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    • Rolex founding influencesHans Wilsdorf's experiences as an orphan, education, and early career shaped his future in the watch industry, giving him valuable skills and leading him to start Rolex at a young age.

      Hans Wilsdorf's early life experiences, particularly being an orphan and the decision of his uncles to send him to a prestigious boarding school, played a crucial role in shaping his future and the founding of Rolex. The education he received, which focused on mathematics and languages, opened doors for him in the international watch industry and gave him valuable skills in strategic marketing. Starting at the age of 19, Hans worked for a Swiss watch export company, where he gained a deep understanding of the watch industry and learned essential business skills. This experience, combined with his multilingual abilities, set the foundation for him to start his own company, Rolex, by the age of 25. The lack of specialization he observed in his early employers inspired him to focus on Rolex's core competencies and build a successful, highly-focused brand.

    • Belief in potential of wristwatches for menHans Wilsdorf's belief in the potential of wristwatches for men despite skepticism and industry challenges led to their widespread adoption and the growth of the watch industry.

      Hans Wilsdorf's success in founding Rolex was rooted in his belief in the potential of the wristwatch for men, despite widespread skepticism and existing industry challenges. Starting out as a reseller with no specialized knowledge, Wilsdorf experimented with various brands and types of watches. He saw the deficiencies of the pocket watch industry and seized the opportunity to create a new market for wristwatches for men. At a time when men found wristwatches to be an object of derision, Wilsdorf believed in their potential and worked tirelessly to overcome the skepticism and technical challenges. His belief in the wristwatch's potential as a fashion accessory contributed to its widespread adoption and the growth of the watch industry. Wilsdorf's story is a testament to the power of belief and the importance of seeing opportunities where others see problems.

    • Belief in an ideaBelieving in an idea and having determination can lead to significant success despite doubts from others. Examples include Hans Wilsdorf's vision for wristwatches and Ted Turner's belief in a 24-hour news network.

      Having a clear vision and belief in an idea, even when others doubt it, can lead to significant success. Hans Wilsdorf's early realization of the potential of wristwatches put Rolex years ahead of competitors who clung to pocket watches. Similarly, Ted Turner's belief in a 24-hour news network led him to create CNN despite not having the resources that larger broadcasters had. These stories illustrate the importance of believing in an idea and having the determination to bring it to fruition. Additionally, the power of a handshake deal and long-term business relationships cannot be underestimated, as evidenced by the 70-year agreement between Rolex and Hermann Engler.

    • Audacity, Iteration, and BrandingBeing audacious, learning from mistakes, and investing in a strong brand are essential for commercial success, even when ideas seem unconventional.

      Audacity and consistent iteration are key to commercial success, even if an idea seems foolhardy at first. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, faced skepticism when he began importing Swiss watches and selling them under various brand names. However, his determination, marketing skills, and willingness to experiment led him to eventual success. Wilsdorf's story demonstrates the importance of being audacious, learning from mistakes, and investing in a strong brand. Additionally, his decision to invest heavily in advertising during economic downturns set Rolex apart from competitors and contributed to its long-term success.

    • Rolex branding strategyHans Wilsdorf's insistence on putting his brand name on Rolex watches and relentless pursuit of perfection led to innovative and high-quality products, establishing Rolex as a prestigious brand and industry leader.

      Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, revolutionized the watch industry by insisting on putting his brand name on his watches instead of allowing retailers to rebrand them. This was a crucial step towards building customer demand and establishing Rolex as a prestigious brand. Another key principle for Hans was a relentless pursuit of perfection, which led him to invest in technology and acquire patents to create innovative and high-quality products. By focusing on precision, waterproofing, and self-winding mechanisms, Rolex became the first brand to earn observatory certificates for its wristwatches, setting it apart from competitors and solidifying its reputation as a leader in the industry.

    • Rolex Marketing GeniusRolex's success came from Hans Wilsdorf's focus on creating precise, waterproof, and self-winding watches, and his savvy marketing tactics, such as associating the brand with high-profile individuals and world records.

      Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, was a marketing genius who understood the importance of solving technical problems and leveraging attention-grabbing events to promote his products. He focused on creating precise, waterproof, and self-winding watches, each building upon the success of the previous one. Rolex's first major breakthrough was the waterproof watch, which was introduced in 1926 and became famous after Mercedes Golsemann swam the English Channel with one around her neck. This success paved the way for the development of the self-winding watch, or perpetual, which was a long-standing problem in the watch industry. By associating his brand with high-profile individuals and world records, Wilsdorf ensured that Rolex watches were synonymous with quality and innovation. The company's tagline, "men who guide the destinies of the world wear Rolex watches," became a reality as Rolex became a symbol of achievement and excellence.

    • Customer needs, Market expansionUnderstanding customer needs and creating convenient, high-quality products can significantly expand a market and build successful businesses.

      Making things easier for customers can significantly expand a market. This concept was exemplified by Steve Jobs' vision to create the first fully packaged computer, which drastically expanded the market beyond hobbyists. Similarly, Rolex's creation of the perpetual automatic watch eliminated the need for customers to wind their watches, making it more convenient and appealing to a larger audience. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, understood the potential of the wristwatch and played a significant role in its development. His legacy continues to influence the industry, as Rolex remains a private and valuable company that continues to produce timeless watches based on his original ideas. The importance of understanding the customer's needs and expressing a clear and compelling product idea is a principle that can be learned from both Steve Jobs and Hans Wilsdorf. Their focus on creating convenient and high-quality products helped them build successful businesses that have stood the test of time.

    • Insight to time ratioFounders Notes offers access to distilled insights from successful entrepreneurs with a high insight to time ratio, allowing users to learn from decades of experience in a fraction of the time.

      Founders Notes, a subscription service that includes a private podcast feed, offers on-demand access to distilled insights from successful entrepreneurs, saving users valuable time. Founders Notes founder Sage advises that the service aims for a high "insight to time ratio," allowing users to learn from decades of entrepreneurial experience in a fraction of the time. Additionally, Sage hosts events for high-value individuals to build relationships and learn from each other in an inclusive, all-access environment. These events, according to Sage, are crucial for opening up opportunities in the future. Overall, Founders Notes provides a unique platform for entrepreneurs and investors to learn from each other and build valuable relationships.

    Recent Episodes from Founders

    #351 The Founder of Rolex: Hans Wilsdorf

    #351 The Founder of Rolex: Hans Wilsdorf

    What I learned from reading about Hans Wilsdorf and the founding of Rolex.

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    "Learning from history is a form of leverage." — Charlie Munger. Founders Notes gives you the superpower to learn from history's greatest entrepreneurs on demand.

    Get access to Founders Notes here

    You can search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    (0:01) At the age of twelve I was an orphan.

    (1:00) My uncles made me become self-reliant very early in life. Looking back, I believe that it is to this, that much of my success is due.

    (9:00) The idea of wearing a watch on one's wrist was thought to be contrary to the conception of masculinity.

    (10:00) Prior to World War 1 wristwatches for men did not exist.

    (11:00) Business is problems. The best companies are just effective problem solving machines.

    (12:00) My personal opinion is that pocket watches will almost completely disappear and that wrist watches will replace them definitively! I am not mistaken in this opinion and you will see that I am right." —Hans Wilsdorf, 1914

    (14:00) The highest order bit is belief: I had very early realized the manifold possibilities of the wristlet watch and, feeling sure that they would materialize in time, I resolutely went on my way. Rolex was thus able to get several years ahead of other watch manufacturers who persisted in clinging to the pocket watch as their chief product.

    (16:00) Clearly, the companies for whom the economics of twenty-four-hour news would have made the most sense were the Big Three broadcasters. They already had most of what was needed— studios, bureaus, reporters, anchors almost everything but a belief in cable.   —  Ted Turner's Autobiography (Founders #327)

    (20:00) Business Breakdowns #65 Rolex: Timeless Excellence

    (27:00)   Rolex was effectively the first watch brand to have real marketing dollars put behind a watch. Rolex did this in a concentrated way and they've continued to do it in a way that is simply just unmatched by others in their industry.

    (28:00) It's tempting during recession to cut back on consumer advertising. At the start of each of the last three recessions, the growth of spending on such advertising had slowed by an average of 27 percent. But consumer studies of those recessions had showed that companies that didn't cut their ads had, in the recovery, captured the most market share. So we didn't cut our ad budget. In fact, we raised it to gain brand recognition, which continued advertising sustains. — Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp. (Founders #184)

    (32:00) Social proof is a form of leverage. — Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charlie Munger. (Founders #329)

    (34:00) What really matters is Hans understood the opportunity better than anybody else, and invested heavily in developing the technology to bring his ideas to fruition.

