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11 Best Business and Life Lessons from Carlos Slim Helu

As an entrepreneur and investor, I have other successful business mentors and investment gurus I look up to for guidance and inspiration. And one of such successful entrepreneurs is Carlos Slim Helu; the richest man in the world 2010 and one of the richest people in the world.

Over the years, I have quietly been understudying the life and business strategy of Carlos Slim Helu; and just when I was about to wrap up my findings and share with you the lessons I learned from this telecom billionaire, he appeared live on an interview with Larry King of CNN.

On Friday 3rd December 2010, as I watched the Carlos Slim Helu being interviewed by Larry King; my respect for him increased. Now based on the interview and personal findings from my research carried out; I will be sharing with you eleven business and life lessons I learned from Carlos Slim Helu, including a brief excerpt of his interview with Larry King.

So if you are ready to learn from the Mexican tycoon and billionaire; then sit back and read on as I share with you an excerpt of Carlos Slim Helu’s interview with Larry King and eleven business lessons I learned from it.

Interview with Larry King – 11 Business and Life Lessons I Learned from Carlos Slim Helu

Larry King: It’s an honor to welcome you to LARRY KING LIVE, Carlos Slim Helu. How did it feel when you were ranked number one?

Carlos Slim Helu: Thank you very much for your invitation Larry. Any kind of difference before, after, during, is not important. I think what is important is what you are doing and how you are operating the company that you are managing and when you have many parts of the public investing in this company.

Larry King: So, it’s not a particular honor?

Carlos Slim Helu: No, no, no. it’s not championship. It’s the competence; the competence in your sector with other companies not looking to have some kind of records in this issue.

Larry King: When you topped the annual richest list back in March, they listed your net worth at $53.5 billion. Is that about right?

Carlos Slim Helu: I really don’t care about my ration. What they do is know how much share of the companies that we have investments and we are managing, and has the market price. The market price changes everyday, every time with a lot of volatility and you cannot make balance sheets of what is happening. What you are taking care is about the operation of the business, the investments of the companies; the technology you are using, the segment you are in and how you are managing the business.

Business lesson one: Building a successful business is all about competence

Larry King: How do you stay on top of all that?

Carlos Slim Helu: Well, how can you be on top of the things you do? I think when you are involved in a business first of all; you need to know the business. After you know the business, you can let the numbers tell you what is happening.

You can read with the numbers to know if things are going well or if things are not going well. You make co-operation with your competitors; you look at the international references to try to achieve the best reference nationally. The numbers talk to you.

Larry King: Were you also good with numbers?

Carlos Slim Helu: Yes, yes I think so. Some people are very good with letters and others have a good grasp of numbers. You can manage numbers in different ways; you read the numbers and you understand what is happening in the companies.

Business Lesson Two: Understand your line of business and its numbers

Larry King: it’s estimated that you and your family control more than 200 companies. You are one of Mexico’s largest private employers. You are in control of so many things. Do you feel, Carlos; as I have gotten to know you? Do you feel enormous responsibility?

Carlos Slim Helu: Yes. I think that anything that has privileges has responsibility. All this is responsibility and compromise. Compromise and responsibility are not only for me and my family, but also the management team to have the responsibility to know the importance of what we are doing and that at the end of temporarily managing this; we don’t take anything when we pass away. And we do need to do business with a sense of responsibility.

Larry King: How many people currently work for you?

Carlos Slim Helu: well, I think we are around 250,000

Business Lesson Three: Becoming a successful entrepreneur is all about responsibility

Larry King: Was your goal to make money? Is that your goal?

Carlos Slim Helu: I think it’s not a goal. Money is not a goal. The goal is to make companies grow, develop, be competitive, be in different areas, be efficient to have a great human team inside the company. Look for human development of the people of the companies because you cannot do anything without human capital, without your human team.

We are talking about how many people are with us but there are managers that are critical that began working in the company and grew with the company and develop to achieve success being in high level management position. And now the goal is well by one side, I think the wealth should be reinvested to create more wealth.

The fruit of wealth is income and it is important to develop the distribution of income. The distribution of income comes mainly by employment and second, by the money that goes to the government.

