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5 business lessons from Elon Musk

Here are fivw important business lessons you can learn from multi-billionaire, Elon Musk.



Elon Musk, Tesla, SEC, Stock, Twitter, COVID-19: Tesla’s Elon Musk to produce ventilators as fast-spread of disease lingers

Elon Musk, currently the richest man in the world, is a serial entrepreneur who has managed to start and scale several businesses in different industries. His most valuable companies, Tesla and SpaceX, are currently worth $773 billion and $74 billion, respectively.

Musk also founded other industry-leading companies such as Zip2, PayPal, Neuralink, SolarCity, Starlink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop and OpenAI. While this may seem like tremendous success for a 49-year-old man (which it actually is), the multi-billionaire also learned a lot during his entrepreneurship journey.

Here are FIVE important business lessons you can learn from the multi-billionaire.

READ: Battle of Titans: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos share world’s richest title

1. Read vigorously

As a business owner, you can become a leader in your field if you read enough books about it.

Whenever people ask Elon Musk how he learnt to build rockets, his answer is: “I read books.”

In a documentary by Bloomberg Quicktake, we learnt that Musk read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica when he was 9-years-old. He also read science fiction novels for more than 10 hours daily. While you may be unable to spend that amount of time reading books daily, strive to assign a realistic amount of time to read every day.

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READ: Meet the 39 years old Chinese billionaire electric car maker 

2. Constantly seek and accept criticism

As the billionaire will always say, “a well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.”

When you start your business, rather than assuming you have created a perfect product/service, constantly seek honest criticism from your customers/users. Don’t get it from your friends. They may keep it from you, as they won’t want you to feel inadequate or discouraged.

Elon Musk, last December, advised top business leaders in the US to ditch spreadsheets and instead use the time and energy to seek criticism of their product. According to him, it’s a massive requirement for running a successful business. Don’t just sit in your office, get as much customer feedback as you can and act on them.

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READ: How to fund your business without a debt sentence (Part 1)

3. Hire the very best, but fire when necessary

Elon Musk is known to hire the very best but while he hires the most brilliant and innovative people who are not just skilled but also extremely good at what they do, he is also known to fire non-collaborative employees.

In growing a successful company, do not rely too much on an employee. Get a pool of skilled employees who can easily be called upon to fill up vacancies. Use headhunters (professional recruiters) to find these employees if you must.

4. Have a high pain threshold

“A lot of times, people think creating companies is gonna be fun. I would say it’s not. It’s really not that fun. I mean, there are periods of fun. And there are periods where it’s just awful. And particularly if you’re CEO of the company. You actually have a distillation of all the worst problems in a company.” – Elon Musk.

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When starting a company, you must have a high pain threshold. The first few months may be exhilarating, but what happens when things don’t go as planned?

You imagined having many customers, but suddenly you don’t have any. You find it difficult to manage your team. You are unable to raise funds. What do you do?

Are you going to give up or are you going to keep pushing relentlessly?

Do you think Tesla and SpaceX would be where they are today if Musk did not have a high pain threshold? In 2008, Tesla was a few days from bankruptcy. The first three launches of SpaceX failed. If the fourth one had failed, that would have been the end of SpaceX and even Tesla. In Musk’s most challenging times, he got divorced. But he remained committed to his goal and never gave up. That’s a high pain threshold.


READ: Successful Entrepreneurs Say These 9 Tips Are Critical To Starting A Great Business

5. Work Like Hell

“Work like hell. I mean, you just have to put in 80 to 100 hours every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.” – Elon Musk.

As an entrepreneur, you are to put your all into growing your business. That is why it is crucial to only start a business you’re passionate about.

If you read up to this point, congratulations! Here is a bonus for you.

READ: How Elon Musk lost $8 billion this week 

6. Reason from first principles

From Musk’s perspective, first principles thinking requires you to boil things down to “the most fundamental truths” and then reason up from there. Musk made us understand what led him to start building rockets. While his main goal was to explore beyond earth, the rockets he would have used to do such were too expensive. As a result, he decided to build his rockets from scratch.