    (35:00) On keeping the main thing the main thing for decades: In developing and extending my business, I have always had certain aims in mind, a course from which I never deviated.

    (41:00) Rolex wanted to only be associated with the best. They ran an ad with the headline: Men who guide the destinies of the world, where Rolex watches.

    (43:00) Opportunity creates more opportunites. The Oyster unlocked the opportunity for the Perpetual.

    (44:00) The easier you make something for the customer, the larger the market gets: “My vision was to create the first fully packaged computer. We were no longer aiming for the handful of hobbyists who liked to assemble their own computers, who knew how to buy transformers and keyboards. For every one of them there were a thousand people who would want the machine to be ready to run.” — Steve Jobs

    (48:00) More sources:

    Rolex Jubilee: Vade Mecum by Hans Wilsdorf

    Rolex Magazine: The Hans Wilsdorf Years

    Hodinkee: Inside the Manufacture. Going Where Few Have Gone Before -- Inside All Four Rolex Manufacturing Facilities 

    Vintage Watchstraps Blog: Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex

    Business Breakdowns #65 Rolex: Timeless Excellence

    Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by Jean Noel Kapferer and Vincent Bastien 

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    I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

    Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast

    #350 How To Sell Like Steve Jobs

    #350 How To Sell Like Steve Jobs

    What I learned from reading The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo 

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    Come build relationships at the Founders Conference on July 29th-July 31st in Scotts Valley, California

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    Learning from history is a form of leverage. —Charlie Munger. Founders Notes gives you the super power to learn from history's greatest entrepreneurs on demand.

    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    (1:00) You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.  —Steve Jobs in 1997

    (6:00) Why should I care = What does this do for me?

    (6:00) The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals by Frank Partnoy.  (Founders #348)

    (7:00) Easy to understand, easy to spread.

    (8:00) An American Saga: Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire by Robert Daley 

    (8:00) The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by Rich Cohen. (Founders #255)

    (9:00)  love how crystal clear this value proposition is. Instead of 3 days driving on dangerous road, it’s 1.5 hours by air. That’s a 48x improvement in time savings. This allows the company to work so much faster. The best B2B companies save businesses time.

    (10:00) Great Advertising Founders Episodes:

    Albert Lasker (Founders #206)

    Claude Hopkins (Founders #170 and #207)

    David Ogilvy (Founders #82, 89, 169, 189, 306, 343) 

    (12:00) Advertising which promises no benefit to the consumer does not sell, yet the majority of campaigns contain no promise whatever. (That is the most important sentence in this book. Read it again.) — Ogilvy on Advertising 

    (13:00) Repeat, repeat, repeat. Human nature has a flaw. We forget that we forget.

    (19:00) Start with the problem. Do not start talking about your product before you describe the problem your product solves.

    (23:00) The Invisible Billionaire: Daniel Ludwig by Jerry Shields. (Founders #292)

    (27:00) Being so well known has advantages of scale—what you might call an informational advantage.

    Psychologists use the term social proof. We are all influenced-subconsciously and, to some extent, consciously-by what we see others do and approve.

    Therefore, if everybody's buying something, we think it's better.

    We don't like to be the one guy who's out of step.

    The social proof phenomenon, which comes right out of psychology, gives huge advantages to scale.

    —  the NEW Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charlie Munger (Founders #329)

    (29:00) Marketing is theatre.

    (32:00) Belief is irresistible. — Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight.  (Founders #186)

    (35:00) I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

    And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

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    I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

    Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast

    #349 How Steve Jobs Kept Things Simple

    #349 How Steve Jobs Kept Things Simple

    What I learned from reading Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success by Ken Segall. 

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    Come build relationships at the Founders Conference on July 29th-July 31st in Scotts Valley, California 

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    Learning from history is a form of leverage. —Charlie Munger. Founders Notes gives you the super power to learn from history's greatest entrepreneurs on demand.

    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    (1:30) Steve wanted Apple to make a product that was simply amazing and amazingly simple.

