A former Arkansas farm boy whose family often didn’t have a dollar to spare for movies, Darwin Deason left his small town the day after he graduated high school, with $50 borrowed from his dad and a 1949 Pontiac. He headed for the “bright lights, big city” of Tulsa, Oklahoma and got a job at Gulf Oil. He eventually joined Dallas data-processing firm MTech and later took it over after all but his division failed. Deason became CEO at age 29, sold MTech in 1988 and within days started Affiliated Computer Services to handle computer and other business process services for clients such as E-ZPass. He eventually took ACS public and then sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010; he is personally now worth $1.1 billion.
Deason, who is getting ready to announce an investment business with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, credits much of his success to his “Habit of Hustle.” “I learned hard work on the farm,” says Deason, “I go at everything as hard as I can and expect everyone around me to do the same.” Back when he was running ACS, he would hold monthly financial review meetings at 6 a.m. so as not to cut into the hours when staff would be selling or servicing customers.
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Deason admits he doesn't envy small business owners these days: “It’s much more difficult to be an entrepreneur today because of government over-regulation and the uncertainty of the tax environment." But for those brave enough to strike out on their own, he offered up these seven tips. Let us know what you think.
7 Tips For Entrepreneurs
- Choose something you love to do and pick what kind of business you want to be in. I’d hate retail, where you sit and wait on people who come to you. I couldn’t do it. I admire folks who are successful in that area, but it’s not for me. I have to go hunt for business.
- You must be willing to work as hard as you can to achieve success. There are very few financially successful entrepreneurs who have successful family and work lives. If success is a happy family, coaching your kids' games, going to their concerts, don’t become an entrepreneur.
- Hustle, hustle, hustle: Good things come to those who wait but normally it’s the leftovers from those who hustle.
- Be aware of crossroads. When I was 25, my boss one level above me confused me with another employee, Bill Peyden, it was a crossroads for me. I realized for me to be truly successful, I had to be my own boss. I quit within days of that (incident).
- Make sure you hire people smarter than yourself and reward them for the work they do. I’ve always been very consistent with employees. They can’t perform unless they know what to expect. Everyone who has ever worked for me has had a big part of their pay based on meeting goals. That’s true even for my security guards and secretary. If you go two years without a bonus, you don’t have a job anymore. I want you to earn your bonus. As a salesman I am used to a lot of incentive.
- Be adequately capitalized in good and bad times. More entrepreneurs fail due to being undercapitalized than any other reason.
- Decide if you want to have partners or go on your own, and if you have partners try your best to retain control.
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