Business Lesson Four: Be driven by passion; not money

Larry King: Carlos Slim Helu owns one of the oldest hotels in Mexico, Hotel Genève but the empire is in the telecommunications company; Telmex, which he acquired in 1990 when Mexico began privatizing its national industries.

A decade later, he spun off the cell phone business, American mobile and it’s one of the largest companies in all of Latin America. He also owns Sunborn, Mexico’s major retail outlet and biggest restaurant chain. His interest includes one of Mexico’s most important banks, airline, a mining company, hotels, construction, insurance companies, a bottling company, cigarette manufacturer, much real estate and on and on and on.

Larry King: Are you always looking to acquire?

Carlos Slim Helu: In 1965 when I began, I had a soft drink bottling company. We are not in the bottling business anymore. We sold the tobacco business also to our partners. We are concentrating because during these 45 years and depending on the circumstances we were involved; we have the possibilities to buy some business. With time, we thought we were focusing a little more on what we thought had more important potential and development and needed more investments and management.

Business Lesson Five:Concentrate on your core competence. Be focused

Carlos Slim Helu: In ’82, there was a big crisis in Mexico and that meant that nobody was investing. And we invested in paper; we invested in tyres for cars, we invested in auto parts and aluminum and copper combustion. Actually we were focusing. We sold a corporation, we sold a tile business we bought in ’82 also; both of them. We were focusing in telecommunication, financing and mining, retail.

Business Lesson Six: Get in when others are getting out

Business Lesson Seven: Always be prepared to make your big move

Larry King: You are very involved in the education of the people, I know because I spoke to all those students. You give scholarships every year, right?

Carlos Slim Helu: Yes.

Larry King: How much do you devote to charity?

Carlos Slim Helu: well we make it, not talking about a budget and say well; this year we will invest $100 or $100 million. We try to find which are the problems that we need to attack and then we put all the money that is necessary. We also have programmes and we put in these programmes and all that are necessary. Let’s say in the surgery, we do surgery around the country. We began with 2000 a few years ago, now we are doing 120,000.

Business Lesson Eight: Give back to the society

Larry King: Was there early in life, a big event that happened to you that turned you from a millionaire to billionaire? Was there a major occurrence?

Carlos Slim Helu: I think work, investments and reinvestments. My father used to say that the money that gets out of a company evaporates. That means he was thinking in terms of investments and reinvestment and reinvestment. That is one of the things we do. Other things that we do are in good times, we maintain our winning streak.

When we do profitable business, we don’t get crazy; putting expenses all around or making fancy things. Then, we didn’t have corporate offices until now. We used to have them in the factories. The offices of the company were in the factories, not in another corporate building. I think it’s the way it happened.

Business Lesson Nine:Watch your expenses

Business Lesson Ten:Reinvest, Reinvest, Reinvest

Larry King: Is it hard for you to see all the poverty in Mexico?

Carlos Slim Helu: It’s hard but I am convinced that all this poverty in Mexico and in Latin America, like it’s happening in China is the opportunity to grow. It’s an opportunity for investment; it’s an economic activity and to take out poverty is the best investment any person or a person can do in any place because poverty used to be an ethical issue, used to be a social justice but now it’s an economic need. You need to integrate these people that are marginal and are in poverty; you need to integrate them into modernity.

Business Lesson Eleven: See opportunities, not problems

As a final note, I hereby end my excerpt on the interview between Larry King and Carlos Slim Helu. I believe you have learned something from the life of this billionaire and I also hope that the business lessons I extracted will prove useful to you. Before I drop my pen, below is a quick recap of the eleven business lessons I learned from the Mexican telecom billionaire; Carlos Slim Helu.

  1. Building a business is all about competence
  2. Understand your line of business and its numbers
  3. Becoming a successful entrepreneur is all about responsibility
  4. Be driven by passion; not money
  5. Concentrate; be focused
  6. Get in when others are getting out
  7. Always be prepared to make your big move
  8. Give back to the society
  9. Watch your expenses
  10. Reinvest, reinvest, reinvest
  11. See opportunities; not problems