    (3:00) If you don’t zero in on your bureaucracy every so often, you will naturally build in layers. You never set out to add bureaucracy. You just get it. Period. Without even knowing it. So you always have to be looking to eliminate it.  — Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton. (Founders #234)

    (5:00) Steve was always easy to understand. He would either approve a demo, or he would request to see something different next time. Whenever Steve reviewed a demo, he would say, often with highly detailed specificity, what he wanted to happen next.  — Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda. (Founders #281)

    (7:00) Watch this video. Andy Miller tells GREAT Steve Jobs stories

    (10:00) Many are familiar with the re-emergence of Apple. They may not be as familiar with the fact that it has few, if any parallels.
    When did a founder ever return to the company from which he had been rudely rejected to engineer a turnaround as complete and spectacular as Apple's? While turnarounds are difficult in any circumstances they are doubly difficult in a technology company. It is not too much of a stretch to say that Steve founded Apple not once but twice. And the second time he was alone. 

    —  Return to the Little Kingdom: Steve Jobs and the Creation of Appleby Michael Moritz.

    (15:00) If the ultimate decision maker is involved every step of the way the quality of the work increases.

    (20:00) "You asked the question, What was your process like?' I kind of laugh because process is an organized way of doing things. I have to remind you, during the 'Walt Period' of designing Disneyland, we didn't have processes. We just did the work. Processes came later. All of these things had never been done before. Walt had gathered up all these people who had never designed a theme park, a Disneyland. So we're in the same boat at one time, and we figure out what to do and how to do it on the fly as we go along with it and not even discuss plans, timing, or anything. We just worked and Walt just walked around and had suggestions." — Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow. (Founders #347)

    (23:00) The further you get away from 1 the more complexity you invite in.

    (25:00) Your goal: A single idea expressed clearly.

    (26:00) Jony Ive: Steve was the most focused person I’ve met in my life

    (28:00) Editing your thinking is an act of service.

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    Learning from history is a form of leverage. —Charlie Munger. Founders Notes gives you the super power to learn from history's greatest entrepreneurs on demand.

    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

    Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast

    Michael Jordan In His Own Words

    Michael Jordan In His Own Words

    What I learned from reading Driven From Within by Michael Jordan and Mark Vancil. 

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    Relationships run the world: Build relationships at Founders events

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    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can read, reread, and search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    Episode Outline: 

    Players who practice hard when no one is paying attention play well when everyone is watching.

    It's hard, but it's fair. I live by those words. 

    To this day, I don't enjoy working. I enjoy playing, and figuring out how to connect playing with business. To me, that's my niche. People talk about my work ethic as a player, but they don't understand. What appeared to be hard work to others was simply playing for me.

    You have to be uncompromised in your level of commitment to whatever you are doing, or it can disappear as fast as it appeared. 

    Look around, just about any person or entity achieving at a high level has the same focus. The morning after Tiger Woods rallied to beat Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship in 2005, he was in the gym by 6:30 to work out. No lights. No cameras. No glitz or glamour. Uncompromised. 

    I knew going against the grain was just part of the process.

    The mind will play tricks on you. The mind was telling you that you couldn't go any further. The mind was telling you how much it hurt. The mind was telling you these things to keep you from reaching your goal. But you have to see past that, turn it all off if you are going to get where you want to be.

    I would wake up in the morning thinking: How am I going to attack today?

    I’m not so dominant that I can’t listen to creative ideas coming from other people. Successful people listen. Those who don’t listen, don’t survive long.

    In all honesty, I don't know what's ahead. If you ask me what I'm going to do in five years, I can't tell you. This moment? Now that's a different story. I know what I'm doing moment to moment, but I have no idea what's ahead. I'm so connected to this moment that I don't make assumptions about what might come next, because I don't want to lose touch with the present. Once you make assumptions about something that might happen, or might not happen, you start limiting the potential outcomes. 

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    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can read, reread, and search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

    ----

    I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

    Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast

    Founders
    en-usMay 12, 2024

    #348 The Financial Genius Behind A Century of Wall Street Scandals: Ivar Kreuger

    #348 The Financial Genius Behind A Century of Wall Street Scandals: Ivar Kreuger

    What I learned from reading The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals by Frank Partnoy. 

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    Relationships run the world: Build relationships at Founders events

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    Get access to the World’s Most Valuable Notebook for Founders

    You can read, reread, and search all my notes and highlights from every book I've ever read for the podcast. 

    You can also ask SAGE any question and SAGE will read all my notes, highlights, and every transcript from every episode for you.

