Are you born to be a billionaire?
Empire builders like Bill Gates and Sam Walton aren't just great businessmen. They are bona fide revolutionaries.business Updated: Aug 24, 2009 15:21 IST
Empire builders like Bill Gates and Sam Walton aren't just great businessmen. They are bona fide revolutionaries.
Self-made billionaires don't dominate industries--they transform them and spawn new ones. That takes more than intelligence, courage and luck. It takes divine-like vision.
Billionaire entrepreneurs are "not working within the confines of the current market," says Gerald Kraines, chief executive of the Levinson Institute, a business consulting firm in Jaffey, N.H. "They're anticipating things much further afield. You have to see spaces that no one else sees."
The world's self-made billionaires certainly have vision in spades, spanning everything from how computers work to how people shop. But the ability to see around corners isn't the only quality that separates the very accomplished from the stratospherically wealthy. To crack the $1 billion barrier, you need total, unwavering belief in your vision--and an immutable will to pull it off.
"[Billionaire entrepreneurs] need a deep passion and a point of view about the future," says Peter Skarzynski, chief executive of Strategos, a Chicago-based consulting firm that advises global companies, including Nokia (nyse: NOK - news - people ) and Whirlpool (nyse: WHR - news - people ). "They fundamentally believe that they have a better way to solve a set of problems than how they're being solved now."
Billionaires also have a seemingly ravenous appetite for risk. It's hard enough for many of us to muster the courage to abandon our cubicles and start a small company, let alone build an empire. And while the risks pile up as businesses expand, billionaires have a confidence bordering on arrogance that checks their fear and doubt, says Skarzynski.
Are you a born billionaire? Before you tackle a serious growth strategy and all its attendant hassles, ask yourself some hard questions at the outset, says executive psychologist Debra Condren, who has worked with big names like 3M (nyse: MMM - news - people ), Chevron (nyse: CVX - news - people ) and Hewlett-Packard (nyse: HPQ - news - people ).
The most important one: Why go big at all? Are you looking to cash out in a sale? Enamored of the thought of having your own stock ticker? Suffused with competitive desire? Whatever your reason, get a grip on it before you decide to kick your zealous pursuits into high gear.
Next, ask yourself if you are willing to make tough decisions for the growth of your company. If you have an intense loyalty to the small group who helped get things off the ground, understand that those folks may not be able to come along for the ride. If you're not comfortable supplanting (or firing) them, stay small.
For entrepreneurs who prize their independence, ask yourselves how much of it you're willing to give up. As the demands mount, both your schedule and decisions become less your own; worse, you may have investors and board members to appease.
"It becomes very hard for company founders to accept that they are no longer the real boss," says Carl Robinson, a psychologist who works primarily with growing, middle-market companies.
Like holding forth in public? You'd better, because companies of any significant size need a public face. Entrepreneurs who thrive on public performances--weekly meetings, shareholder gripe sessions, even television interviews--have an easier time than those who shun the spotlight.
"You need to have the ability to fill a room and inspire people," says Condren. If public speaking isn't your forté, but you're still hankering to grow, find a confident substitute who can sell your story.
Not only do you have to be able to communicate, you need a knack for building consensus. In most cases, the bigger your business, the more input you need from those around you--and that means being willing and able to marshal them to your cause. Have a my-way-or-the-highway mentality? Can your growth plans.
In the end, chasing billionaire status--and not crashing along the way--is as much about knowing who you are as it is about knowing how to nab new customers or manage inventory. Who knows? Maybe a modest $100 million might be a better fit.