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Elon Musk’s 10 proven secrets to business success



Elon Musk

Elon Musk, arguably the world’s richest man, is a serial entrepreneur who has managed to start and scale several businesses in different industries. His most valuable companies, Tesla and SpaceX, are currently worth $773 billion and $74 billion, respectively.


Musk also founded other industry-leading companies such as Zip2, PayPal, Neuralink, SolarCity, Starlink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop and OpenAI. While this may seem like tremendous success for a 49-year-old man (which it actually is), the multi-billionaire also learned a lot during his entrepreneurship journey.

Here are TEN important business lessons you can learn from the humble multi-billionaire.


1. Have a powerful vision

The most successful leaders usually have a powerful vision. They share it with their teams and chart a sure path on how they are going to achieve it. Moreover, they are able to exert influence so that other people can see their point of view. Just like Elon Musk, successful leaders have a revolutionary vision. Not only do their ideas have a positive effect, they completely change the way the industry works. He co-founded PayPal and transformed the industry of money transfer across the world. Therefore, Elon teaches us the lesson of having a vision that is transformational and powerful.


2. You must execute your ideas well

The success of an idea depends on how well it is executed. One that receives no action remains simply as an idea while one that is executed effectively can grow into a superb business. Elon Musk indicates that you need to have an innovative team to execute your ideas. With their participation, you can come up with business models that are solid. This will lead to healthy financial returns and eventually successful execution of your vision. Therefore, your idea is only as good as how you execute it.

elon musk reading

3. Read vigorously

As a business owner, you can become a leader in your field if you read enough books about it.

Whenever people ask Elon Musk how he learnt to build rockets, his answer is: “I read books.”

In a documentary by Bloomberg Quicktake, we learnt that Musk read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica when he was 9-years-old. He also read science fiction novels for more than 10 hours daily. While you may be unable to spend that amount of time reading books daily, strive to assign a realistic amount of time to read every day.


4. Constantly seek and accept criticism

As the billionaire will always say, “a well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.”

When you start your business, rather than assuming you have created a perfect product/service, constantly seek honest criticism from your customers/users. Don’t get it from your friends. They may keep it from you, as they won’t want you to feel inadequate or discouraged.

Elon Musk, last December, advised top business leaders in the US to ditch spreadsheets and instead use the time and energy to seek criticism of their product. According to him, it’s a massive requirement for running a successful business. Don’t just sit in your office, get as much customer feedback as you can and act on them.

5. Hire the very best, but fire when necessary

Elon Musk is known to hire the very best but while he hires the most brilliant and innovative people who are not just skilled but also extremely good at what they do, he is also known to fire non-collaborative employees.

In growing a successful company, do not rely too much on an employee. Get a pool of skilled employees who can easily be called upon to fill up vacancies. Use headhunters (professional recruiters) to find these employees if you must.


6. Focus on the most important activity in your enterprise

Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg all have two things in common. They run billion dollar companies and they understand the power of focus. They agree that it is better to focus your effort on making a product better instead of focusing your effort on how to sell it to the market. Elon specifically indicates that he would rather under-market a revolutionary product than promote a mediocre one. Apply this lesson in your life and it can increase the quality of your products or services.


Elon Musk being passed out on production heLL of the model 3 and bankwupt.

Elon Musk being passed out on production heLL of the model 3 and bankwupt.


7. Have a high pain threshold

“A lot of times, people think creating companies is gonna be fun. I would say it’s not. It’s really not that fun. I mean, there are periods of fun. And there are periods where it’s just awful. And particularly if you’re CEO of the company. You actually have a distillation of all the worst problems in a company.” – Elon Musk.

When starting a company, you must have a high pain threshold. The first few months may be exhilarating, but what happens when things don’t go as planned?

You imagined having many customers, but suddenly you don’t have any. You find it difficult to manage your team. You are unable to raise funds. What do you do?

Are you going to give up or are you going to keep pushing relentlessly?

Do you think Tesla and SpaceX would be where they are today if Musk did not have a high pain threshold? In 2008, Tesla was a few days from bankruptcy. The first three launches of SpaceX failed. If the fourth one had failed, that would have been the end of SpaceX and even Tesla. In Musk’s most challenging times, he got divorced. But he remained committed to his goal and never gave up. That’s a high pain threshold.

elon musk working

8. Work Like Hell

“Work like hell. I mean, you just have to put in 80 to 100 hours every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.” – Elon Musk.

As an entrepreneur, you are to put your all into growing your business. That is why it is crucial to only start a business you’re passionate about.

elon musk reading

9. Reason from first principles

From Musk’s perspective, first principles thinking requires you to boil things down to “the most fundamental truths” and then reason up from there. Musk made us understand what led him to start building rockets. While his main goal was to explore beyond earth, the rockets he would have used to do such were too expensive. As a result, he decided to build his rockets from scratch.

If you want to start and scale a successful business, do NOT reason by analogy. This is what many entrepreneurs do. They see a product or service, then they emulate it but make it slightly better.

With first principles thinking, you have to reason from the ground up. When you want to start a business, ask yourself these critical questions:

‘What problem am I trying to solve?’

‘Why should I solve this problem?’

‘Who has solved this problem and how?’

‘How does my proposed solution solve this problem effectively?’

What can I do that’s completely different and better?’

‘What impact will my proposed solution have in years to come?’

Reasoning from first principles is about providing a solution to an existing problem in a completely different and better way. Cars were in existence long before Musk was born. However, what Tesla did was completely different from what other car makers were doing. Tesla harnessed the power of sustainable energy to build electric cars, while others relied on fossil fuels. If you read up to this point, congratulations!

Elon Musk topnaija

10. Focus on solving big problems innovatively, not money

This is absolutely central to Elon Musk’s attitude to business.

When Elon Must was interviewed in 2014, he said he didn’t know how rich he was.

“It’s not as if there is a pile of cash somewhere,” he said. “It’s really just that I have a certain number of votes in Tesla, and SpaceX, and SolarCity, and the marketplace has value on those votes.”

He doesn’t have anything against the pursuit of wealth “if it’s done in sort of an ethical and good manner”, but said it just isn’t what drives him.

The approach certainly seems to be working. The real-life inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark of Iron Man fame was worth perhaps $10bn when we spoke in 2014.

His electric car company, Tesla, has performed particularly well. Shares have surged over the past year to take its value to more than $700bn. For that you could buy Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler, and still have enough left over to buy Ferrari.

Tesla cars can be bought with Bitcoin, Elon Musk declares

Will you like to become the next Elon Musk?

Take note of these business lessons in your entrepreneurial journey and the sky will be the starting point of your success. It is possible.

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