     A few questions I've asked SAGE recently: 

    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

    Get access to Founders Notes here

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    Episode Outline: 

    1. Ivar was charismatic. His charisma was not natural. Ivar spent hours every day just preparing to talk. He practiced his lines for hours like great actors do.

    2. Ivar’s first pitch was simple, easy to understand, and legitimate: By investing in Swedish Match, Americans could earn profits from a monopoly abroad.

    3. Joseph Duveen noticed that Europe had plenty of art and America had plenty of money, and his entire astonishing career was the product of that simple observation. — The Days of Duveen by S.N. Behrman.  (Founders #339 Joseph Duveen: Robber Baron Art Dealer)

    4. Ivar studied Rockefeller and Carnegie: Ivar's plan was to limit competition and increase profits by securing a monopoly on match sales throughout the world, mimicking the nineteenth century oil, sugar, and steel trusts.

    5. When investors were manic, they would purchase just about anything. But during the panic that inevitably followed mania, the opposite was true. No one would buy.

    6. The problem isn’t getting rich. The problem is staying sane. — Charlie Munger

    7. Ivar understood human psychology. If something is limited and hard to get to that increases desire. This works for both products (like a Ferrari) and people (celebrities). Ivar was becoming a business celebrity.

    8.  I’ve never believed in risking what my family and friends have and need in order to pursue what they don't have and don't need. — The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett and Lawrence Cunningham. (Founders #227)

    9. Great ideas are simple ideas: Ivar hooked Durant with his simple, brilliant idea: government loans in exchange for match monopolies.

    10. Ivar wrote to his parents, "I cannot believe that I am intended to spend my life making money for second-rate people. I shall bring American methods back home. Wait and see - I shall do great things. I'm bursting with ideas. I am only wondering which to carry out first."

    11. Ivar’s network of companies was far too complex for anyone to understand: It was like a corporate family tree from hell, and it extended into obscurity.

    12. “Victory in our industry is spelled survival.”   —Steve Jobs

    13. Ivar's financial statements were sloppy and incomplete. Yet investors nevertheless clamored to buy his securities.

    14. As more cash flowed in the questions went away. This is why Ponzi like schemes can last so long. People don’t want to believe. They don’t want the cash to stop.

    15. A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market by Ed Thorp. (Founders #222)

    16.  A summary of Charlie Munger on incentives:

    1. We all underestimate the power of incentives.
    2. Never, ever think about anything else before the power of incentives.
    3. The most important rule: get the incentives right.

    17. This is nuts! Fake phones and hired actors!

    Next to the desk was a table with three telephones. The middle phone was a dummy, a non-working phone that Ivar could cause to ring by stepping on a button under the desk. That button was a way to speed the exit of talkative visitors who were staying too long. Ivar also used the middle phone to impress his supporters. When Percy Rockefeller visited Ivar pretended to receive calls from various European government officials, including Mussolini and Stalin. That evening, Ivar threw a lavish party and introduced Rockefeller to numerous "ambassadors" from various countries, who actually were movie extras he had hired for the night.

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    I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

    Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast

     

    #347 How Walt Disney Built His Greatest Creation: Disneyland

    #347 How Walt Disney Built His Greatest Creation: Disneyland

    What I learned from reading Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow. 

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    (8:00) When in 1955 we heard that Disney had opened an amusement park under his own name, it appeared certain that we could not look forward to anything new from Mr. Disney.

    We were quite wrong.

    He had, instead, created his masterpiece.

    (13:00) This may be the greatest product launch of all time: He had run eight months of his television program. He hadn't named his new show Walt Disney Presents or The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

    It was called simply Disneyland, and every weekly episode was an advertisement for the still unborn park.

    (15:00) Disneyland is the extension of the powerful personality of one man.

    (15:00) The creation of Disneyland was Walt Disney’s personal taste in physical form.

    (24:00) How strange that the boss would just drop it. Walt doesn’t give up. So he must have something else in mind.

    (26:00) Their mediocrity is my opportunity. It is an opportunity because there is so much room for improvement.

    (36:00) Roy Disney never lost his calm understanding that the company's prosperity rested not on the rock of conventional business practices, but on the churning, extravagant, perfectionist imagination of his younger brother.

    (41:00) Walt Disney’s decision to not relinquish his TV rights to United Artists was made in 1936. This decision paid dividends 20 years later. Hold on. Technology -- developed by other people -- constantly benefited Disney's business. Many such cases in the history of entrepreneurship.

