#228 Michael Bloomberg

Summary Notes


In his autobiography, "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," Michael Bloomberg reflects on his journey from a Wall Street job at Salomon Brothers to founding his eponymous company, now a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Starting with a mere $10 million from his Salomon buyout and a small, dedicated team, Bloomberg channeled his work ethic and industry knowledge into creating a groundbreaking financial information service. His approach emphasized building from scratch, leveraging technology, and continuously innovating to stay ahead of competitors. Bloomberg's philosophy of making many small, low-risk bets with high potential returns, and his insistence on differentiating his product in the marketplace, were pivotal to his success. He also highlights the importance of persistence, resourcefulness, and the value of family, noting that the rewards often go to those who outwork others and that time invested is a critical variable in shaping one's future.

Summary Notes

Frustration with Complexity in Success

  • Michael Bloomberg reflects on the complexities that success brings, such as legal clearances and staff justifications, which contrast with the early days of a more direct approach to business.
  • He expresses a longing to return to simpler times, but acknowledges the allure of success and its trappings.
  • The growth and focus on management have led to a loss of simplicity and the addition of exceptions and overlapping products.

"What started simple with time has become complex. A single straightforward policy has picked up, exception after exception. Over time, products have grown to overlap."

The quote illustrates how success can lead to complexity in business operations, making processes more cumbersome compared to the straightforward beginnings.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

  • Real entrepreneurs are depicted as extremely dedicated and focused, to the point where relaxation is not an option.
  • Bloomberg questions the logic of exchanging the excitement and influence of running a business for just a financial gain.
  • He values the independence of not having to answer to external partners, such as stockholders or security analysts.

"Real entrepreneurs never do, though, and I haven't either. Generally, real builders are so focused, one-dimensional and dedicated, they'd have a nervous breakdown after two weeks of sitting around."

This quote emphasizes the relentless drive and dedication of true entrepreneurs, who find their purpose and challenge in their work, rather than just financial rewards.

Michael Bloomberg's Autobiography and Its Impact

  • The autobiography "Bloomberg by Bloomberg" is praised for its candid and unapologetic portrayal of Michael Bloomberg's entrepreneurial journey.
  • The book's insights and lessons have been highlighted by a writer in a Twitter thread, which the host found compelling.
  • The host was initially unaware of the details of Bloomberg's success and the private ownership of his company.

"And that is an awesome example of why this book moved up to Q. He is unapologetically extreme, and he sets the tone from the very, very beginning."

This quote conveys the host's admiration for Bloomberg's forthrightness and the strong impression the book made, prompting a deeper exploration of Bloomberg's principles and experiences.

The Essence and Growth of Bloomberg LP

  • Bloomberg LP started with a simple vision and grew into a company beyond what was imagined.
  • The company's culture of hard work, risk-taking, customer service, long-term investment, transparency, and teamwork is highlighted as a defining factor.
  • Bloomberg emphasizes the importance of understanding the core product, which, for his company, is data and analytics, not the physical devices.

"What started in 1981 with four guys in a coffee pot and not one customer has grown beyond our wildest imaginations."

The quote encapsulates the humble beginnings and extraordinary growth of Bloomberg LP, emphasizing the importance of culture and vision in the company's success.

Learning from History and Avoiding Past Mistakes

  • Bloomberg stresses the importance of historical knowledge in understanding industry trends and avoiding past mistakes.
  • He cites Kodak's failure to adapt to digital photography as an example of a company mistaking its product for the device that delivers it.
  • Bloomberg avoided a similar fate by shifting focus from hardware to data and analytics.

"The technology that we pioneered in the early 1980s has long been ancient history, but we never made the error that so many others have."

This quote highlights Bloomberg's strategic foresight in distinguishing between the medium and the core product, which allowed his company to evolve and stay relevant.

The Turning Point: Getting Fired and Starting Over

  • Bloomberg views his termination from Salomon Brothers as a pivotal moment that led to the creation of his own company.
  • He reflects on the unexpected termination following a celebration and the emotional impact it had on him.
  • Despite the initial setback, Bloomberg did not dwell on the past and instead focused on the future, leading to the establishment of Bloomberg LP.

"I was terminated from the only full-time job I'd ever known and from the high-pressure life I loved."

The quote captures the shock and disappointment of being fired, yet also marks the beginning of Bloomberg's entrepreneurial journey, underscoring the theme of resilience and forward-thinking.

