Software Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Bill Gates
In 1975, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft with his friend, Paul Allen. Within a few short years he was to become an internationally recognised entrepreneur at the head of the personal computer revolution. 1980 saw the first iteration of the Windows operating system closely followed by a suite of software packages later to become MS Office. The company went public in 1986.
With an estimated wealth in excess of $80bn, Gates is frequently recognised as the richest man in the world.
In 2000, Gates stepped down as Microsoft CEO to concentrate on philanthropic works through The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which aims to improve healthcare and help those in extreme poverty). Gates has also committed to donating at least half his wealth through the Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge.
Bill Gates’s Rules of Success
- Insist on maximum, efficient communication flow. Gates was fanatical about the flow of information through Microsoft to the extent that it has been claimed that failure to check email frequently enough was a sack-able offence.
- Leverage technology. As you would expect, Gates insisted on maximising the use of technology throughout his organisation, freeing intelligent people from drudgery that could be performed by machines. If it could be done or improved by a computer, it should be.
- Promote feedback. Every worker in Microsoft could track the flow of information and performance metrics. Using this information, every process could be improved.
- Focus on your unhappy customers. Whilst passionate about technology, Gates also understood the importance of customer service. Microsoft has systems in place to collect information from unhappy clients and send it to managers who have the power to resolve the issue, efficiently and quickly. Gates saw unhappy customers as an opportunity to improve his company, products and services.
- Eliminate inefficiency. From inventory management, sales, customer service, R&D, marketing Microsoft is ruthless about eliminating waste and inefficiency. The emphasis on allowing information to flow quickly to where it needs to go played a large part in Microsoft’s rapid growth and success.
- Be optimistic. If you are trying to achieve something challenging, do something new or achieve something others say is impossible, optimism is essential. Without it, you’ll likely give up when faced with inevitable obstacles. “Optimism is often dismissed as false hope but there is also false hopelessness” said Gates.
- Failure is a great teacher. Success can lead to complacency, cockiness and stagnation. Failure on the other hand drives you to review what went wrong, to fix problems and to improve. Everyone would prefer success over failure but used correctly failure will allow you to progress faster. Gates is not alone in highlighting the power of failing. Many other successful entrepreneurs echo the same sentiment, i.e. if you want to succeed, increase the number of mistakes. The trick is not to make the same mistake twice.
- Learn to focus. You are surrounded by distractions and many people never realise their goals because they chase too many “opportunities”. They go after the next shiny object instead of focusing on what’s important, right in front of them. “You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.”
- Embrace constructive criticism. Criticism often contains much-needed perspective that you need to hear. If you can learn to strip out the emotion and listen to what is being said (rather than how it’s being said) you can often discover ways to improve yourself and/or your business. Of course, there’s also unhelpful criticism and trolls and it’s up to you what you take on board. But if you respect the critic, if you believe they have your interests at heart, listen to what they’re saying and learn from it.
- “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point.”
- “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”
- “If I’d had some set idea of a finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?”