when purchasing Berkshire Hathaway on emotional impulse in 1964. A New England textile company at the time, he kept the original business running at a loss for 20 years, before finally giving up and focusing on the company’s other, more profitable ventures.

      7. Cultivating a negative image.

      When you are a billionaire and have a brand to protect, you must behave like it. Anything negative that is said about you will reflect badly in your company and this is a mistake Alice Walton, heiress of the Walmart empire, has committed. Walmart is already involved in numerous controversies regarding the giant’s effect on small businesses and wages paid to workers. Walton’s own Texas escapades, which included a DWI, are negative publicity and include a mug shot no PR executive can wipe from Walmart’s already negative record.

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      8. Allowing credibility to plummet.

      A lot of business ventures depend on credit lines. It is important to remember that this is not only about paying your bills, but also about paying them on time. Used-to-be billionaire Eike Batista saw his oil and mineral empire plummet from more than $30 billion to a mere $200 million once key stakeholders lost trust in him after he failed to deliver the results he’d promised. Once Batista lost credibility in one area, he quickly lost it in all of them, and was forced to watch his empire shrink.

      9. Hiring the wrong people.

      Hiring is an important part of every business. Human capital is what makes a company prosper, but when hiring, keep in mind the ideals of each new hire and whether or not they fit with the company. A bad hire in an important position could be disastrous. Billionaire philanthropist Manoj Bhargava admits the worst business mistake he’s ever made is hiring the wrong people—those who enter his charity wholesale business hoping to help themselves instead of helping others.

      10. Being afraid of postponing.

      It is important to jump in to big opportunities; however, it is also important to do self-assessment to know whether or not you and your team are prepared for the next move. Billionaire Oprah Winfrey cites her TV network, OWN, as one of her biggest mistakes. Her blunder? Launching when she wasn’t ready to launch and doing so only because she said she would.

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      11. Taxes? What taxes?

      It hasn’t been proven whether or not billionaires avoid taxes more than the average citizen. However, a tax scandal is one of the most difficult things to recuperate from. The Beanie Baby creator, billionaire Ty Warner, barely escaped jail for allegedly owing $25 million in taxes, a report that will undoubtedly damage both his brand and reputation.

      Billionaire Make It Rain

        These are 11 mistakes that forced billionaires to clean up their act. As an aspiring billionaire, you should be able to learn from the mistakes of others and take these eleven points to heart as you continue your journey.

        Have you hit a stumbling block before that taught you a valuable lesson? If so, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

        Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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        Joel Goldstein

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        Last Updated on June 18, 2019

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

        No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

        Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

        Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

        A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

        Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

        In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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        From Making Reminders to Building Habits

        A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

        For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

        This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

        The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

        That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

        Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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        The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

        Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

        But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

        The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

        The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

        A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

        For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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        But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

        If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

        For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

        These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

        For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

        How to Make a Reminder Works for You

        Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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        Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

        Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

        My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

        Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

        I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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