From 2012 to 2013, Mexican magnate Carlos Slim was ranked the world’s richest person, with Forbes listing his net worth at $74 billion. Here are a few of his top tips for succeeding in the world of business.
1 Start early!
Right from an early age, Carlos was taught the basics of business by his father. And when he was only 12, Carlos bought shares in a Mexican bank. He went on to study civil engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and became a trader after graduating. In 1966, at the age of 26, he was already worth US$40 million.
2 Choose your moment!
Carlos likes to invest as others are getting out of the market. “When there’s a crisis, that’s when we’re interested in getting in,” Carlos once said. In 1982, the Mexican economy slumped. But instead of playing it safe, Carlos invested in a host of companies in a wide variety of industries including telecommunications, financial services, mining and retail.
3 Act fast!
Carlos is famous for buying up companies on the cheap, then re-organising them, forming conglomerates and driving out the competition. “When we decide to do something, we do it quickly,” he once said. In 1990, Carlos worked with France Télécom and Southwestern Bell to buy up the state-owned telephone company Telmex from the Mexican government. These days, the company, which is run by Carlos, operates the majority of Mexican landlines (over 90%). Another one of his companies, América Movil, is Latin America’s largest mobile phone provider, serving more than 150 million customers in 11 countries, and operating almost 80% of all the mobile phones in Mexico. Both companies are virtual monopolies, which wouldn’t be permitted in countries such as the US under antitrust regulations.
With control of more than 200 companies, Carlos is the master of diversification. “It’s hard to spend a day in Mexico and not put money in his pocket,” a journalist for the Wall Street Journal wrote in a business profile. Carlos has invested in a wide range of sectors in both Mexico and the USA. In 2008, he made headlines when he bought a 6.4% stake in The New York Times Company, and recently acquired more, upping his stake to 7.5%. Additionally, he also owns 1% of Citigroup, and 16% of the shares in Saks Fifth Avenue.
5 Watch your costs!
Carlos is very careful about his costs, and he likes to streamline any new businesses. “It’s not a question of arriving and putting in a whole new administration, but instead, arriving and compacting things as much as possible, reducing management layers. We want as few management layers as possible, so that executives are very close to the operations,” he once explained. On a personal level, Carlos is famously frugal. He has lived in the same six-bedroom house for the past 30 years, wears clothes from his own modest stores, doesn’t own a single home outside Mexico, and drives himself to work.
6 Have vision!
Although Carlos is a technophobe, he recognises the power of technology. “Technology is going to transform people’s lives and society everywhere in the world. I spend most of my time studying new technologies. My main task is to understand what’s going on and try to see where we can fit in,” he once explained.
7 Be generous!
In May 2011, Carlos appeared on Forbes’ list of the World’s Biggest Givers after donating millions to his anti-poverty foundation. However, he doesn’t believe in simply throwing money at problems. He once told USA Today that education and jobs can fight poverty better than charity. “It’s not a question of giving money away, it’s a question of going somewhere and doing something and making sure the basic costs are paid… I’m channelling resources to try to solve problems as quickly as possible…. Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving – that is, not going around like Santa Claus. Poverty isn’t solved with donations.”
It’s nice to know he’s doing his bit!