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10 Work Strategies You Can Learn from These Billionaires with a Humble Past

10 Work Strategies You Can Learn from These Billionaires with a Humble Past

Work strategies are the means and ways of every person who strives toward greater success. But what of those who ‘made it’? The ones who went from rags-to-riches? Are there such people? Or are the rich simply born with luck or a silver spoon?

Certainly, productivity techniques learned from some of the greatest authors of all time are one key to success. But there are other strategies that, while surprising, can be learned from those who made it big after starting with nearly nothing.

1. Howard Schultz: Stay Curious

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    Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of Starbucks and who now has a net worth of over $1.5 billion, started as a lowly salesman for the Xerox Corporation. Out of curiosity, he joined Starbucks as their Director of Marketing, as he was duly impressed with the then small coffee shop. On a trip to Italy, Schultz learned of the social aspects of coffee. He brought back the idea of coffee being social, as well as introducing espresso to the small company. The company grew from only 60 shops to over 16,000 outlets worldwide.

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    Schultz grew up in one of the housing projects in New York City. Of his humble beginnings Schultz says, “Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like.”

    2. Oprah Winfrey: Believe In Yourself
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      Today, Oprah Winfrey’s net worth is $3 billion. But she grew up in abject poverty in Mississippi, and later Michigan and then Tennessee. At the age of 16 she started in the radio business, and at only 19 become a co-anchor on the local nightly news. She now owns her own network as well as a magazine, and is a generous philanthropist. Oprah was awarded the President’s Medal of Freedom and received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. Oprah Winfrey notes of her success, “You become what you believe. You are where you are today in your life based on everything you have believed.” She went on to add, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” Rather Oprah remained singularly focused on her goal to succeed, driving herself onward to greater and greater success.

      3. Kenneth Langone: Live Your Success

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        Kenneth Langone, has a net worth of over $2.1 billion. Langone is best known for co-founding The Home Depot. Yet, he too began his journey born into poverty. He worked as a ditch digger, a butcher’s assistant and as a golf caddy. He attended the New York Stern School of Business part time in the evening, while holding down a full-time job. The Stern School is now referred to as the “Langone Program” at NYU. After a successful business venture with Ross Perot, Langone went on to study business involving home improvement. He is also well known for his philanthropic works that involve helping children, universities and more.

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        4. Shahid Khan: Move Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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          Shahid Khan moved from his Pakistani home to the United States at the age of 16. He became a dish washer at only $1.20 an hour and lived at a local YMCA. Khan’s net worth now is over $3.8 billion. He’s the owner of Flex ‘N Gate, a manufacturing company with company headquarters in Urbana, Illinois. Khan became an American citizen in 1991. He is also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the English soccer club Fulham. Khan has been recognized for his generosity to various charities.

          5. Kirk Kerkorian: Keep Fighting For Your Dream

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            Kirk Kekorian quit school in the eighth grade to help his Armenian-immigrant family financially. He dreamed of becoming a boxer and was known as “Rifle Right Kerkoria.” He won the Pacific amateur welterweight championship, but then went on to fly planes to Britain during World War II. Near the end of the war, he flew over Las Vegas and began to dream a different dream. Along with Martin Stern Jr. (touted as the ‘father’ of the mega-resort), he went on to build Las Vegas as it is today. Kekorian has a net worth of over $3.9 billion.

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            6. Kenny Troutt: Where There’s A Will There’s A Way

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              Kenny Troutt was born into poverty and his father was a bartender. Troutt went on to pay for his college tuition through selling life insurance. He founded Excel Communications, using the then innovative Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) technique. Troutt became a billionaire when he sold the company in 1998 for $3.5 billion.

              7. Beth Comstock: Know The Value Of Teamwork

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                Beth Comstock learned the value of teamwork while working at a Rubbermaid Factory. Upon graduation from the College of William and Mary, she took a job in local television production in Virginia. Currently, she is the senior vice president and chief marketing officer with General Electric. Comstock also helped found the popular Hulu network. Comstock credits her earlier hard work for driving her ever onward in her highly successful career.

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                8. Warren Buffett: Earn, Save, And Give Back

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                  Warren Buffett sold newspapers at the tender age of 11. Since then he has accomplished a great deal, primarily due to his skill in making investments. With a net worth of over $58 billion, Buffett is widely known for his philanthropic efforts. Of his wealth Buffett has said, “I don’t have a problem with guilt about money. The way I see it is that my money represents an enormous number of claim checks on society. It’s like I have these little pieces of paper that I can turn into consumption. If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture every day for the rest of my life. And the GDP would go up. But the utility of the product would be zilch, and I would be keeping those 10,000 people from doing AIDS research, or teaching, or nursing. I don’t do that though. I don’t use very many of those claim checks. There’s nothing material I want very much. And I’m going to give virtually all of those claim checks to charity when my wife and I die.” He and his wife still reside in their humble home in Nebraska, which he bought for $31,500 in 1957.

                  9. John Paul DeJoria: Don’t Stop Trying For Your Success

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                    John Paul DeJoria lived in a foster home and even lived in his car. He created the John Paul Mitchell Hair Care System with a loan of a mere $700. He also founded Patron Tequila and today has a net worth of over $4 billion. DeJoria joined with Nelson Mandela in the Food4Africa effort and helped provide over 200,000 meals for children.

                    10. Ralph Lauren: Stay Focused On Your Dream

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                      Ralph Lauren began his career in clothing as a clerk at Brooks Brothers. It was there that Lauren started dreaming of more variety and colors in men’s ties. In 1967, he sold $700,000 of those types of ties. The next year he started the Polo line of clothing. His net worth today is over $7 billion.

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                      Published on March 20, 2019

                      How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

                      How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

                      Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

                      As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

                      While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

                      What is a Mission Statement?

                      Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

                      In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

                      “Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

                      In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

                      Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

                      While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

                      First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

                      While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

                      While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

                      “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

                      This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

                      What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

                      When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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                      Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

                      When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

                      • What we do?
                      • How we do it?
                      • Whom do we do it for?
                      • What value are we bringing?

                      Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

                      After all, that did check off all the boxes:

                      What we do? Provide widgets.

                      How we do it? Online.

                      Who do we do it for? The consumer.

                      What value we bring? The best widgets.

                      The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

                      Compare that mission statement to this one:

                      “We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

                      What’s the difference?

                      Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

                      Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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                      You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

                      A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

                      Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

                      1. Keep It Brief

                      Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

                      You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

                      2. Have a Purpose

                      A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

                      Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

                      3. Include a “How”

                      Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

                      How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

                      4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

                      This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

                      Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

                      5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

                      It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

                      Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

                      6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

                      Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

                      7. Think Long Term

                      A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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                      8. Get Feedback

                      This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

                      Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

                      9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

                      You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

                      First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

                      And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

                      For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

                      The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

                      It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

                      First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

                      If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

                      Strategic Planning

                      A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

                      Measuring Performance

                      By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

                      Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

                      Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

                      Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

                      As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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                      Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

                      To Hold Management Accountable

                      By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

                      So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

                      If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

                      To Serve as an Example

                      This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

                      After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

                      Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

                      Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

                      Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

                      That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

                      By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

                      More Resources About Achieving Business Success

                      Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
                      [2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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