If you want to start and scale a successful business, do NOT reason by analogy. This is what many entrepreneurs do. They see a product or service, then they emulate it but make it slightly better.

With first principles thinking, you have to reason from the ground up. When you want to start a business, ask yourself these critical questions:

‘What problem am I trying to solve?’

‘Why should I solve this problem?’

‘Who has solved this problem and how?’

‘How does my proposed solution solve this problem effectively?’

What can I do that’s completely different and better?’

‘What impact will my proposed solution have in years to come?’

READ: Elon Musk gains $25 billion in a day, as Tesla surges by 20%

Reasoning from first principles is about providing a solution to an existing problem in a completely different and better way. Cars were in existence long before Musk was born. However, what Tesla did was completely different from what other car makers were doing. Tesla harnessed the power of sustainable energy to build electric cars, while others relied on fossil fuels.

Will you like to become the next Elon Musk?

Take note of these business lessons in your entrepreneurial journey and the sky will be the starting point of your success.

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Financial Literacy

How to invest for retirement

Planning for retirement means planning to reduce obligation in the future by investing today.



How not to worry about money in retirement

“If you plan to retire in five years what should you be doing today?” That’s a question I got last week, and talking with the client, a lot came up which I have decided to share.

First off, What is retirement?

Nigeria’s public service has an official retirement age of 60 or thirty-five years of unbroken active working service, but in financial planning, retirement is a financial, not a chronological event. Retirement can occur when your passive income can meet your non-discretionary expenses.

You start to plan for retirement the day you start to earn an income. Your retirement plan will centre on how to generate passive income and reduce expenses. In Financial Planning, Four distinct stages are usually described in a so-called Lifecycle Chart. These are the Accumulation, Consolidation, Spending, and Gifting stages. Chart 1. Financial LifeCycle seeks to segment investing priorities, recommended asset allocation, and risk profile in a chronological timeline as the person gets older. I will take each of these stages and explain how they are linked to your retirement plan.

READ: How to choose the right Pension Fund Administrator (PFA)

Chart: Financial Life Cycle

Early years: Use Your Time and Make Money, (Accumulate)

The first stage is called the Accumulation stage. Imagine a 22-year-old who has just graduated and is a management trainee. He typically has a low credit score and assets and income are also substantially lower. What he has in abundance is time. So it’s important to deploy his time in the best way to make money. Hence in the accumulate stage, the goal is to generate cash flow either from a job, multiple jobs, working longer hours, saving, cutting unnecessary expenses, etc.

The key measure in the accumulation stage is the Savings Rate which is essentially how much of income earned or generated has not been spent. On average, the participants in the accumulation stage have fewer dependents and maintenance needs which should theoretically make it easier to save.

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READ: This thread exposed everything that’s wrong with Nigeria’s VAT

Mid Years Use Your Money To Buy Assets (Consolidation)

In the consolidation stage the focus shifts from saving to investing. At this stage, the income earned and credit scores have improved. This is when the talk of buying a home or starting a business takes concrete shape because, at this stage, those dreams can be funded. Hence capacity to take on debt is improved, and debt is used to invest in assets like a home. Remember debt is simply front-loaded consumption, which means we are taking our future income to invest today, intending to repay with future income generated from today investment.

The key measure in the consolidation stage is the Rate of Return which is essentially how much has been generated from the investments made.

READ: How to choose the right Pension Fund Administrator (PFA)

Spending & Gifting Phase; Use Your Assets To Generate Cash Flow and Time (Spending and Gifting)

Why is it called the spending phase? Because that’s what the individual is doing, spending down accumulated investments. The spending will include buying annuities or perhaps relocating to another city, your dependant’s college needs, etc. At this stage, typically very few are still earning “new” income but are rather spending from the return of prior investments.

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The key measure in the spending stage is the Withdrawal Rate which is essentially how much of investment can be withdrawn as cash annually to ensure we do not outlive our investments.