Early Influences and Education

  • Bloomberg credits his parents for instilling values of hard work, curiosity, and ambition.
  • He acknowledges the transformative impact of engaging and relevant education in history and literature during his senior year of high school.
  • Bloomberg laments the time wasted in education that failed to engage students and emphasizes the importance of learning from history to avoid repeating mistakes.

"From my parents as a child, I learned hard work, intellectual curiosity, and the ambition to strive relentlessly for the goals I set."

This quote reveals the foundational values that shaped Bloomberg's character and approach to life, highlighting the role of upbringing and education in shaping future success.

Harvard Business School and Career Insights

  • Bloomberg reflects on his time at Harvard Business School, noting the mix of bright students and those he considered less capable.
  • He observes that street smarts and common sense were better predictors of career achievement than academic performance alone.
  • His experience at Harvard helped him realize the importance of practical skills and ambition in professional success.

"Street smarts and common sense, it turned out, were better predictors of career achievements."

The quote underscores Bloomberg's belief that practical intelligence and common sense are key factors in achieving professional success, more so than academic credentials alone.

Influence of Leadership Styles

  • Michael Bloomberg reflects on the leadership styles of two influential figures, Billy and John, from his past.
  • Billy was decisive, consistent, and led from the front, setting a clear direction for the team.
  • John, in contrast, was more egalitarian, listening to many people, which led to less effective leadership as it caused indecisiveness and split resources.
  • Bloomberg admires Billy's approach and sees it as a model for his own leadership at Bloomberg.

"He was decisive and consistent as a leader. If he ever harbored doubts after making a decision, I never saw it." This quote highlights the decisiveness of Billy as a leader, which left a strong impression on Bloomberg.

"Unlike Billy, John consulted all interested parties before making a decision." This quote contrasts John's leadership style with Billy's, suggesting that John's approach led to less effective decision-making.

Value of Hard Work and Persistence

  • Bloomberg discusses his early career experiences, including a humble start and the lessons learned from it.
  • He emphasizes the importance of hard work, staying focused, and seizing opportunities to build relationships with influential people.
  • He shares his strategy of arriving early and staying late to become indispensable and build rapport with the managing partners.
  • Bloomberg also talks about the thrill of excelling at his job and the lack of need for external validation.

"I worked my first summer there in the cage, physically counting securities by hand." This quote describes Bloomberg's entry-level position and his willingness to start at the bottom.

"I came in every morning at 07:00 a.m. Getting there before everyone else except Billy." This quote demonstrates Bloomberg's commitment to hard work and his strategic approach to building relationships with key people.

The Surest Way to Wealth

  • Bloomberg reflects on the path to wealth, suggesting that starting a business that customers love is more reliable than just investing.
  • He cites historical figures like John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates as examples of those who built wealth by creating real-world value.
  • Bloomberg underscores the importance of loving what you do, as it leads to greater success and fulfillment.

"The surest way to get rich is to build a business customers love." This quote encapsulates Bloomberg's philosophy on the most effective way to achieve financial success.

Flexibility and Adaptability in Entrepreneurship

  • Bloomberg stresses the importance of flexibility and adaptability over rigid planning.
  • He advises taking opportunities as they come and making incremental progress rather than waiting for a big break.
  • He shares his belief that hard work and continuous skill enhancement are crucial for success.

"Take lots of chances and make lots of individual, spur of the moment decisions." This quote summarizes Bloomberg's approach to seizing opportunities and avoiding over-planning.

Advice for Young Professionals

  • Bloomberg provides advice for young people starting their careers, emphasizing the importance of learning over immediate financial gain.
  • He encourages finding smart people to learn from and highlights the value of biographies and autobiographies as sources of mentorship.
  • Bloomberg's own extreme work ethic is evident as he discusses the importance of outworking others and not giving up.

"Novices should go to the best firm they can get into and then listen and learn." This quote offers practical advice for young professionals to prioritize learning and growth opportunities early in their careers.

Entrepreneurial Mindset and Starting Bloomberg

  • Bloomberg shares insights from his transition to entrepreneurship, including his last job at Solomon Brothers and the decision to start his own company.
  • He discusses the excitement and challenge of entrepreneurship and his preference for being a participant rather than a spectator in business.
  • Bloomberg highlights the importance of identifying one's unique strengths when considering entrepreneurship.

"Did I want to risk an embarrassing and costly failure? Absolutely." This quote illustrates Bloomberg's willingness to embrace risk and the unknown in pursuit of entrepreneurial success.

Entrepreneurial Approach

  • Embrace a step-by-step approach to entrepreneurship, taking a forward step and assessing before proceeding.
  • Learning by doing can expedite the entrepreneurial process.
  • Avoid overanalyzing and trust in the creative process.

