What to learn from 25 entrepreneurs

IN July 2016 I read the book about the 25 entrepreneurs, who changed business as we know it. Here are some comments and points for inspiration .

1, Networking

Howard SchulzHoward Schulz, the founder of Starbucks, was given advice by Michael Dell during a three hour bike ride. It was in 2007, when his Starbucks was overtaken by McDonalds.

Inspiration for Starbucks came from Italy
Schulz was enchanted by small espresso bars in Milan and Verona & their community.

‘Investment in people must be consistent and grow in the future.’

‘Fear of failure is strong motivation.’

2, Contact with reality

JeffBezos‘In the old world, you spent 30 percent of time on taking care of customers and 70 percent on preparing your business. In the online world the ratio changed.’ Jeff Bezos

Not only listen to the customers but also fulfill their wishes. This is how Amazon Kindle was made.

‘I have never seen a successful manager who did not spend some time in the first line – at the lowest level of his business.’ = contact with reality.

  • Neville Jeffrey, the manager at Windermere**** hotel (where I worked) used to wear a grey suit with a tie and he was always sitting at the table with the most important guests. However, when the restaurant was crowded during breakfast and we – the waiters – were busy, he put down his jacket and started doing the dishes.

‘Intelligence is a gift. Kindness is a choice.’

  • More often it is much better to simply be kind to people than hurting them with the truth. It should come only later, when you know them and they trust you.

Every three months Bezos leaves for a few days – isolation boosts creativeness. Lock the door and no phone or internet.

  • I am still just getting to know myself via travel and isolation. The people in the book are brainstorming ideas for their companies that feed hundreds and influence millions: Amazon, Starbucks, Facebook… I should start to focus on the people first. I think I know myself enough to do that.
  • Travelling for a holiday, I stopped worrying about my ordinary issues  and immediately I stopped being hungry, my shoulder stopped swelling and I calmed down. All physiological changes have mental basis, enhanced by the environment and nutrition. I read the information on an anti-inflammatory drug and double checked from medical literature. Inflammation is a natural reaction to harmful substances and the swelling is caused also by lipid-like substances, similar to those that we ingest in food. Therefore the food and environment (preservatives, fast foot, smoke, artificial sweeteners, sugar…) can trigger inflammation. Clean diet and calm heal.
  • Spend more time alone but not by thinking what you could have done instead. Enjoy and reflect upon what you already did.
  • There is a period in life when you build. It might last 35, 40, 50 years. During this time you actively seek opportunities to make contacts and improve yourself. After that time you just maintain – work, family, hobbies.

3, Company culture = people

Herb Kelleher‘Foundation of any successful business are people.’ Herb Kelleher

At Southwest Airlines they do not have human resources department but people department.
Herb’s people fly the extra mile even for people who aren’t their customers.

  • When travelling or visiting, always bring some gift or something to share (chocolate, biscuits, a bottle…it should be something from your region)
  • Simply be like that – not only do your work well but do more and please the people. When did you last offer someone chips or gave them a massage?
  • Make it your value – do not feel worried that you did not tell everyone about an achievement, feel worried if you did and no one cared…

4, Drop off

Steve Jobs‘I stopped attending the compulsory subjects that were far from my interest and instead attended lectures that I liked.’ Steve Jobs 

He took caligraphy lectures, which influenced the design of Mac computers

Sometimes you should go back and reconnect the dots.

‘Half of entrepreneurship is endurance.’

  • At certain age we stop taking all what they give us and start to make choices according to our interests, skills and aspirations. By that time the authorities must teach us which interests are worth following (responsibility), how to evaluate our skills (objectiveness) and what are aspirations (dreams come true).

5, Childhood 

Herb Kohler‘Rebellion helped me to understand whom I really am’ Herbert Kohler Jr.

He returned to Yale and father’s company Kohler Co., and demanding being treated as an ordinary employee

‘The value you provide for the customers should be higher than the price they pay.’

With his children, he succeeded in the double-role father-employer. Kohler does not give anything for free but supports them in development.

  • Own family with children changes your way of life and you do not have so much time for work. It is harder to find the balance.