    (43:00) Walt Disney did not look around. He looked in. He looked in to his personal taste and built a business that was authentic to himself.

    (54:00) "You asked the question, What was your process like?' I kind of laugh because process is an organized way of doing things. I have to remind you, during the 'Walt Period' of designing Disneyland, we didn't have processes.

    We just did the work. Processes came later. All of these things had never been done before.

    Walt had gathered up all these people who had never designed a theme park, a Disneyland.

    So we're in the same boat at one time, and we figure out what to do and how to do it on the fly as we go along with it and not even discuss plans, timing, or anything.

    We just worked and Walt just walked around and had suggestions."

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    #346 How Walt Disney Built Himself

    #346 How Walt Disney Built Himself

    What I learned from rereading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. 

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    (2:00) Disney’s key traits were raw ingenuity combined with sadistic determination.

    (3:00) I had spent a lifetime with a frustrated, and often unemployed man, who hated anybody who was successful. 

    Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life by Michael Schumacher. (Founders #242)

    (6:00) Disney put excelence before any other consideration.

    (11:00) Maybe the most important thing anyone ever said to him: You’re crazy to be a professor she told Ted. What you really want to do is draw. Ted’s notebooks were always filled with these fabulous animals. So I set to work diverting him. Here was a man who could draw such pictures. He should earn a living doing that. 

    Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones. (Founders #161)

    (14:00) A quote about Edwin Land that would apply to Walt Disney too:

    Land had learned early on that total engrossment was the best way for him to work. He strongly believed that this kind of concentrated focus could also produce extraordinary results for others. Late in his career, Land recalled that his “whole life has been spent trying to teach people that intense concentration for hour after hour can bring out in people resources they didn’t know they had.”  A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War by Ronald Fierstein. (Founders #134)

    (15:00) My parents objected strenuously, but I finally talked them into letting me join up as a Red Cross ambulance driver. I had to lie about my age, of course. 

    In my company was another fellow who had lied about his age to get in. He was regarded as a strange duck, because whenever we had time off and went out on the town to chase girls, he stayed in camp drawing pictures.

    His name was Walt Disney.

    Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's by Ray Kroc. (Founders #293)

    (20:00) Walt Disney had big dreams. He had outsized aspirations.

    (22:00) A quote from Edwin Land that would apply to Walt Disney too: My motto is very personal and may not fit anyone else or any other company. It is: Don't do anything that someone else can do.

    (24:00) Walt Disney seldom dabbled. Everyone who knew him remarked on his intensity; when something intrigued him, he focused himself entirely as if it were the only thing that mattered.

    (29:00) He had the drive and ambition of 10 million men.

    (29:00) I'm going to sit tight. I have the greatest opportunity I've ever had, and I'm in it for everything.

    (31:00) He seemed confident beyond any logical reason for him to be so. It appeared that nothing discouraged him.

    (31:00) You have to take the hard knocks with the good breaks in life.

    (32:00) Nothing wrong with my aim, just gotta change the target. — Jay Z

    (35:00) He sincerely wanted to be counted among the best in his craft.

    (43:00) He didn't want to just be another animation producer. He wanted to be the king of animation. Disney believed that quality was his only real advantage.

    (47:00) Walt Disney wanted domination. Domination that would make his position unassailable.

    (49:00) Disney was always trying to make something he could be proud of.

    (50:00) We have a habit of divine discontent with our performance. It is an antidote to smugness.

    Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness: Being Very Good Is No Good,You Have to Be Very, Very, Very, Very, Very Good by David Ogilvy and Ogivly & Mather.  (Founders #343)

    (53:00) While it is easy, of course, for me to celebrate my doggedness now and say that it is all you need to succeed, the truth is that it demoralized me terribly. I would crawl into the house every night covered in dust after a long day, exhausted and depressed because that day's cyclone had not worked. There were times when I thought it would never work, that I would keep on making cyclone after cyclone, never going forwards, never going backwards, until I died.

    Against the Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #300)

    (56:00) He doesn't place a premium on collecting friends or socializing: "I don't believe in 50 friends. I believe in a smaller number. Nor do I care about society events. It's the most senseless use of time. When I do go out, from time to time, it's just to convince myself again that I'm not missing a lot."

    The Red Bull Story by Wolfgang Fürweger (Founders #333)

    (1:02:00) Steve was at the center of all the circles.

    He made all the important product decisions.

