Four Unique Lessons from a Billionaire
We strolled the golf course at his pace - a slow, relaxing speed. It was just enough to get good exercise and enjoy the rare favorable Texas weather. As we walked past an extravagant home bordering the course, he began telling me a story. A story about how he offered that homeowner their first true opportunity in big business. They had very little experience, but did have a lot of gumption and integrity. “Now they can easily afford one of the biggest homes on this course,” he told me.
And he would know. This was coming from a guy (We will call him “Bill” for the purposes of this story) who at one point owned the entire neighborhood and golf course itself, until it became smarter to sell it and make a ton of money. I knew if I listened carefully enough, my trial-by-fire business experience would become a flashover with the genius insight he offered.
My conversations with Bill grew deeper as we became closer and he trusted me on a personal level. My firm was hired to take responsibility for his personal security. However, we essentially lived with him – gladly executing duties that were better described as that of a concierge, driver or gopher (with high-level security knowledge). His investment record was impeccable. Everything he was involved in turned to gold. People came out of the woodwork to get him involved in their ventures in some capacity, whether good or evil-intended. Herein was my first lesson.
Lesson 1: DO NOT ACCEPT FAILURE, ESPECIALLY ONE CAUSED BY EGO
Bill had many close friends who he started out in his businesses and were in turn, made into millionaires and billionaires in short order. Those stories of success and loyalty though, also came with periphery stories of scams, thefts and fake relationships. My job was not only to protect him from physical harm, but also to shield him from embarrassment, brand damage or situations that could quickly become problematic. I addressed my concerns for him often but he rarely heeded my advice. He wanted the bad and the good. It came with the territory. If I pointed out that a certain person only came around when they wanted to get more money out of him, he would simply counter with why he enjoyed that person’s company. It was justification for his wealthy disposition, but it also illustrated his ability to maintain control.
On one occasion, we were discussing an issue in my firm whereby an employee had taken advantage of a situation for personal gain at the expense of our reputation. I was beside myself. “How do you keep from bringing in people that won’t turn on you the first time they see more money?” I asked Bill. I was expecting some kind of deeply insightful answer to all of my hiring practices and intuitive read on people. What I got was a lesson in simplicity and entrepreneurial suitability. “You just hire people that are great at what they do and let them do it. Every successful business has failures, but if you are the leader, you just get back up and do it again. There really is not another way.”
It was succinct, simple, and if you are not cut from the entrepreneurial cloth, you won’t understand its genius. It also led to the second lesson I took away from the experience.
Lesson 2: IF YOU ARE A LEADER, YOU CANNOT LOSE FAITH IN PEOPLE
Bill was highly educated, conquering a prestigious business school before venturing out on his own. A widely known financial firm picked him right out of school but he knew all along that he really wanted to do his own thing. He soon left the firm in search of the way to prove he could succeed on his own. Despite his education and launch into business with a successful firm, his maiden voyage into business entrepreneurialism was a colossal failure. He was responsible for losing a significant amount of money for several people. However, his charisma, confidence and what I call his entrepreneurial stubbornness, created a mulligan out of this first debacle.
Bill was granted a second chance that eventually launched him into investment stardom. He made millions for his client and many others. As he grew, he leveraged smart people he trusted. He maintained the unwavering determination that a business owner must have, but even though he shouldered the responsibility, he allowed others to be involved in integral ways. He turned over sensitive accounts entirely to many of these people - people whom he had a great deal of respect for their knowledge and abilities. These people either perpetuated his rock star status, or rained on his parade and launched themselves into their own rich niche, taking all of their bad karma with them. The fact remains, he still stood by his principle. He knew he couldn’t do everything alone. He needed great people that believed like he did, that success was right around the corner. He’d take the baggage that came with the plan, like misses on choosing people he believed in that just wanted it all for themselves, without paying dues.
These self-centered, greedy people always get what is coming to them in some form or another anyway. They are not worth any of your energy. Just get rid of them, learn what you can do differently next time, and move on. Your clients and your business await your next great thing and you cannot present it with those losers on your mind. The few I am aware of in Bill’s case are wealthy, but are also completely miserable. They have no regard for others as they protect their precious belongings and their rich façade. They know others will come along who are just like them – and they will. It’s the way people are. You have to continue to learn; financially hedging your business in a way to safely place your faith in people who you believe are the best fit, and take the good with the bad.
Lesson 3: BE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE
I may not have lived this lesson perfectly in the beginning of my business adventure. Sometimes I needed a good dose of reality to learn some things the hard way. But this has remained a key ideal that has turned my perception of money handling and its relation to maintaining a profitable business around.
Bill and I were out on another walk one day, when a kid selling slices of pie for his organization approached us. For security reasons, I stepped up to address him to make sure he was legit. Once I had vetted him, a thought occurred to me: “This is going to be this kid’s luckiest day ever! He doesn’t realize he is asking a friendly, generous multi-billionaire to help his cause.” I turned to explain to Bill what the situation was. This kid was legit and had a noble cause to support. Since I was holding his money at the time, I asked Bill with an anxious smirk, “How much would you like to give this nice kid for his pie?” expecting his joyous answer to be a C-note, plus. Bill’s very even-toned and candid response provided a lesson that has stuck in my mind as vividly as anything I have ever heard.
“Well, how much is the pie worth?”
Lesson 4: BE YOURSELF
Bill has his shortcomings. We all do. Part of his business genius though, was strategically collecting pieces to his puzzle of success that fit in places where his own did not. For instance, despite his business savvy, he could be easily angered. When this happened, as his personality dictated, he would designate someone to go address the issue or fire someone. In many cases, he might never see the person again who so infuriated him. This was not necessarily the most advantageous way to handle a situation, but it was his way. He was always himself. He was overtly personable, casual, funny, playful, gullible, serious, charismatic, active, womanizing, irritable, spontaneous and still as successful as they come. He treated his staff, coworkers, clients and in my case, contractors all the same – naturally. He is a revered financial status symbol for many, but to me, he is a good, admirable, down to earth man. His example allowed me to easily provide him services and for others to know what was expected. It was key to his success.
Though I am not a billionaire, I have taken this rare experience and turned it into an opportunity to learn and pass valuable lessons on to my business family as we continue to move through our own success story.
About the Author: Tegan Broadwater is the Founder & COO of Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) – An executive-level security and investigations firm in Fort Worth, Texas. TSN’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to private wealth individuals, schools and businesses. He is an ex-municipal law enforcement officer and the author of “LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL, The true story of how one white cop infiltrated and took down 41 of the nation’s most notorious Crips.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TSN: www.TSNLLC.com
TO BUY A COPY OF TEGAN’s BOOK: www.FishBowl41.com