6, Integrity and human character

Dan LufkinDan Lufkin – the guy simple knew that the Wall Street will change its rules: in order to get more of permanent capital you must gather it via going public.

‘As an entrepreneur you cannot lose; you are getting lot of experience all the time.’

  • You learn a lot about yourself, about the people and you boost your confidence

Little prince: A pile of stones stops being pile of stones when you look at it with a vision of a cathedral.

7, Right environment

Michael DellMichael Dell earned 18,000 from newspaper subscription at 16 and became the youngest CEO at the Forbes 500 list.

‘Surround yourself with really intelligent people and cooperate and discuss lively. And know your business.’ Michael Dell

Impact of the social environment: if you are surrounded by the right people, you interests and activities will be oriented in the right way.

  • By observing the older team players, students and colleagues I acquired a lot of skills and behaviours that I used later.

John MackeyJohn Mackey from Whole Foods runs the business towards public conscious capitalism – built on creating value, not on earning money. He says that capitalism helped millions of people out of poverty.

The percentage of people living well increased, but the gap between them and those who weren’t lucky is profouding

  • You can run a business with people on the mind at a certain level, when you operate with capital that covers your basic costs. But starting entrepreneurs always have to feed their own mouth…

8, Negative example is also an example

Blank MarcusArthur Blank and Bernie Marcus learned from their despotic manager how not to treat people and when he fired them, they started successful store for handy men – Home Depot.

People should respect you, not fear you.
Selling at low margin but with high quality.

Joe from Goldman Sachs: when you reach billion turnover, it won’t be possible to visit the shop floor every day.

9, Original Ideas

Reed HastingsOriginal ideas often start with personal experience. Reed Hastings had to pay penalty for returning video with Apollo 13 too late. He got an idea and created Netflix, inspired by gym membership scheme.

Hastings had good background: worked as a door-to-door salesman, served in army, taught algebra and geometry, lived in Africa and sold a 750 million business.

‘That time I did kayaking, where I learnt that if you watch out for obstacles too much, they will come.’

In the future, the power of freedom will beat the power of control: people will find the online content they want.

10, Head for global reach

Reid HoffmanThree weeks of thinking and Reid Hoffman made the decision to start LinkedIn.

  • Do not make decisions in an instant – it’s emotion and that never lasts.

Hoffman studied cognitive sciences and philosophy (Stanford, Oxford)

‘…Academics write booms that are read by 50 or 60 people and I wanted something with bigger reach.’

‘…talk with every intelligent person who can give you feedback.’

‘I if you do not feel a shame over your first product, it means you brought it out too late.’

Starting a  business: have plan, market, competitive advantage, team, what are the risks?

‘If you just follow the example of others, you only make their footsteps deeper.’

11, See the opportunity

Bill GatesBill Gates revolutionized computing and now focuses on philanthropy: health, education, poverty…

He and Paul Allen got an offer to develop a software for IBM, where they realized that they can sell it to others as well and  ruin IBM – the competition. It was the beginning of the 400 billion business.

‘My best business decisions were in choosing my people.’

Choose the right people, work in small teams and provide them with good tools.

The work environment should be interesting, similar to university campuses.

Instead of a businessman, he wants to be referred to as a researcher.

Think Week: Once or twice a year, Bill Gates took a week off to focus on one thing, crucial to the business.

  • I do the same: I work on things that are important for me as an employee or a person. During spring holiday last year, I learnt the basics of programming but it will take a while till I start working on really big ideas in my free time. Programming is a good start.
  • Identify skills or knowledge that can help you and work on them. For me, a sport journalist, it is always useful to study grammar or stylistics, or read the biography of Zlatan Ibrahimovič – already recommended by several successful people.


‘If being a nerd means taking a 400 page book on vaccines and study it in order to better engage in conversation and inspire people – I am a nerd.’

12, Passion and interest 

S. Richard BransonBrand Virgin reflects Richard Branson‘s interests, passions and vices: air and rail transport, mobiles, finances, internet, hotels and travelling.

