To most traders and investors, CEOs are like lightbulbs…
You unscrew one, and you put in another. They are interchangeable.
Boy, do they have it wrong. And I’m glad they do.
This gives us a huge advantage.
Time and again we’ve seen great CEOs take businesses from worst to first. And make shareholders a lot of money along the way.
I make it a point to fill our portfolio with rock-star CEOs. In fact, if there was a CEO hall of fame, I’d betcha many of them would be inducted in the first round.
Because most of the time, it takes just one key decision from a CEO that turns a company into a billion-dollar powerhouse…
And if you want to read the transcript, you can find it here.
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Founder, Alpha Investor
From Garages to Riches
Jeff Bezos started Amazon out of his garage.
It’s hard to imagine that now, as Amazon is one of the largest retail companies in history. It’s also the single largest cloud computing company.
But it was once a humble online bookstore … with piles of books sitting in Bezos’s garage.
His neighbors likely thought he was insane. And now he uses his billions to fly around in spaceships wearing a cowboy hat. Because he can!
Bezos isn’t the only technology captain of industry to start a mutibillion-dollar company out of a garage. But at least he had one of his own.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously started Apple in Jobs’ parents’ garage. Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Jobs’ rivals for most of his professional life, also started Microsoft in a garage.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google out of a rented one … and then ended up hiring their former landlord, Susan Wojcicki. She served as CEO of YouTube from 2014 until very recently.
Michael Dell, however, did not start Dell Computer in a garage. Let’s be serious here.
But he did start the company in Austin, Texas, where summer temperatures regularly top 100 degrees … in the shade.
(On a side note: I briefly tried to set up a home office in the garage of my old house in Dallas. The experiment did not survive the first week of summer.)
Dell Computer was actually started in Michael Dell’s dorm room at the University of Texas, which, while humble, did at least have air conditioning. Garage-based entrepreneurship seems to be a luxury of the more temperate West Coast.
But it’s not just tech giants that owe their founding to a dark, likely small and sweltering cave.
Mickey Mouse had similarly humble origins.
(1947; From History Lovers Club.)
In 1923, Walt Disney started the greatest entertainment company in history drawing cartoons in his uncle’s basement. It’s now an attraction in the Stanley Ranch Museum, just three miles from Disneyland.
And not to make this purely a boys’ club. Sara Blakely started Spanx from the kitchen table of her apartment in Georgia — while working a full-time job. (Georgia is nearly as hot as Texas. So she, along with Michael Dell, get free passes on the garage rite of passage.)
So What Does It All Mean?
Apart from sharing their office space with oil cans and lawnmowers, what did each of these founders have in common?
Well, they had grit.
As Charles Mizrahi has pointed out, grit is a critical component of a rock-star CEO. Intelligent people are a dime a dozen. Because unfortunately, even “original ideas” often aren’t that original.
The person that makes a company stand out isn’t necessarily the smartest, or the most original (though raw brainpower never hurts).
No, the real rock-star CEO is the one that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done — even if that means sleeping on a couch and slaving away in their buddy’s garage. Unless that garage is in Texas, in which case they might simply be insane.
Chief Editor, The Banyan Edge