The anatomy of millionaires

Entrepreneur

Millionaire! The term conjures a number of images in the minds of most people. Flamboyant, proud, snobbish, lazy people vacationing in glamorous locations.

Well, while one or two millionaires may be described in some of these words, the stuff the average millionaire is made of baffles. A peek into their lives reveals a different story: hard work, sacrifice, frugality, sheer devilry risk taking coupled with a steely determination to succeed.

We would like to say luck was on their side or some tall or well heeled relative put them in ‘the stead’ hence they had a head start in life unlike most of us, but yet a keener look at them reveals the stunner stuff they are made of.

In terms their outlook, they are a different breed altogether that sees the glass as half full; and never half empty, hence their resounding success.

They are persistent and focused, bold, entrepreneurial, patient, creative, disciplined among other attributes. And their stories run the gamut from inventors, celebrities, industrialists to struggling entrepreneurs who over years built enviable business empires.

And while few became millionaires from their fast lane jobs, nearly all of them rose from the low-rated jobs.

Warren Buffet, for instance, started as an itinerant supplier delivering newspapers to people using a bicycle. Today, his business empire is valued at around $47 billion.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest and powerful women in the world and whose net worth hovers around $2.7 billion, started off in a humble way as a grocery store clerk.

Girgio Armani, the eccentric Italian billionaire, whose net worth today stands at $5.3 billion was a photography assistant.

Even stories of our very own is a portrait of a humble beginning. The late Gerishon Kirima was a carpenter then a butcher and this confirms that there is something: a rare business acumen that propels millionaires from the bottom end of society. At the time of death this year, Kirima had built an empire worth more than Sh750 million.

And it is this rare trait coupled with ‘smart thinking’ devoid of even impressive college certificates that probably saw Njenga Karume manage to pull himself up and build a massive business empire from the unenviable lowly-rated menial job of a charcoal seller, according to his biography: Beyond Expectations; from Charcoal to Gold.

But perhaps one of the most outstanding traits of millionaires is their clenched teeth determination to pursue whatever they focus on, and do not care about the opinions of others, and without fearing any failure.

When asked about how people reacted to his intention to resign from teaching a few years ago, the late Kenyan poultry millionaire Henry Muguku said: “my principal thought I was crazy because my job was stable. But I was determined.”

It is this ‘craziness’ coupled with steely determination, traits common with all millionaires, that saw him build the biggest hatchery in the country estimated to be worth more than Sh3 billion.

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group of companies epitomises how determination to pursue one’s passion regardless of one’s weakness (he was dyslexic can take a person far.

As a teenager school drop out, Branson started with his passion: starting his own newspaper. Today, he is a quintessential billionaire, with over 400 companies under his arm and ranked as the 254th richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2011.

But as the number of self-made millionaires seems to rise even amidst the worst global financial crisis in recent times, scientists are weaving another strand in the whole question about the stuff millionaires are made of.

A June 2006 article published in The Mail Online quotes a research done in Britain and the US on entrepreneur-millionaires, which found that self-made millionaires’ success could actually lie in their genes.

This is contrary to the generally held notion that family environment and upbringing influence going it alone.

Stacy Kiruthi, an entrepreneurship consultant, argues that it’s a combination of factors such as planning, thinking big, superb management acumen, and the people one associates with, chance and fearlessness that make the millionaire tick.

“They are penny-wise. They combine frugality and always live below their means. They seem to fully ascribe to the rule ‘look after your cents and the shillings will look after themselves.”

What of education? A peek into most of their resumes, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Richard Branson, Michael Dell (the University of Texas drop out who has built the world known, Dell, a computer company and is today a magnate estimated to be worth about $13.5 billion), Apple’s Steve Jobs, and off course some of the local millionaires shows they went through the ‘school of hard knocks’ or street school but emerged wiser than most of us in the subject of money and wealth making.

But there is never a shortage of ‘eccentrics’, even crazy few within this class, perhaps a tipping point of the genius bubbling in them.

Graham Pendrill, a British millionaire traded his £1.2 million mansion in his native town Almondsbury for a Maasai mud hut in Kenya last year having been adopted by the Maasai as an elder.

Karl Rebeder, a French millionaire who grew up in poverty decided to give out his entire fortune valued at £3 million claiming the money “did not give him happiness” as he had thought when he was poor. He opted to retreat into a small wooden hut into the mountains from a luxurious Alpine retreat.

Stacy says that this is unexpected from this ilk “as at they are first and foremost ordinary human beings like everybody else. The fact that they are millionaires is because they concentrate more and unrelentlessly on investing and the experience has made them wiser.”

Too many descriptions and conjectures as to what makes millionaires exist, yet no single word or as compelling explanation exists apart from probably the horse’s mouth.

Richard Branson says many people ask him what his secret is and what they can do to be millionaires. The reply: “I always tell them the same thing. I have no secret. There are no rules to follow in business. I just work hard and, as I always have done, believe I can do it. Most of all, through, I try to have fun.”

by ANTHONY NGATIA