"The entrepreneurial way is to immediately take a forward step. And if that feels good, take another, if not, step back. Learn by doing. It's a faster process."

This quote emphasizes the value of action and experiential learning in entrepreneurship. It suggests that progress is made through a series of iterative steps rather than extensive planning.

Vision and Action

  • Success requires a clear, affordable, and practical vision that fulfills a customer need.
  • Overemphasis on details can hinder creativity and project potential.
  • Confidence and a degree of risk-taking are essential in the initial stages of building a company.

"If you're going to succeed, you need a vision, one that's affordable, practical, and fills a customer need. Then go for it."

This quote underlines the importance of having a clear vision that addresses customer needs and the necessity of taking decisive action to realize that vision.

Product and Sales Focus

  • Prioritize product development and sales from the outset.
  • Product and sales processes should be run concurrently.
  • The initial investment and risk are significant, but essential for ownership and control.

"At Bloomberg, we always built the product first. Selling is the only process we run simultaneously with development from the very start."

The quote reveals Bloomberg's strategy of focusing on product development and sales from the beginning, highlighting the importance of these two elements in a successful business model.

Emotional Rollercoaster of Startups

  • Running a startup involves alternating between euphoria and terror.
  • Lack of sleep can intensify these emotions.
  • Facing challenges, such as software bugs, is a part of the process.

"You only experience two emotions, euphoria and terror. And then he says, I find a lack of sleep enhances both."

This quote captures the intense emotional experience of running a startup, characterized by high highs and low lows, often exacerbated by sleep deprivation.

Problem-Solving and Teamwork

  • Break down problems into manageable pieces.
  • Assign responsibilities based on individual strengths.
  • Teamwork and a shared sense of responsibility are key.

"Our style then was pretty much the same as today. We took the problem and broke it down into little manageable, digestible pieces."

The quote reflects Bloomberg's approach to problem-solving, which involves dividing complex issues into smaller, more manageable tasks and leveraging the strengths of team members.

Life Mottos and Action

  • Life mottos can be a source of inspiration and motivation.
  • "Get action" was Theodore Roosevelt's family motto, emphasizing the importance of taking action.
  • Planning is less valuable than action in the context of entrepreneurship.

"Others plan how to plan for months, something Bloomberg is going to repeat to you over and over again. He's like, you were sitting there planning, I'm already out running."

This quote criticizes excessive planning and promotes the value of taking immediate action, as encapsulated in the life motto "Get action."

Risk, Responsibility, and Differentiation

  • Entrepreneurs must be willing to take financial risks and assume responsibility for their team.
  • Differentiating one's product is crucial for profitability and success.
  • Being convinced of doing something unique can drive an entrepreneur forward.

"From the beginning, I was convinced we were doing something nobody else could do, nor was anyone else trying."

The quote highlights Bloomberg's belief in the uniqueness of his product and the importance of differentiation in the market.

Leveraging Customer Feedback

  • Customer feedback, especially from knowledgeable users, is critical for product improvement.
  • Engaging with customers can lead to significant contributions to a company's success.
  • Honest, demanding clients are preferable to indifferent ones.

"They wanted us to succeed. When they said something didn't work, they could show us it didn't work, so we knew for sure it didn't work."

This quote illustrates the value of constructive customer feedback in refining a product and ensuring its success.

Hands-On Entrepreneurship

  • In the early stages, entrepreneurs often perform various roles themselves.
  • There's a sense of satisfaction in witnessing one's creation come to life.
  • As the company grows, specialization becomes necessary, though it can be bittersweet.

"I used to write all the checks myself. I signed every contract. I paid every bill. I did all the hiring and firing."

The quote describes the diverse responsibilities Bloomberg took on in the early days of his company, emphasizing the hands-on nature of entrepreneurship.

Selling as a Continuous Process

  • Selling is not limited to customers; it also applies to recruiting talent.
  • Emphasizing the quality of the team and the importance of the work can attract the best people.
  • Everything requires selling, consistently and effectively.

"Everything has to be sold all the time."

This quote, attributed to Estée Lauder, encapsulates the ongoing necessity of selling in all aspects of a business, from products to recruitment.

Leverage Through Media

  • Information can be leveraged for business growth.
  • Repurposing content can attract customers to other services.
  • Offering valuable information can lead to increased interest in paid services.

"Your company has information no one else has. How can you repurpose it to benefit other people and achieve your objective?"

