7 Key Business Lessons Bill Gates Taught me
Have you heard of Bill Gates? Of the 7 billion plus people on the surface of this earth, I can bet you good money that at least 50% will answer in the affirmative.
And why wouldn’t they? His story is awe-inspiring. He is a school dropout, from Harvard of all institutions. He founded Microsoft at the age of 19, with dogged determination and a searing passion for computer programming and now we all know his name.
In the 30 years that Forbes has been putting together a definitive list of the world’s richest people, only five men have shared the top spot as the world’s richest person.
Now here is an interesting statistic. For 17 of the 30 years, that man was Bill Gates. Even more exciting is the fact that he sat atop the list for 13 consecutive years (1995 – 2007).
With an estimated net worth of $76 billion in his kitty, he is currently the world’s richest man.
Mr. Gates’ rise, though meteoric was not instant and definitely not smooth sailing. One thing is certain from his challenges victories and defeats – this man certainly knows how to do business as he has set the bar pretty high.
He is unarguably one of the best, if not the best person on the planet to glean from when it comes to advice on entrepreneurship. So let us do just that – learn from him I mean. Here are a few entrepreneurial nuggets of wisdom I have picked up over time from studying the person of Bill Gates. They are business lessons Bill Gates taught me.
- Be passionate about what you are going into
Bill Gates’ first encounter with a computer came in 1968 when he was 13 years of age. In a time when computers were rare and expensive, his school had purchased one.
He along with other students spent hours on end trying to learn how it worked and trying to learn programming. That experience was a catalyst that propelled him into the success story that is the rest of his life – till date that is.
Over the years, he spent more time on computers than anyone else we know. And not because he wanted to make profit for his startup. No. He just plain loved computers. Yes, the word is love.
The success that Mr. Gates has achieved in his life can be traced back to one tiny factor – his passion for computers.
This goes to show that being passionate about your chosen field of endeavor is a very important factor in entrepreneurship. Also, it is arguably the greatest catalyst to propel you into business success. If you have no passion for what you are doing, then there is honestly no point continuing.
2. Keep at it…again and again
The key word here is consistency. You cannot sign up for a marathon, build up your endurance for only 100 meters and expect to win the race.
You need to understand that most of the time, success is achieved after failure. It never comes on a platter of gold. If it does, it is not success; it is inheritance.
Windows 1.0 and 2.0 were monumental failures, the former more than the latter. But Bill did not give up. He kept on working on it and fixing the problems to make it better. And finally Windows 3.0 came on the scene – success had finally arrived.
Now if Mr. Gates had not kept at it, there would have been no Microsoft and his would just be a story of what could have been.
So learn from him. If things are not working out as foreseen, do not lose heart. Success does not come overnight. Keep at it.
3. Remain level headed at all times
Whenever someone starts a business, the plan is because he/she wants to succeed at it, right? So this means success is a good thing.
The after effect of success, however, is another issue altogether. When positive things happen for your business, you might be tempted to think that you are invincible. Well, I believe by now we have seen a lot of business crash enough to know that this is simply untrue.
Always keep a level head, maintain a humble heart, and never lose sight of what you have passed through to get where you are. Life can be pretty unpredictable. Businesses have gone from net profit to filing for bankruptcy in the twinkling of an eye. So do not let success get the better of you.
In Mr. Gates words, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose”.
4. Be proud of who you are
Role models have one primary importance – to inspire us. A lot of us have slumped into depression because we have tried and failed at being as skilled, wealthy or famous as our role models. This is because, we have gone past inspiration and are trying to become them.
The truth is we all have different skills and passions. As entrepreneurs, most times these talents and desires are compatible with industries completely different from those of our role models. You must never forsake yours because you are trying to be exactly like someone else.
Find out who you are and what you will like to be – and do with your life and own it. Stop trying to be like someone else; no one has ever been successful at trying to be someone else.
Once again, Mr. Gates, “Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so you are insulting yourself”
5. Tell…and show
Actions speak louder than words. People respond more to what they are shown than to what they are told. Bill Gates and Paul Allen always had already started spreading the word about the graphic user interface as the future of computers.
They did this in every seminar and gathering they attended. And of course no one believed them. By this time, Windows 1.0 was not yet in existence.
Later when Microsoft and Apple launched Windows 1.0 and Macintosh respectively, suddenly people began to pay attention. The graphic user interface was no longer a dream; it was reality. This opened the door the door for many other companies to jump into this new market niche and start producing software.
If you have an idea, the best way people are going to believe that your idea works is if you show them that it does instead of just talking up a storm.
6. Create solutions, not products
According to Mr. Gates, people do not buy your product or your brand, they buy a solution. When people patronize your product/service, it is because it offers the solution to their problems.
Always focus on making sure what you sell, sufficiently solved the need it was created to address. You are looking in the wrong direction when you spend your resources trying to build a brand at the expense of the product. When your customers trust your product/service enough to keep coming to you, then you will have created a brand.
Even then, never forget that solving their problem is and will always be the priority.
7. Do not leave a single customer behind.
Happy customers and unhappy ones are equally important to any business. Their feedback and criticism is necessary for the sustenance of your business.
The happy customers tell you what you can do better (they provide insight) and the unhappy ones tell you what not to do (they–mostly unknowingly–provide constructive rebuke).
Microsoft are skilled at milking the wisdom from these seemingly disagreeing parties to constantly improve their products.
For instance, when Microsoft was done making Windows 9, like every prior version, they released a beta version of the operating system for people to try out and give feedback on it. The feedback was mostly negative. So finally, they had to pull it from the market as it was not satisfactory to their customers.
The damage that would have befallen the company would have been unimaginable had they not listened to their customers.