Elon Musk recently overtone Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the world’s richest person. The net worth of tesla and SpaceX entrepreneurs reached more than £185bn (£13.6bn) after the electric car company’s share price increased. So what’s the secret to his success? To mark your new milestone, we dusted off the interview and agreed to share it with you. So here’s Elon Musk’s guide to business success.
1. It’s not about money
This is central to Elon Musk’s attitude towards business. When I interviewed him in 2014, he said he didn’t know how rich he was. “It’s not like there’s a pile of cash somewhere,” he said. “Tesla, SpaceX and Solaracti have a certain number of votes, and the market is worth only those votes. He said there was nothing against pursuing wealth “if done in a moral and good way,” but that would not displace him.
This approach certainly seems to be working.
The real-life inspiration for Tony Stark’s portrayal of Robert Downey Jr. of Iron Man fame was probably worth $10 billion when we spoke in 2014. His electric car company, Tesla, is doing particularly well. The stock has risen over the past year, bringing its value to more than $70 billion. To do this, you can buy Ford, General Motors, BMW, Folklowgen and Fiat Chrysler, and there’s still enough left to buy Ferrari.
But Musk, who will turn 50 this year, doesn’t expect the rich to die. He said he thinks most of his money will be spent building a base on Mars, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the project consumed all his wealth. In fact, like Bill Gates, he probably thought of ending billions of lives in the bank as a sign of failure because it didn’t waste money.
2. Chasing Passion
That the Martian base is a clue of what Elon Musk believes is the key to success.
“I want to make things better in the future,” he told me, “you want these new, exciting things that make life better.
Take SpaceX. He told me that he founded the company because he was disappointed that the U.S. space program was not more ambitious.
“We continued to expect to make our way around Earth, put people on Mars, have bases on the moon and do orbital flights a lot of the time,” he says.
While he was trying to remove it from Earth, he found that the problem was “not a lack of will, but a lack of directions” – space technology is more expensive than necessary.
And the important thing here was that its origin didn’t make money, it was people landing on Mars.
Musk tells me that he sees himself as an engineer, not an investor, and says that standing in the morning tends to solve technical problems.
This is not a bank dollar, but a yard stick of his progress. He knows that any obstacle his business will overcome will help each other trying to solve the same problem – and will do it forever.
So, not long before we met, the entrepreneur announced that he would open all Tesla patents to accelerate the development of electric cars around the world.
3. Don’t be afraid to think big
One of the really impressive things about Elon Musk’s business is how bold they are.
He wants to revolutionize the auto industry, colonize Mars, build fast trains in vacuum tunnels, integrate artificial intelligence into the human brain and strengthen the photovoltaic and battery industries.
There is a common thread here. All her projects have futuristic fantasies like you’d find in a children’s magazine in the early 1980s.
As such, his tunneling business is called boring company.
Musk made no secret of the fact that he was inspired by the books and films he consumed in South Africa as a child.
This will take us to Musk’s third tip.
He believes low ambition is baked into the incentive structure of most companies.
Too many companies are “incremental,” he said. “If you’re the CEO of a big company and your goal is to make modest improvements and it takes longer than expected and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t blame you,” he told me.
If you go for bold, really groundbreaking improvements and it doesn’t work, you’ll definitely be fired, he argues. For this reason, most companies focus on making small improvements to their existing products rather than imagining something completely new.
Therefore, his advice should be to see if you are working on what he called “important things”.
First, we want to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
What entrepreneurs had to say: “We were depicting deep gas fields and deep oil fields that haven’t seen the eye of the day since the Cambrians. If the last time something saw light was when the most complex organism was a sponge, you really have to wonder if it’s a sensible move.
Second, we want to ensure the long-term survival of humanity by colonizing Mars and “multiplanetary life.”
Like I say, think big.
4. Be prepared to take risks
This is obvious.
You have to skin in the game to do well, but Elon Musk is taking more risks than most.
By 2002, he had sold his holdings in his first two ventures, an internet city guide called Zip2 PayPal online payments company, Ando. He was only in his 30s and had nearly $20 million in the bank.
He says his plan was to put half of his wealth in the business and keep the other half.
Things didn’t work out that way when I met him.
His new company faced a variety of dental problems. SpaceX’s first three launches failed, and Tesla had a variety of production problems, supply chains and design issues.