It’s a widely held idea that a few people are suddenly inspired, a great idea appears from nowhere and it quickly turns them into millionaires. In reality, this is not the case. The most successful people – and those who have become extremely wealthy – are actually those who understand that what is required is the extraordinary execution of what may be at best a good idea.
I strongly believe that most of us have the ability to come up with good ideas, but coming up with a good idea is merely a starting point (not even a first step!). The fact is that realising an idea or a dream is never easy. As the saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”
Bill Gates: A Trip down Memory Lane
Following my recent visit to Athens, where I led a seminar for Microsoft, and the recent opening of the Microsoft Innovation Center in Nicosia, I have been thinking quite a lot about Bill Gates.
According to Forbes magazine (April 2015), he is currently the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $79.2 billion. It goes without saying that he is a perfect example of someone who not only had good ideas but was willing to work on them (i.e. take the ‘first step’) to create something great.
His story shows that while he had an obvious talent for computers and software (at the age of 15, Gates and his friend Paul Allen developed “Traf-o-Data,” a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, and were paid $20,000 for their efforts), his real genius lay in his ability to exploit and market his ideas and abilities.
In 1974, after reading an article about the Altair 8800 mini-computer kit, Gates and Allen contacted the company behind it, claiming to be working on a BASIC software program that would run the Altair computer. In reality, they didn’t have an Altair to work with or the code to run it! When MITS president Ed Roberts asked for a demonstration, they spent the next two months writing the software. Although they had never tried it out on an Altair computer, it worked perfectly!
In 1975 Gates and Allen formed a partnership called Micro-Soft (an abbreviation of “micro-computer” and “software”), which became Microsoft, writing software in different formats for other computer companies. In 1980, when IBM approached Microsoft for software that would operate its upcoming personal computer (PC), Gates convinced them that he and his company could meet their needs. In fact, Microsoft had not developed a basic operating system that would run IBM’s new computers!
Not to be stopped, Gates bought an operating system that had been developed to run on computers similar to IBM’s PC. He made a deal with the software’s developer, making Microsoft the exclusive licensing agent and later full owner of the software. Gates adapted the newly purchased software to work for the IBM PC and agreed a deal whereby IBM would pay a licensing fee for copies of the software sold with their computers. This allowed Microsoft to license the software, which they called MS-DOS, to any other PC manufacturer, should other computer companies clone the IBM PC, which they soon did. In 1981, Microsoft posted revenues of $16 million.
In 1983, Gates announced Windows, a system that used a mouse to drive a graphic interface, displaying text and images on the screen. But once again, he was bluffing: Microsoft had no such program under development! As a marketing tactic, though, it was sheer genius since nearly 30% of the computer market was using the MS-DOS system and it preferred to wait for Windows software rather than change to a new system. Microsoft launched Windows 1.0, nearly two years after the announcement.
In 1986, Bill Gates took Microsoft public with an initial public offering (IPO) of $21 per share. Gates held 45% of the company’s 24.7 million shares and became an instant millionaire at the age of 31. A year later he was a billionaire, as the share price had risen to $90.75. Since then, he has been one of the richest people in the world and he has spent much of his time giving billions of dollars back to society, first through the William H. Gates Foundation which was dedicated to supporting education, world health, and investment in low-income communities and, since 2000, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which they started with a $28 billion contribution.
5 Tips to Reach the “Gates” of Success
You or I might not probably reach such dizzy heights of fame and fortune but if we work with dedication and patience we can certainly try to imitate this remarkable entrepreneur in the way he went about creating his business and his fortune. Here are five tips for success:
Believe in Yourself
You can’t start until you believe in yourself enough to be 100% dedicated to getting the work done. Most people fail to take an idea to fruition because the unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle. They lose the belief in themselves to see things through all the way to the end. Bill Gates believed in himself to the extent that he committed to doing things that he had never attempted in his life and then forced himself to come up with the goods.
When you put passion into everything you do, it gives you the power to become a pioneer, to follow paths that few would go down, and to see them all the way through to the end. Your passionate pursuit of converting your idea into a reality will open new doors to endless possibilities. Bill Gates developed an extraordinarily competitive spirit and he expected everyone in the company to have the same drive and dedication. One day, one of Gates’ assistants arrived at work early to find someone sleeping under a desk. She was ready to call security and the police when she discovered it was Gates himself! In 2000, Bill Gates stepped down from the day-to-day operations of Microsoft, positioning himself as chief software architect so as to concentrate on what was, for him, the more passionate side of the business.
Your intentions must have purpose and meaning, otherwise the probability that you will quit along the way increases. Successful entrepreneurs must believe in what they are doing. You need to make a commitment to yourself and anyone who supports your idea or concept. Your purpose is to execute the idea and make others believe in it too. Bill Gates convinced people that he could find the perfect solution for them – and then he found it. His intelligence allowed him to be able to see all sides of the software industry and later, when analyzing any corporate move, he would develop a profile of all the possible cases and run through them, asking questions about anything that could possibly happen.
Keep Making the Idea Better
Never grow complacent. You can always expand upon your idea and make it better. This is what Steve Jobs did with Apple, Pixar Animation and Apple again. Continuous improvements were part of his legacy. He never stopped thinking of ways to make his ideas better. No matter how pleased you are with your idea, it can always be improved and upgraded. The best illustration of this with regard to Bill Gates and Microsoft is surely the fact that, on July 29, 2015, Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade to all users. He was already working on version 2 before version 1.0 was released!
Make Work/Life Balance a Priority
You know the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, which is an old way of telling us that no matter how smart, passionate or focused we are, without balance we are all susceptible to burnout. Mind, body and soul must be properly aligned. Take the time to make work/life balance a priority. Bill Gates’ involvement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation eventually began to occupy much of his time and even more of his interest and In 2006, he announced that he was transitioning himself from full-time work at Microsoft, to devote more quality time to the Foundation. His last full day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008.
Although Bill Gates’ rise to fame was sudden and fast, my experience has shown me that successfully converting an idea into a reality is usually a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself so that you can reflect upon the mission at hand. Always be aware of what you are attempting to accomplish. Don’t overwhelm your mind and make sure you give yourself some breathing room in order to allow your creativity to expand. If you try to integrate the above 5 qualities into your working life, you may not become a millionaire but you will certainly put yourself on the road to becoming successful and happy.