Free Business Building Advice From Billionaires

Warren Buffet's quiet partner goes by the name of Charlie Munger. Charlie has a 500+ page book full of gems. Before becoming heavily involved in the investment field, Charlie worked at a law firm, where his top tip for attracting clients was:

It's the work on your desk.... It's the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.

When you look at some of the most successful companies many of them live and die by that. In spite of Microsoft's monopoly position in many markets Bill Gates still views his product through the eyes of consumers.

Gord Hotchkiss recently posted an article about how many of the newer mega-companies (like Google and Apple Computers) are built not just by viewing customers as an asset, but because the founders are customers of their own products and services, who built the service they wanted to use.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t believe customer-centricity is the key. It’s not a goal, it’s a by-product. It comes as part of the package (often unconsciously) with another principle that is a little more concrete: product-centricity. Product-centric leaders, the ones that are obsessive about what gets shipped out the door, are customer-centric by nature. They understand the importance of that magical intersection between product and person, the sheer power of amazing experiences. The iPhone is amazing. Disney classics are amazing. My first search on Google was amazing. Steve, Walt, Larry and Sergey wouldn’t have it any other way.

That strategy of investing in people who build things for themselves has been a guiding thought behind many investments for years. Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital on how he chooses what companies to invest in:

It’s the idea that the founders are doing something that they think is useful for themselves, And, then, eventually perhaps, coincidentally, perhaps accidentally, they discover that the product or service that they have built because they wanted to use something like this is that of great interest to lots of other people.

When you build for yourself you can build a product for one (ie: no demand), but the cost of failure is low, one of the core ideas in Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. It is so fast and cheap to test things online that if you are passionate and aggressive success often happens accidentally. PageRank was an academic project for finding authoritative citations that just happened to turn into a search engine.

Published: June 26, 2008 by Aaron Wall in business


June 26, 2008 - 7:50am

Thanks for this Aaron. I really like reading inspirational books from successful businessmen. :)

June 26, 2008 - 11:25pm

I love this post... it was a reality check for me... thanks.

June 26, 2008 - 11:41pm

Poor charlie's almanac is one of my favorites in the past 5 years, and I read a lot.

June 27, 2008 - 12:58am

Aaron, I don't mean to sound like a suck-up or anything, but you are so much more than an SEO. You are a insightful and even poetic entrepreneur. A post like this has no place on an SEO specific blog, but I am very glad you published it.

June 27, 2008 - 12:27pm

Thanks for the kind comment dr00t. :)

June 27, 2008 - 1:03pm

Well, is this so-called "Insight" really that unique? Most of the book is the same information one would learn from a Univeristy Professor - extravagant on theory, but of little use in the real world. I have been instrumental in starting/building several major on-line companies (One of which sold for several hundred Million). The point is, many of the companies mentioned began with luck, not insight and genius - these Billionaires are ordinary people who happened to have been recipients of serendipitous events. Bill Gates was introduced to an IBM exec, because his mother served in the same non-profit organization of which the exec was also a member - Microsoft did not even have a working operating system at the time a deal was proposed (MS was not successful in developing a working system, they had to buy a system from someone else and resold it to IBM). Sergey and Larry were college students building a pet project and then investors came along and suggested it become a business. Does anyone even know the story of how Warren Buffett became such a success? Big business always starts with help from someone outside, not plugging away building something you hope someone will buy or shuffling papers at your desk, as suggested. Successful companies never began with the intention of being successful, customer centric, philosophical strategist, or even product focused - this happens only after the discovery that someone is actually willing to pay you for your product or idea. The challenge is always to get the first customer over and over. That's the Billion dollar question!

June 27, 2008 - 1:37pm

I only accidentally stumbled into SEO and my first customer did a hard sell on hiring me before I knew I wanted to sell anything. :)

June 28, 2008 - 7:06pm

You see Aaron, no one really knows the path to greatness, but your example is how it begins - you are now well on your way!

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