I met a successful businessman turning 87 ..and asked him what would he want to share with younger people…and he had this to say:

  1. If you want to be in business, be ready for total failure: He went into business at a relatively old age of 30 in a house where there was pressure to do business the day he passed out o school. He went to college, got a degree, and worked hard for 8 years before he started off on his own. His father supported him during his struggling years, but now he is extremely rich by most standards. His personal net worth should be in the region of Rs. 50 crores – apart from his residence, and personal assets. He did have failures, but his ability to face total failure held him in good stead.
  2. Do not risk other people’s money: When he went into business he REFUSED financial help from his father. He stayed with his parents, and may not have contributed to the household expenses – he says that was his dad’s support – but never ever did he take money from his father to invest. This is very interesting. Today younger (and older) people are happy to invest their own money, parents money, angel investors money,….with zero clarity on how it is going to yield results. I have been surprised at venture capitalists and angel investors funding failed entrepreneurs permanently. This man was clear that he had NOT lost anybody’s money ever. Even when his friends offered him partnership, he just took their money on interest, never as partners. Did not want to share the risk/ profit / losses with friends and find it embarrassing to explain what happened. Till date he is anti borrowing (for personal expenses) and anti partnerships. His son runs a bigger company with many shareholders.
  3. Work hard, work smart – he has working routines of 12-14 hours every day including Sundays. A complete workaholic he says typically ‘hard work will not kill anybody’. He handed over his business to his only son when the son was 30 years of age and did not interfere in the way the business should be run. Son got in partners, went global, diversified, and grew the business very well. Same culture is now being taught to the next generation – his grandson is now being trained in another friend’s company to take over the reins here at the age of 30.
  4. You do not need advisers, you need friends who will share and teach: his association with his family doctor, CA, financial adviser (aka share broker?) all go back a few decades. He says he has never argued about fees, but has ensured that they have TAUGHT him what to do and how to do it. He now pays more for ‘supervision’ rather than ‘doing the work’. For example they now employ a full time CA who manages their investment portfolio, tracks their income for filing tax returns. However the broker, the CA, etc. are still the FINAL authorities on how the money is to be managed. So he insists on learning the act and not just paying a fee and ‘hoping’ that the professional will do a good job.
  5. Have patience and stay in the game: He resisted many attempts to diversify, but made sure that he added products/ services to improve the business of his clients and friends. Even now he has clients who have been with him for 10, 20, and even 38 years!! He says ‘relationships are difficult to forge’ – so sell more to existing people you know and dig deep.

this is my summarizing of a longish association, and some recent interaction. He may not have articulated it so well, but I got this essence. His personal spending has not changed much – but now he is doing a lot more charity. However, he still has no ability to spend on himself! He will happily sign a 6 digit chek for creating drinking water in a drought prone area but will ham and haw if his son booked him on a business class ticket while taking 13 hour flights!

That’s life he says!!

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  1. Its good to be philanthropic, but the only objective cannot be to live frugally and make money. You need to enjoy the fruits of your labor too. This is the other end of a spendthrift spectrum, what we would call a miser.

  2. so raghu u will decide how somebody should live? So Warren Buffett should move out of his 30 year old house…because you think he is being a miser?

  3. No. I did not mean that. To each his own. Narayan Murty is another example. I don’t grudge them their thinking, but sometimes i get the feeling it is only about building the wealth that gets talked about, and in my opinion smelling the roses on the way is important for me too.

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