This quote suggests that unique information held by a company can be repurposed to generate interest and drive sales, contributing to the company's leverage.

News as a Product Demo

  • News stories can demonstrate the value of a company's product.
  • A cycle of more news leading to more revenue and even more news can be established.
  • Content is the core product, and technology is a means of distribution.

"Each news story is a product demo. More demos lead to more revenue, more revenue leads to more stories, and then even more revenue."

This quote illustrates how Bloomberg used news stories as demonstrations of the terminal's capabilities, creating a virtuous cycle of content creation and revenue generation.

Personal Branding and Product Differentiation

  • Michael Bloomberg emphasizes the importance of being authentic and using personal knowledge to highlight the value of one's product.
  • He suggests that charisma can enhance the appeal of a product or idea, as seen with historical figures and brands like Nike with Michael Jordan.
  • Bloomberg stresses the need for a product to have a distinct personality, which he achieved by becoming the face of his own company.
  • The rebranding from "Market master" to "Bloomberg terminal" and the company name to "Bloomberg" was a strategic move to leverage his personal brand.

"You got to be you. You know more about your business than anyone else. You think about it more, you care about it more, you're in the best position, then, if those facts are accurate, to tell other people why it's valuable."

This quote highlights the importance of personal investment and knowledge in promoting a product, suggesting that a genuine connection to the product can be a key selling point.

Leveraging Media for Business Growth

  • Bloomberg discusses the strategic use of various media forms to promote his company and its products.
  • He explains that starting with print and expanding to radio and television allowed the company to repurpose its unique data for broader visibility.
  • The goal of using different media was to make Bloomberg synonymous with financial information, thereby increasing product sales.
  • Bloomberg's approach was to use the information his company gathered and present it through various narratives across media platforms.

"Radio and television provide our company with instant visibility."

This quote emphasizes the importance of media exposure in creating brand recognition and driving product sales.

Embracing Technological Advancements

  • Bloomberg reflects on the impact of his education in the era of early computing and its relevance to his future success.
  • He underscores the constancy of human nature and its influence on the need for information, regardless of technological changes.
  • Bloomberg credits technology for giving his company an advantage, which is a principle he adopted from Andrew Carnegie's focus on investing in the latest technology.

"My education in the 1960s and 1970s era of horse and buggy computer systems formed the basis of what I did more than a decade later when I bought the Bloomberg terminal to financial desks worldwide."

This quote connects Bloomberg's early experiences with technology to the eventual success of the Bloomberg terminal, demonstrating the long-term value of education and technological innovation.

Empowering Talent and Leveraging Human Capital

  • Bloomberg believes in allowing creative individuals within a company to operate freely, which he sees as a source of immense leverage.
  • He describes his process of identifying leaders within the company by observing who naturally takes charge in new ventures.
  • Bloomberg highlights the importance of software developers, salespeople, and content creators in building a successful company.

"The leverage we gain from employing creative people and letting them do their own thing is incredible."

This quote speaks to Bloomberg's management philosophy of empowering employees to innovate and take initiative, which he views as a key driver of business success.

Competitive Strategy and Market Dominance

  • Bloomberg and other successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos advocate for entering business battles with a distinct advantage.
  • They suggest avoiding fair fights and instead seeking to dominate by being the best, not just one of the best.
  • Bloomberg's strategy involves making small bets with limited downside and uncapped upside, which aligns with Bezos's approach to business expansion.

"We don't want fair fights. We want to go into contests with an advantage."

This quote reflects Bloomberg's competitive mindset, emphasizing the importance of seeking an edge in business to ensure survival and success.

The Importance of Oral Communication and Relationships

  • Bloomberg values oral communication as a fundamental aspect of human interaction and business exchange.
  • He compares the preference for voice communication over text, as evidenced by the popularity of the telephone over the telegraph.
  • Bloomberg also touches on the significance of relationships over financial gain, advising to prioritize time with loved ones over chasing profits.

"We exchange ideas more than information, and we do most of that orally."

This quote underscores the importance of verbal communication in business and personal relationships, suggesting that it resonates more deeply with human nature than other forms of communication.

Reflections on Success and Legacy

  • Bloomberg reflects on the pride his father would have felt about his achievements and the importance of family connections.
  • He advises on the importance of persistence and hard work, noting that most successful people started with nothing and faced setbacks.
  • Bloomberg emphasizes that time and effort are key controllable variables in determining one's future success.

"Today, 55 years later, I still miss him."

This poignant quote reveals the enduring impact of parental influence and the emotional significance of success in relation to family legacy.

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