Some billionaires are household names-say Donald Trump, Bill Gates or Richard Branson. You know the kind of person I'm talking about. Someone who's not afraid to take big risks. Someone with a larger-than-life personality to match the incalculably large bank account. Sure, media coverage can enhance an already sizable reputation, but these three built a good portion of their personal legends all by themselves thanks to things like Trump's popular reality show The Apprentice, Gates' full-time move into philanthropy from the helm of the world's most influential technology company or Branson's foray into space tourism.
Other billionaires, relatively speaking, are unknown. They're the people who control a pool of assets to rival a mid-size country's GNP, but choose to live outside the spotlight. One such example is the ultra-secretive Cargill family, which controls a closely and privately held agriculture conglomerate. Another is the reclusive expatriate Ruth Parasol, who dabbled in electronic pornography before founding the online poker site PartyGaming, establishing residency in Gibraltar and resolutely refusing to be photographed or interviewed.
The differences in lifestyle aside, billionaires share a number of characteristics that factor significantly into their wealth creation and success. They include a range of personal philosophies and business practices that collectively represent Rules of Conduct-rules that, when followed, have delivered unparalleled results. Execution, of course, is as varied and distinct as the world's population of billionaires.
Russ Alan Prince and I have studied the high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth markets for more than two decades, which has allowed us to isolate these attributes and observe them in action. In fact, our research shows that this conduct is exhibited at all levels of wealth, but the richest display it more consistently, more effectively and more passionately.
This issue includes the first installment of a new column-Money Rules (see page 12)-that will appear in each issue. In it, Russ and I will share our first-hand experiences with billionaires, and those on the cusp, and explore the behaviors and mindsets of the world's richest people in the context of their lives, businesses, failures and accomplishments. Think of it as grist for personal reflection and, perhaps, a way to understand your biggest customers' idiosyncrasies. Enjoy!