Branson turned the needs and services that he missed into his business. ‘If you spend about 80 percent of your life by work, you should do something that is your passion.’ Also you must know the thing well!

  • Ability to ‘get onto’ a topic that you do not like is a skill that increases your versatility.
  • My articles on mobile phones or air traffic are always better than on a topic which I do not like so much.

Branson is interested in many things and actively stands up to change what he does not like. Branson is a little bit of exhibicionist, whose ideas were supported by his parents. Parental support is really important and family environment has impact on the child’s development.

Small businesses are more flexible and it is easier to make changes within.

‘Relax and enjoy the time with your people. It’s important.’

  • Hotel manager Neville Jeffrey used to ask us out for a drink after a successful evening event.

Go out of the office and see how your business is doing, greet the people and have a note book to out down ideas.

13, Internal power

Oprah Winfrey‘What you cannot do is more important than what you can.’ Oprah Winfrey 

Surround yourself by smarter people than you, so that they help you forward.

  • Obviously a  woman…a man would not accept not being the smartest.
  • Oprah acts more intuitively and emotionally than rationally.

14, Creativity and youth optimism

Page and BrinYou do not have to wear suit to look serious – company culture with big balls instead of chairs. Good idea can emerge anywhere.

The father of Larry Page was a professor of computer science at university; the father of Sergey Brin had problems to enroll in astronomy in Moscow due to his antisemitic stances. He studied mathematics and tutored Sergey after the family migrated to America. Sergey met Page at Stanford University, where they started Google. 

Larry Page 

‘If you have an inspirational dream, write it down.’

‘There is really one innovative idea in a year.’

If it is a good idea and you know the business area, go for it regardless of the investment environment. But if you cannot defend the idea in front of yourself the next day, ditch it.

15, Brand loyalty 

Phil KinghtAs a track runner, Phil Knight realized how important good shoes are. Even 30 g lighter shoes are a plus. His company Nike was inspired by the Japanese manufacturing in the 60s and Phil Kinght‘s atletic coach, who sewed shoes for the athletes, added design & know-how.

Many big companies also started as small ideas in the garage. They must do the guerrilla marketing, knowing the way to the top and can making choices for partnership and support. It is called synergy. Nike started working with a young Romanian tennis player and in 1984 with Michael Jordan. People at Nike know that Tiger Woods will sell even after the scandal.

Simple recruitment: Where would you recruit running shoe sellers? On the track. They recruited track athletes.

16, Intention to win

Carlos NuzmanUnder the leadership of Carlos Nuzman, Rio won the right to host the 2016 Olympics, even when Obama personally lobbied for Chicago.

Former volleyball player and official, Nuzman helped Brazil to the Olympic wins in 1992 and 2004: ‘You must have winner mentality, believe that once you will be the winner.”

  • No sportsman goes to the duel with an intention to lose
  • Sport builds character, will and overcoming obstacles

Nuzman met each member of the International Olympic Committee at least five times, talking and coordinated the federal government, state and local  authorities.)

17, Immediate feedback

ZUCKERBERGMark Zuckerberg inspires millions of young people towards innovative and also crazy ideas. Hacker culture. He just wanted to create an application that would help with networking and contacts. Father taught him programming and also paid him a tutor.

Now thanks to the internet you can create something within a weekend…launch it and see how it performs on the market.

Zuckerberg has lot of in common with B. Gates: programming, drop out, small teams, hacking, ruining competition, stealing ideas

‘Biggest risk is not to risk.’

‘Be fast and do not afraid that you break something.’

– lifestyle of the hacker generation

 18, Stress is important

Eike Batista‘Stress is important, pressure prepares you for the challenges.’ Eike Batista

Batista raced on the motor boats. His personality combines German discipline and Brazilian passion. German mother taught him discipline; father taught him think big but Eike says that the parents should not make your life too comfortable

He left studies in Aachen and started mining in Amazon, extracting oil at the costs of 18 dollars per barrel. Batista did not even mind doing the manual work in the mine.

‘Once you start competing, it gets into your blood and you never get rid of it.’

  • Really, you carry the competitive spirit into every aspect of life, always you wanna be the best.
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