Today we continue with our series on how billionaires become billionaires, and I have some good news for those of you with an interest in the matter. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a how-to book on this very topic and am just now finishing it off now. It's been a very enjoyable read for a student of business history such as myself. The book is Martin S. Fridson's How to be a Billionaire: Proven Strategies from the Titans of Wealth. Indeed, if you can only read one book on how billionaires build their empires, let it be this one.
Up until the discovery of this book, I found myself forced to recommend a good half-dozen biographies and histories of the Robber Barons for those determined enough to read through thousands of pages in an effort to glean the business strategies of these extraordinary men. (See my billionaire reading list along the left margin of this blog.) My two top recommendations to date have been Matthew Josephson's The Robber Barons and Om Malik's Broadbandits, or "Robber Barons Part II" as I like to call it. Now I add Fridson's book to cap the ultimate billionaire how-to trilogy.
Fridson's book is the one to start off with in your study of billionaire business strategies. It's an excellent distillation of the main wealth building strategies of tycoons over the last 140 years. Think of it as offering the "30,000 foot" view of their strategies. The other two books will then add additional layers of detail with their chapters on individual tycoons. If you wish to continue your studies after completing all three books, my recommendation is to go with biographies of men such as John D. Rockefeller, E.H. Harriman, J.P. Morgan, Jay Gould, Daniel Ludwig, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc. Don't be tempted to focus on just current billionaires because the business lessons taught by the first wave of Robber Barons are just as relevant today as they were in the last third of the 19th century. Only the technology has changed from the telegraph to email.
A word of warning about all of these titles:
The problem with these books is that if the reader isn't well-versed in business strategy and finance, many of the lessons contained in them will be missed. You really do have to be able to read between the lines in order to fully grasp what is often explained only in short-hand by the authors. This is particularly true of the many sections dealing with the use and manipulation of publicly traded companies. I make this point because a number of Amazon reviewers complain about Fridson's book not being as helpful as, say, Think & Grow Rich. (Groan)
Make no mistake, this is a serious business text and not a fluffy get-rich-quick tome.