Named as the Business Person of the Year 2013 by Fortune Magazine and admitted to being the inspiration for Iron Man’s Tony Stark by director-producer Jon Favreau himself, Elon Musk is a formidable icon amongst business moguls. One of 21st century’s most influential personalities, Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors, chairman of Solar City, and CTO & CEO of SpaceX, with an estimated net worth of $13 billion, as of 2015. Among the only two entrepreneurs to have founded three, billion dollar companies, there are many lessons that entrepreneurs of today can pick up from Musk.
Dream big and think outside the box.
The grandiose in Elon Musk’s goals are hard to miss. In fact, many of his auto-industry inventions have made audiences compare him to the likes of Henry Ford. SpaceX’s aims to set up an entire colony on the Red planet. From Hyperloop rail systems to interplanetary transit, the ideas Musk has conceptualized are either well beyond imagination or what other businesses are creating today. Ideas with a solid foundation are just as important, says Musk. A good way to reason if your idea has a solid footing is to dig deep into its fundamental truths. Following this reasoning should come easy, says Musk.
Target emerging industries.
Musk has focused on emerging fields in most of his ventures. In the late 90s, Musk capitalized on the internet sensation, to create Zip2. Even today, Musk ventures into emerging territories that have a lot of potential for growth such as electric cars (Tesla Motors), solar power (SolarCity), and space transportation (SpaceX). These fields come with the advantage of lower competition but also pose the risk of failure. Musk says that failure is an inseparable part of innovation. In fact, if you aren’t facing failures, it means that you haven’t been innovating enough, explains Musk. Good businesses make careful decisions without stepping past their comfort zones. Great businesses dare to take risky decisions that may or may not succeed. Following any idea with a solid contingency plan in the event of a potential failure is what allows for businesses to brave the move.
Prepare to adapt to the situation.
Musk says that being able to pivot when something doesn’t work is key to surviving and making it big in the industry. It’s about adapting to circumstances and seeing how else the original plan can be manipulated to turn it into something that makes a beeline with the market’s demand. For instance, Musk transformed the online bank X.com into a payment transfer provider Paypal, based on what the market needed while using many of the former’s resources to build Paypal. Paypal soon took the world by storm, making Musk’s pivotal change worthwhile.
When the going gets tough, just keep going.
The entrepreneurship path isn’t always easy, there are going to be many stumbles and falls along the way. Musk says that entrepreneurs should go after their goals even if the odds are well against them. Chances are, you are not going to strike gold every time you implement a new idea, but picking yourself up each time and to keep going is what is important. SpaceX did not become a sensation overnight, it went through its fair share of challenges before it made the cut. When the launch of Falcon 1 fell through for the third time, Musk did not let it bring down the morale of his team or himself. Despite being very close to bankruptcy, Musk managed to plunge forward, the results of which are evident today.
Hire slow, fire fast.
Hiring is the sole challenge where you should tread carefully. Musk advise that business owners choose only the best of candidates. It isn’t about growing fast, but about having the right people on your side—those with exceptional talent. The initial team in Paypal is fondly tagged as the Paypal mafia, as it is believed to have some of the best in the business. If an employee does not fit a role, firing them is probably one of the best decisions that you can take for your company rather than trying to make things work with the employee, says Musk. Setting the bar high for hiring candidates helps set naturally high standards for your business. Musk also suggests that you trust your instincts while hiring candidates. Try not to rest your judgment of the candidate solely on his/her talent; paying attention to their personality is essential to hire the right person.