How To Start Leading Your Company The Way A Billionaire Would: Three Insights From The World’s Top Business Leaders
One of my colleagues at CEO Coaching International, Rick Sapio, has a unique hobby: since the 2008 economic crisis, he’s interviewed over 40 billionaires to understand what habits and strategies set them apart from the mere successful millionaires of the world.
Here are three insights on billionaire behaviors that Rick shared on a recent episode of my podcast, On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow!
- “A billionaire doesn’t do anything…”
“One of the patterns I realized with billionaires is they’re really, really good at finding the people to run their various entities,” says Rick. While a struggling CEO might run himself ragged micromanaging, renowned restauranteur Phil Romano told Rick, “a billionaire doesn’t do anything, they don’t even move a pinky, unless they find the perfect person to run the business.”
Billionaires know their time is valuable. According to Rick, many of them don’t even have an office to tie them down! Instead they cultivate an air of inaccessibility: Richard Branson said he bought an island because “I didn’t want people to get to me.”
The Branson’s and Romano’s of the business world don’t waste their days making up for underperforming employees; they hire Grade-A talent who free them to focus on the company’s vision. And when they find those top performers, they do whatever it takes to hire and keep them: bonuses, profit-sharing, good salaries and benefits. “I’ve learned if you can compensate people correctly, a lot of the motivation and values alignment issues go away,” says Rick.
- Be a pointer.
In a 1962 speech, John F. Kennedy pointed to the moon. He didn’t then go off and build the Space Shuttle. He didn’t train the astronauts. He didn’t put himself in charge of Mission Control. Sadly, he didn’t even live to see his dream realized. But he pointed at a BIG goal, and the whole country followed him, even after he was gone.
Billionaires, effective CEOs, and successful companies, think and act with that same sense of vision, and that same can-do bravado. Their targets may not be the Moon, but they’re still clear targets, defined by what Rick calls, “catalyzing statements.” Domino’s famously aimed for pizza delivery in “30 minutes or less.” Volvo set its sights on making the safest cars in the world. Bill Gates envisioned a computer on every desktop.
All BIG successes start with that kind of vision. “What really inspires me most about billionaires is they point to where they want to go and they inspire people,” says Rick. “I watched Phil Romano do this with a brand-new company he’s starting. He got 200 people in a room, and he just pointed to the future and got them excited.”
Early in my career, I rode an elephant into an annual meeting to rally my employees around my vision. How are you inspiring your employees? Do they all know where you’re pointing? Do they know the specific, measurable, actionable steps they have to take to get there?
- The KISS approach.
Richard Branson is a leader in aviation, media, real estate, and philanthropy. But he keeps everything organized under one simple brand umbrella: Virgin.
“By applying a brand and a holding entity to everything he does, the value of the companies increases,” notes Rick. “They all work together promoting the same brand, and cross-pollination saves on expenses.” When Rick started his first company, he made it a holding company—following firsthand advice from Warren Buffet—and he credits that strategy with making his business dealings a whole lot easier. “A holding company is one of those profound yet simple things that has radically simplified my life, but created value that didn’t exist before,” he says.
Even if your company’s activities aren’t diverse enough to require a holding company, keeping it simple is a lesson for any business. Cut away satellite offices or products that aren’t profitable. Use your sales comp to focus your salespeople on the products that turn the most profit. And if your company is in a jam, don’t throw a bunch of desperate ideas at the wall and hope something sticks: refocus all activities on the vision that animated the company in the first place.
So start running your company like a billionaire would. Move to “CEO Island” and let your employees sweat the small stuff. Point every person and every activity towards an inspiring HOT. Embrace the ultimate sophistication: the simplicity that comes from an uncluttered desk and a focused company vision. Maybe even set your sights on a billion in revenue!
Start thinking like a billionaire, you’ll start leading like one, and you’ll make BIG happen for your company.