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How the Top Billionaires Grew Their Net Worth: A Breakdown of the Business Tactics of the World’s Richest Men

One of the best ways to grow your net worth is to learn the strategies of the super rich–men who are worth billions. These gentlemen have obviously mastered the business and investing game and by applying these principles to our own lives, it’s bound to improve our odds for success, too.

Below, you’ll learn about the 6 richest men’s paths to the top and the tactics they implemented to help them get there.

The men are listed in order of their current net worth, from highest to “lowest” (with “lowest” being a relative term in regards to people worth billions):

1. Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos with blue background

Net Worth: $111 B

Bezos was already successful before starting Amazon. Before founding the company, he worked as a senior vice president at an investment firm. But he saw the growth rate of the then-nascent world wide web and took a chance by quitting his job.

Starting with books in 1995, Bezos knew he wanted to branch out into other products but focused on mastering the book-selling process first. He added CDs and videos in 1998 and consumer electronics in 1999.

Bezos knew that others could benefit from having a platform to sell their own products so, in 2000, he introduced Amazon Marketplace. Adding to meeting desires of the masses, Amazon Prime was launched in 2005 and Prime Instant Videos was added in 2011.

Amazon continues to grow at record speed. It currently has a market cap of over 1 trillion, the second company in history to hit that mark (behind Apple).

Bezos’s Key Business Strategies:

  • In the beginning, when your team is small, master one process or area before branching out. Bezos focused on getting good at selling books before adding other products to Amazon.
  • Invest in the future and have a vision of where you want your business to go. This includes recognizing growing trends and beating other companies to the punch.
  • Bezos believes that there is no competition when you meet the customers’ needs better than anyone else. For example, Amazon offers free and fast shipping to make it even more enticing to buy from them rather than another retailer.
  • Keep risking and innovating. Bezos has said Amazon has had “billions of failures” but they keep trying until they get it right.

2. Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Net Worth: $108 B

In 1975, Gates, still a student at Harvard, and his future business partner, Paul Allen were bold enough called up a company called MITS after seeing their ad in a magazine about a microcomputer, called the Altair 8800.

They informed the company they had written software for their new microcomputer—even though they hadn’t actually written the code yet. Only when MITS showed interest did Gates and Allen take the time to write the code. Allen then moved to New Mexico to work for MITS and Gates took a leave of absence to join him.

In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft when it needed an operating system for its PC. Gates was able to close the deal, even though Microsoft didn’t have the operating system yet. He then purchased an operating system from a small Seattle company and adapted it to fulfill this need.

In a genius business deal, the operating system was licensed to IBM but Microsoft retained the right to license the operating system to other companies. This move allowed Gates to sell the system to other computer companies, which contributed greatly to its net worth.

Microsoft bundled a group of desktop applications and released Office in 1989. This was quickly followed by the release of their new operating system named Windows in 1990, which Apple claimed was a copycat of their Mac OS. Gates made deals to have Windows and Office pre-installed on every computer sold, which catapulted sales.

Since then, it has diversified from the operating system market by acquiring numerous companies including LinkedIn and Skype Technologies.

In 2019, Microsoft reached the trillion-dollar market cap, becoming the third U.S. public company to be valued at over $1 trillion.

Gates’s Key Business Strategies:

  • Find out if they’re is a need first and then build it. Whether your customer is individuals or other businesses, talk to them first before you invest your time and money.
  • Maintain copyright ownership for the products and ideas you create. This can prove to be invaluable for future business deals.
  • Bundle your products to create a “packaged deal.” Customers love packaged deals. It makes them feel like you’re completely fulfilling their needs and that they are also getting more bang for their buck.
  • Be aware of what your competitors are doing well and come up with your own version of it. Even though Apple ended up suing Microsoft for what they felt was a copyright infringement, Gates wasn’t afraid to develop his own version of the Apple product he thought was impressive. (Apple eventually lost the case.)

3. Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault head shot

Net Worth: $107 B

Arnault started his career by working for his father’s manufacturing company. Five years in, he convinced his father to ditch the construction division and expand into the real estate market—which turned out to be a shrewd business move.

In 1984, Arnault took control of Boussac, a struggling textile company that owned the fashion house Christian Dior, the department store Le Bon Marché and other assets. This began Arnault’s long tenure in the luxury business.

A few years later, Arnault invested in LVMH, then became its chairman and CEO in 1989. The following year, LVMH gained control of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey,

LVMH has continued to take over numberous luxury fashion houses over the years including Christian LaCroix, Givenchy, Céline and more. It also added the beauty supply chain Sephora in 1997.

LVMH has also invested in a plethora of other luxury brands from Gucci Group, Fendi, Tag Heuer and many more. Between its ownership and both minority and majority stake in 70 different brands, LVMH is the largest conglomerate in the luxury industry.