READ: How interest rates impact your wallet

Retirement is All About Passive Income

Passive income, which is the income we are making from investing from the accumulation and consolidation stage is now sufficient to generate income and reduce expenses to meet our expenses in the spending/gifting stage.

To give an example, assume we took a mortgage to buy a house in the Consolidation Stage, in the Spending stage, we pay no rent, thus we save cash, which reduces our Non-Discretionary Expenses. In essence, retirement is planning to eliminate your future expenses to the point where you need less income when you retire.

What Should You Invest In Before Retirement Or In Retirement?

Our objective is simple, Income. In retirement, we invest solely to make income to meet our spending needs, Risk profile is also very low because there are fewer recovery options if your investments sink.

The retirement portfolio is an income-generating portfolio that will be overweight in fixed income products. First, determine what the risk-free rate is. In Nigeria, we can take the yield on a ten-year FGN bond as a guide, this means we can have a target of 10% as our huddle rate for the long term. Thus I will recommend an 80/20 portfolio with 80% going to Fixed Income consisting of long term bonds, REITs, and other top-grade commercial paper.

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However what happens if we lock in our funds for 10 years at 10% and rates jump to 20%, meaning a loss to our portfolio.  To avoid this risk we can create a bond ladder, where we break down the bulk sum and duration of our total bond investment outlay. Let us assume we have N10m in cash to invest, instead of one single lot investment of N10m, we split into 5 equal investments of N2m and place for 6, 7, 8, 9, and ten-year maturities. This means by the 5th year the first N2m will mature, if rates are higher, reinvest, if rates have fallen then reevaluate.

READ: 10 Side gigs to venture into while working a full-time job

What about Equities

Yes, equities also pay a dividend. In buying equities, we must ensure we are only buying stocks that pay a dividend above our huddle rate of 10% which is the 10-year FGN bond rate. Which Nigerian stock meet that huddle rate?

  • Lasaco
  • Zenith
  • GT bank
  • United cap

In closing, let us summarize. Retirement is not chronological age. The event occurs when our passive income pays our bills. Planning for retirement means planning to reduce obligation in the future by investing today. Investing in retirement is income-based with a huddle.


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Financial Literacy

Steps to take to bag international scholarships

Here are the steps you should take if interested in pursuing international scholarships.



United Kingdom opens window of job opportunities for international students

Studying abroad gives you exposure among many other things, and that is precisely why many Nigerians have been looking for ways to study abroad. However, not everybody is privileged with the resources to study overseas and this is where the international scholarship option comes in.

If you are interested in studying abroad and don’t have enough funds, you should consider applying for international scholarships. This article lists the steps you can take to bag international scholarships but before delving into that, here are some types of scholarships available to you as an international student:

  • Location-based scholarships
  • Course or program-based scholarships
  • Sports-related scholarships
  • Research-based scholarships
  • University-funded scholarships
  • Organization-funded scholarships
  • Government-funded scholarships

Having discovered the types of international scholarships available to you, here are the steps you should take to bag any of these international scholarships.

Research: Research is vital if you don’t want to miss out on good opportunities or make mistakes during your application. Research scholarship opportunities available in your prospective college or location and be on the lookout for hidden scholarships.

Check your eligibility: Having done thorough research and discovered the available scholarship opportunities, check to see if you are eligible for them. Many international scholarships have their criteria and requirement, so you should confirm that you are the right fit first.

Get the required documents: After confirming your eligibility, you should get the necessary documents. If the scholarship requires you to write an exam, prepare for the exam, write a good statement of purpose and prepare all other documents.

Start your admission process: Some international scholarships require that you start your admission process and probably get the admission before starting your scholarship application.

Contact past scholarship winners: You might want to contact the previous scholarship winners to know what they did right and how you can learn from them.

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Apply for the available scholarships: The last step is to apply to every available scholarship.

The best way to get funds for your undergraduate, postgraduate, or PhD pursuits abroad is by applying for international scholarships. If you do thorough research, you can find fully funded scholarships that won’t require you to pay any amount. One of the essential steps to getting an international scholarship as a Nigerian is staying abreast of current information and this will require you to network with others.

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