From humble beginnings selling belts and plastic watch bands, Li Ka-Shing’s net worth is now estimated at $34.6 billion.
Ka-Shing’s journey is a classic rags to riches story. His family migrated to Hong Kong at the height of war, and he had no formal education but he didn’t let any of this get in the way. He now owns several companies, including his first factory Cheung Kong Industries and Hutchison Whampoa, with stakes in major companies in UK (02 telcom company), Canada (Husky Energy) and the U.S. (Facebook).
He’s now a force to be reckoned with, all becasue he took control of his own destiny. From the way he runs his company to how he spends his idle time, we can learn a lot from him.
7 lessons Young Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Li Ka-Shing
1. Appreciate Each Cycle of Your Life (Including the Young and Broke Part!)Ka-Shing advises young entrepreneurs to embrace their situation. Bootstrapping a business or struggling to earn your daily bread is nothing to be ashamed of. You start young with virtually no money to your name, and you work hard to get a better life… That’s just how it should be.
Ka-Shing started his first business when he was 22 (1950s) with only HK$ 50,000 (US$ 6450) in capital. What he lacked in funds, he made up for in his desire to learn and innovate. Now, despite his wealth, Ka-Shing hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings.
“The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war”, Ka-Shing often says to his two children.
When success finally comes knocking at your door, Ka-Shing’s advice is to enjoy every bit of it. Just as you should embrace the challenges life throws at you, you should also enjoy your well-deserved pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
2. Don’t Let Your Ego Limit You
Did you know Ka-Shing wore a $45 (£30) watch for years? And he made sure everyone knows about it! His ego and money didn’t rule him.
The golden rule applies to everyone even if you have nothing substantial to give. “Don’t’ be calculative,” says Ka-Shing. Open yourself to all kinds of work: odd jobs, apprenticeships, or volunteering, this is how you gain experience. When he was 15, he worked at a factory producing plastic watch bands for 16 hours a day. His poverty, sickness, and even the war didn’t stop him. Yes, some people might take advantage of you but that is part of the learning process.
When your business takes off, it’s time to let others be good to you. Don’t over think their motives, is Ka-Shing’s advice. Just enjoy the gifts and favors that come your way. In accepting dinner invites and special requests, however, remember to conserve your most precious resource– time. Don’t let people take advantage of you for the sake of having a good image.
3. Build Your Network, One Dinner At A Time
Ka-Shing is famous for advising people to expand their network by inviting people to eat out. Coffee is so cliché. It’s as if you’re saying the person’s time is chump change for you. Take people to lunch or dinner instead, and always foot the bill. Uber fancy dinners are not required, of course.
Be selective of who you invite, though. Find people with more experience and bigger dreams than you. Choose people you can learn from, and allot a budget to do this every month. In a year, you’ll have a big network than can generate tremendous value for you in terms of connections, support, knowledge and opportunities.
4. Learn To Sell Well
Many of today’s self-made billionaires had a sales job at least one point in their lives, such as Ralph Lauren who had a sales job at Brooks Brothers, and Charles Schwab who once sold poultry. Ka-Shing is no different. At 19, he became the general manager of the factory he worked for after he outsold everyone in his department. His total sales were seven times more than the top 2 agent, so if the company were to pay him the correct commission, he’d receive more than the manager. Everyone was jealous, and he knew this.
But like a good leader who knows the value of camaraderie in a team, he voluntarily accepted to receive less–the same commission as the top 2 salesman–to avoid the jealously of his then manager and teammates.
Think you’re too good to study sales? You’re limiting yourself and you don’t even know it.
Knowing how to sell will open doors you never knew existed, things only possible if you know how to persuade others to believe in your vision.
5. Get Free Mentoring By Helping Others
Ka-Shing encourages young entrepreneurs to get first-hand experience by seeking mentorships.
Otherwise, “your company would be here today, gone tomorrow”, he says.
Solo professionals, small business owners, even the multinationals all need help. Use this chance to get your foot in the door by volunteering for part-time jobs and small projects. This will build your skills while you learn the ins-and-outs of running a business for free. Your only investment here is the time, but the payout in terms of education far outweighs that. In some ways, it’s better than spending $100K for an MBA.
6. Cultivate An Insatiable Appetite For Reading
“If I have a rare vacation, I will spend it reading,” admits Ka-Shing.
Ka-Shing’s father was a principal for a primary school before he passed away, so he probably inherited his father’s love of reading and learning. While he prefers books about history, technology and philosophy, he doesn’t limit his reading list to these subjects. He also reads trade journals, business books and anything related to the industries he’s involved in.
7. Inspire Greatness In Others
You’re the boss. How you lead others is up to you but if you want a great team, the only way is to make them WANT to follow you. Push your team to their limits and be decisive, like Ka-Shing.
When he invested in Spotify, he had it installed in his car, way before the now-famous streaming service became a ubiquitous app. Then he asked the CEO when the app would become available to all other cars. In a way, he pushed Spotify to their limits and inspired them to greatness. He’s also known for making lightning quick decisions, like his 5-minute decision to invest $120 million in Facebook.
Starting a business is never easy, that’s why you have to learn all you can, and do all you can before you even think of starting one. The front-loaded hard work you do in preparation for any endeavor, trumps opportunities. In an interview with Forbes, he offers this advice to young entrepreneurs “if you don’t work hard, opportunities will slip away”.