Arnault’s Key Business Strategies:

  • Don’t be afraid to change direction. Arnault convinced his father to ditch construction and go into the real estate business. Then Arnault himself maneuvered into luxury goods. Arnault follows the money and opportunities.
  • Keep buying assets. It’s unlikely, of course, that any of us will end up buying assets on the scale of Arnault. But we can use this philosophy in our own businesses to keep adding profitable products or services under our business umbrellas.
  • Stay modern and relevant. Arnault was brave enough to hire Marc Jacobs, a young American designer, as the creative director at Louis Vitton. By bringing in fresh, young eyes, the company stayed fashionable.

4. Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet

Net Worth: $90 B

Buffet graduated from Columbia, where he studied under legendary investor Benjamin Graham. Upon graduation, he returned to Nebraska and gained hands-on experience by working at his father’s investment firm.

He created Buffet Associates Ltd in 1956 by using both his own money and funds from relatives.

Eventually, the company grew to include more than 90 limited partners across the United States. Buffet merged all of these holdings into one company called Buffet Partnerships Ltd in 1962.

Buffet Partnership Ltd grew into over $104 million in assets by 1968. Along the way, Buffet had accumulated 49% of common stock in Berkshire Hathaway and named himself director of the company.

It was with this company that Buffet would magnify his net worth. He noticed that the company’s textile holdings only brought in $45,000 while its bank and insurance divisions brought in $2.1 and $2.6 million each, respectively.

Realizing how lucrative the insurance industry can be, Buffet began investing in Geico when it hit $2 per share in 1976. Although the company was struggling, he understood that the basic business structure was sound and that it could thrive under new management.

Geico was brought completely into the Berkshire Hathaway umbrella in 1996 when Buffet purchased its outstanding stock.

Buffett has been the chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway since 1970. To date, Berkshire Hathaway is the third largest trading company in the world and the largest financial services company (by revenue) in the world.

Buffet’s Key Business Strategies:

  • Follow the numbers. Buffet saw how the insurance and bank holdings were bringing in the most money in the early days of Berkshire Hathaway. Since then, the company took control of Geico and has gained significant minority holdings in American Express, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
  • Connect the dots. Buffet realized early on that banking and insurance were generally winners. It was this knowledge that allowed him to recognize the value of an insurance company trading for $2 per share and snatch it up at the bargain price.

5. Amancio Ortego

Armancio Ortego

Net Worth: $76 B

Unlike the other billionaires on this list, Ortego grew up in a poor family. He began his early career in the garment business by working as delivery boy for a men’s clothing store and as an assistant in a tailor’s shop. It was at these two jobs that he learned the cost of manufacturing and delivering clothing to consumers. 

In 1975, Ortego opened the first store of what is now a chain of over 10,000 Zara stores across the globe. In the 1980’s, his then-CEO came up with a new distribution system that reduced the time between design, production and arrival of the new clothing to the Zara stores. Ortego dubbed this “fast fashion” in which the stock in the stores could be refreshed every 48 hours. 

Zara became the flagship company of the holding company Inditex, formed in 1985. Inditex launched subsequent brands in fashion, including Pull and Bear, Lefties and Bershka. It also bought out Massimo Dutti.

Inditex had its IPO in 2001, selling off 26% of the company to public investors. It is currently the largest fashion retailer in the world by revenue.

Ortego’s Key Business Strategies: 

  • Go with what you know. Ortego worked in the textile industry at a young age and this field has remained his life’s work. Although Inditex has also expanded into home décor, the processes for manufacturing are similar enough to allow Inditex a leg up when they began in this sector. 
  • Streamline your processes. Because Ortega and his former CEO were able to come up with a better system, they were able to improve the customer experience. The net result was more sales.

6. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Net Worth: $73 B

Zuckerberg grew up with a strong interest in computer programming. By the time he was a sophomore in Harvard, he had made two programs, FaceMash and CourseMatch, which became very popular on campus.

The success of the two programs prompted Zuckerberg to team up with two friends to create a social networking site originally called The Facebook. Mark dropped out of Harvard to run it full-time and by the end of 2004, Facebook had over 1 million users.

He  moved to Silicon Valley in 2005, raised capital for the company and expanded Facebook to other universities. This expanded Facebook’s user base to over 5 million users.

Turning down offers from Yahoo and Microsoft to the buy the company, Zuckerberg focused on growing Facebook. It went public in 2018 and had one of the largest IPO’s in history.

Zuckerberg’s Key Business Strategies:

  • Don’t wait. Just like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, Zuckerberg gave up something that most people wouldn’t dream of to pursue a promising opportunity. He could have waited until he graduated from Harvard but if he had, Facebook wouldn’t be what it is today.
  • Keep experimenting. The third time was the charm for Zuckerberg. Harvard deemed FaceMash inappropriate and banned it but CourseMatch continued to be popular with his classmates. Zuckerberg could have stopped there but he chose to keep innovating until he came up with something even better. 
  • Know your company’s value. The interest from large, outside corporations affirmed what Mark probably already knew—that he was onto something very big. This gave him the confidence to move forward  and turn down those highly lucrative offers.

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