One of the best ways to learn is from your mistakes or others. There is a bountiful knowledge of business advice from those who have gone before you. One could spend weeks researching all the knowledge that was amassed by Harry Gordon Selfridge, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, etc. (Fifty fake points to you if you know who Harry Gordon Selfridge is.) I am constantly reading biographies (and when available the autobiography) of famous entrepreneurs. I have acquired massive knowledge over the years on a variety of topics. In this blog, I’m listing my five favorite business tips from tycoons who came before us.
#1 Richard Branson: Put employees first
Richard Branson has amassed a global empire in the name of Virgin that spans almost every aspect of lives from cell phones to air travel to condoms (though…wisely he chose to give the latter a separate name from Virgin). His companies remain some of the most sought after places to work and its for one simple reason: he puts employees first. Employees are not a secondary or third thought to him. When a major shift is occurring one of his first thoughts is how will this affect the employees? Virgin Group is constantly researching and implementing new policies, benefits and good old fashioned fun to ensure employee happiness. If you don’t have employees, think about your spouse if they help you invest. Or your general contractor that you call on for help. It is simple to institute policies that make them happy and put them first. If you are providing materials for your G.C. be sure they will arrive on time for when he wants to start the work. Stop by the first day and see if there is anything you overlooked when purchasing supplies. If the work was done well, and on time get them a little something to show your appreciation. Like a food or gas gift card. (Even better if you know your G.C.’s preferred home improvement store for tools, get them a gift card from there.)
#2 Bill Gates: Handle conflict immediately
Bill Gates needs no introduction…he is Bill Gates after all. Most of us use some device associated with Microsoft every day. People have reported on his desire to address conflict and disagreements immediately. This has been a cornerstone that has helped his business collaborations be so successful that even while the product may not succeed, the process was successful for both sides. When Bill is reading correspondence or hears of a disagreement he immediately makes note of it and brings it to the attention of those associated with the transaction if he is not personally involved. He doesn’t gloss over it thinking that the person handling the task will address the issue. If he is personally involved, he composes an email (or depending on the urgency of the disagreement makes a phone call) right away. Even if it is just to acknowledgement that there is a disagreement and he needs 24 hours to meet with his team.
Conflict does not go away if ignored, nor is it forgotten. Conflicts are often made worse when we don’t act to resolve the situation. I learned personally first hand how this happens many times before I had my ah-ha moment learning about Bill Gates.
#3 Warren Buffet: Only invest in what you know
It seems simple enough…but do we really practice it in our business dealings? Warren Buffet claims part of his success is due to the fact that he only invests in what he knows. He invested in Coca-Cola because he likes Coke and drinks it. He hasn’t invested in computers because he doesn’t know computers. He sparingly uses one (he claims to have never sent an email in his life). Do you know what your investing in? Not just well duh it’s real estate. But the neighborhood, the architecture of property, the size of the property, etc. If you don’t know, then you need to find the answers. Research the problems that come with owning a older subdivided home. Make sure you know the municipal codes that might affect your rentals.
#4 Elon Musk: Focus on the product or service
Elon Musk is the introverted mind behind SpaceX and Tesla. He is said to be the Albert Einstein of this generation with his deep grasp of science and technology. Musk is often criticized for laser like focus, which often translates into poor people skills. Yet this laser like focus on his product is what has made SpaceX and Tesla pioneers in their industry. Musk focuses on the product he is producing rather than the nuances and process because he believes if the product isn’t up to standards, then the rest doesn’t matter. Focusing on the product of providing safe, clean, and comfortable housing should be the focus of any landlord. Always make sure the unit (your product) speaks for itself independent of anything else. Everything should be in working order, cleaned, and in a good state of repair. Focusing on your product will make other areas of your business run smoothly (move-ins, repairs, etc).
#5 Walt Disney: Believe in what you are doing
Walt Disney really doesn’t need any introduction. Disney would not have become what it is today if Walt himself had not believed in what he was doing. Walt enjoyed creating cartoons and entertaining people with stories, his passion bled into Disney. If you want to be truly successful at what you do you have believe in it. The old adage says if you don’t believe in your business, no one else will. Do you believe in the housing you are providing? Do you believe you are the landlord you should to be? (I don’t mean Scrooge McDuck rolling in the quarters.) If you answered no to either one of these, you need to take some time to think about what would make you believe in yourself. What changes do you have to make?