Wouldn’t it be nice if you could unite 100 of the greatest business minds and have them write an essay about what inspired them to succeed?
That’s exactly what Forbes did to celebrate its centennial.
The publication has put together what it called, “an A-to-Z encyclopedia of ideas from 100 entrepreneurs, visionaries, and prophets of capitalism — the greatest ever collection of business essayists and greatest ever portrait portfolio in business history.”
EACH ESSAY TAKES ON A BUSINESS WORD
Among the 100 essay writers are three stars of the Dallas-Fort Worth business community — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, oilman T. Boone Pickens, and tech pioneer and onetime presidential candidate H. Ross Perot Sr.
Other notable writers included President Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim Helu, and Rupert Murdoch.
Each takes on a subject word that for Forbes. Jones writes about operating lean, Pickens on bullishness, and Perot on what inspired him to take the “jump” and start his own business.
Here, in a nutshell, is what each said:
“You can do a lot of things with fewer people if you are willing to take a lot of risk.”
Jones on operating lean
Before he owned the Cowboys and was still in the oil and gas business, Jones took the advice he was given by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton: “If you are not undermanned, you’re overstaffed, and you’ll never see heroes.” Translated, Jones wrote that means keep your labor or your expense low and maximize responsibility to fear people. That’s how Jones has operated the Cowboys, which is run mostly by Jones and members of his family.
Jones wrote he set out to build a football franchise that was financially viable, win or lose — what he called “bringing the 10-pound bass in on the 1-pound test line.”
Clearly it worked. Forbes earlier this week named the Cowboys as the most-valuable NFL franchise with a value of $4.8 billion. That’s a pretty stout return on Jones’ $140 million spent to buy the team from H.R. “Bum” Bright in 1989.
T. Boone Pickens
“You drill your fair share of dry holes, but you never lose your optimism.”
Pickens on bullishness
A noted Texas oil man, Pickens drew on his declining health at age 89 to paint a picture of optimism. He wrote about having had several strokes over the Christmas holidays and taking a serious fall that required hospitalization.
Always a great interview, Pickens wrote now he often is at a loss for words because of his health issues, something he deems problematic because he believes you can trace most problems back to a lack of communication or clarity.
In his Forbes essay, Pickens wrote that talking about being in the “fourth quarter” of his life isn’t being morbid. He said people in his business will drill their fair share of dry holes, but that they never lose optimism.
“Be the eternal optimist who is excited to see what the next decade will bring,” Pickens wrote. “I thrive on that, and I’m going to stick to it until the game is over.”
H. Ross Perot Sr.
“Believe in big ideas.”
Perot Sr. on jumping into your own business
Many of us know Perot Sr. as the patriarch of one of the most successful business families that North Texas has ever produced. His son H. Ross Perot Jr. has become a billionaire developer and entrepreneur, for example.
But, few compare with Perot Sr.’s rise to the top from his start in 1962 as a salesman for IBM.
Perot wrote in his essay that he had an idea about selling services along with the computers, but IBM wasn’t interested. Perot didn’t let his big idea die, though.
Inspired by a quote by Henry David Thoreau he found in Reader’s Digest while getting his hair cut — “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” — Perot wrote, “That wasn’t for me. It was at that moment that I decided to go it alone, to start my own company, Electronic Data Systems.”
He later sold EDS to General Motors for about $750 million. Perot even talked about investing in Steve Jobs at NeXT Computer, later sold to Apple Computer.
Sometimes big ideas become even bigger.
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