Running A Successful Business: 5 Lessons I Learned From Bill Gates

It’s no doubt that most entrepreneurs, both established and fledgling see Bill Gates as an ideal person to learn from. Even young students with no intention of going into business see him as a mentor. Why not?

He’s the visionary, selfless and relentless co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With Microsoft, he became the youngest billionaire in the US at just 31. As if that wasn’t enough, he went on to be the richest man in the planet for 12 straight years from 1995 to 2007.

His fortune doesn’t come from just Microsoft software sales. He has multiple investments through his private holding company, Cascade Investments.

With that, there is a lot to learn from this brilliant humanitarian and billionaire.

Here Are 5 Lessons I Learned From Bill Gates

These tips aren’t a one-way ticket to gaining billionaire status like Bill Gates, but they will help you run your business better.

#1 Think Ahead

This is something most young and fledgling entrepreneurs overlook. They only take action for immediate benefits or plan short-term. This doesn’t mean you should turn a blind eye to the immediate benefits of running your business and in turn, send it crashing down.

Rather, it’s a call to anticipate future benefits whenever you move forward with a transaction or business decision. Here are some questions you should always consider when making a business decision:

  1. Will it expand your customer base?
  2. What will be the return on investment five years from now? How about 10 years from now?

While your answers to these questions may not be perfectly accurate, thinking ahead is key.

This is something Bill Gates did in his early years as president of Microsoft. It’s a trait that helped make him the billionaire he is today. He made a deal with IBM to

create an operating system for IBM’s new computer but included a clause that gave him the right to still sell the OS as his own. Gates thought that in the future other computer companies would clone IBM’s PC and will need his OS to function. He was right. As a result, ownership of the OS skyrocketed his revenue and shaped the PC era into what we know today.

#2 Time Is A Gem For The Success of Your Business

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Gates stresses that time is the only commodity money can’t buy and that he plans his day meticulously to ensure that he gets more done each day.

You probably have heard the old saying by Benjamin Franklin to a tradesman that “Time is Money.” This simply means that time is valuable and you should use the limited time you have doing important activities or tasks.

The saying might be old, but it’s really important for a startups or any level of business, if they are to be productive or successful. As a manager or an entrepreneur, you don’t want to waste precious time on tasks that can be effectively delegated to others in your company.

What Type of Boss Are You?

Don’t be the do-it-all or insecure kind of boss. Delegate tasks that are better off done by other members of the team and focus on important tasks that will improve the company. Also, share task processes with your workers so they can grow in independence. For instance, in the early days of Microsoft, Gates was actively involved in software development, but later acted as a manager and executive in order to make better use of time.

#3  Be Prepared For Change

Change. This is inevitable in any field and not just in the business field. There is always a time to change and tweak your strategy. Often, this time will take you by surprise.

For Gates and Microsoft, it was the dawn of the internet. The internet wasn’t on the top of their list at that point. However, Gates knew that the internet was developing faster than their strategy could support.

What step did he take? Gate says in an interview alongside Warren Buffett:

“That was a case where as an act of leadership I had to create a sense of crisis and have a couple months where we all just threw ideas and sent electronic mail around, went on a bunch of retreats… and then, it eventually coalesced around a few ideas…”

Gates goes on to explain that a major crisis comes up every three or four years and the key to survival is to keep up with the current trend. For instance, failure to do this led to the bankruptcy of Blockbuster. Blockbuster failed to adapt to change and this led to a terrible move. They rejected a partnership deal with Netflix and missed out on becoming a major player in the shifting media landscape.  

#4 Learn From Unhappy Customers

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

– Bill Gates, Business @ the Speed of Thought

This is something most managers and business owners do the opposite of. They see unhappy customers as a pain in the neck and don’t learn from their complaints.

Here’s the thing. Studies shows that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain directly to the business, instead they tell their friends. Also, 91% of them will simply not return.

This means that the remaining 4% of customers that do report problems are looking for an improvement and hope to become a return customer. Keep in mind, increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits up to 125%!

So, the next time an unhappy customer makes a complaint, follow these business tips:

  • Listen
  • Evaluate the product or service
  • Gather more information
  • Implement changes

These steps can help retain that unhappy customer by improving your service and in turn, increasing customer retention.

#5 Marketing Is A Breeze

It should be clear by now. People don’t like businesses that market their service or product in a “salesy” manner. They don’t like when businesses brag about how awesome their product is. That’s just boring and not helpful to customers unless they are already hardcore users of your product and well-informed.

To market a product, you should tell the customers how your product or service will satisfy their needs by clearly explaining your product’s features.  If they don’t see how that “awesome” product feature can help them with a problem or need, most of them won’t buy it.

“If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions, they will be moved to act.” – Bill Gates

Bottom Line

There are lots of other lessons to learn from this brilliant mind such as, perseverance, sharing your vision with your team, and innovation as a driver of progress. But these five Bill Gates inspired lessons stand out to me. They helped me improve my business and myself as a person.  

So, do you think you can implement these lessons in your business? Are you already practicing these lessons? Ready to learn financial tips of your own? 

Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think.  

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