    From my standpoint, as an individual programmer, demoing to Steve was like visiting the Oracle of Delphi.

    The demo was my question. Steve's response was the answer.

    While the pronouncements from the Greek Oracle often came in the form of confusing riddles, that wasn't true with Steve.

    He was always easy to understand.

    He would either approve a demo, or he would request to see something different next time.

    Whenever Steve reviewed a demo, he would say, often with highly detailed specificity, what he wanted to happen next.

    He was always trying to ensure the products were as intuitive and straightforward as possible, and he was willing to invest his own time, effort, and influence to see that they were.

    Through looking at demos, asking for specific changes, then reviewing the changed work again later on and giving a final approval before we could ship, Steve could make a product turn out like he wanted.

    Much like the Greek Oracle, Steve foretold the future.

    Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda. (Founders #281)

    (1:07:00) He griped that when he hired veteran animators he had to “put up with their Goddamn poor working habits from doing cheap pictures.” He believed it was easier to start from scratch with young art students and indoctrinate them in the Disney system.

    (1:15:00) I don’t want to be relagated to the cartoon medium. We have worlds to conquer here.

    (1:17:00) Advice Henry Ford gave Walt Disney about selling his company: If you sell any of it you should sell all of it.

    (1:23:00) He kept a slogan pasted inside of his hat: You can’t top pigs with pigs. (A reminder that we have to keep blazing new trails.)

    (1:25:00) Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow.

    (1:33:00) It is the detail. If we lose the detail, we lose it all.

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    #345 George Lucas

    #345 George Lucas

    What I learned from rereading George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones.

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    What are the most important leadership lessons from history's greatest entrepreneurs?

    Can you give me a summary of Warren Buffett's best ideas? (Substitute any founder covered on the podcast and you'll get a comprehensive and easy to read summary of their ideas) 

    How did Edwin Land find new employees to hire? Any unusual sources to find talent?

    What are some strategies that Cornelius Vanderbilt used against his competitors?

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    (0:01) George Lucas unapologetically invested in what he believed in the most: himself.

    (1:00) George Lucas is the Thomas Edison of the modern film industry.

    (1:30) A list of biographies written by Brian Jay Jones

    (6:00) Elon Musk interviewed by Kevin Rose

    (10:15) How many people think the solution to gaining quality control, improving fiscal responsibility, and stimulating technological innovation is to start their own special-effects company? But that’s what he did.

    (17:00) When I finally discovered film, I really fell madly in love with it. I ate it. I slept it. 24 hours a day. There was no going back.

    (18:00) Those on the margins often come to control the center. (Game of Thrones)

    (21:00) As soon as I made my first film, I thought, Hey, I’m good at this. I know how to do this. From then on, I’ve never questioned it.

    (23:00) He was becoming increasingly cranky about the idea of working with others and preferred doing everything himself.

    (34:00) Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life by Michael Schumacher. (Founders #242)

    (42:00) The film Easy Rider was made for $350,000. It grossed over $60 million at the box office.

    (45:00) The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley by Jimmy Soni. (Founders #233)

    A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman (Founders #95)

    Steve Jobs & The NeXT Big Thing by Randall Stross. (Founders #77)

    (47:00) What we’re striving for is total freedom, where we can finance our pictures, make them our way, release them where we want them released, and be completely free. That’s very hard to do in the world of business. You have to have the money in order to have the power to be free.

    (49:00) You should reject the status quo and pursue freedom.

    (49:00) People would give anything to quit their jobs. All they have to do is do it. They’re people in cages with open doors.

    (51:00) Stay small. Be the best. Don’t lose any money.

    (59:00) That was a very dark period for me. We were in dire financial strait. I turned that down [directing someone else’s movie] at my bleakest point, when I was in debt to my parents, in debt to Francis Coppola, in debt to my agent; I was so far in debt I thought I’d never get out. It took years to get from my first film to my second film, banging on doors, trying to get people to give me a chance. Writing, struggling, with no money in the bank… getting little jobs, eking out a living. Trying to stay alive, and pushing a script that nobody wanted.

    (1:02:00) “Opening this new restaurant might be the worst mistake I've ever made."

    Stanley [Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus] set his martini down, looked me in the eye, and said, "So you made a mistake. You need to understand something important. And listen to me carefully: The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled."

    His words remained with me through the night. I repeated them over and over to myself, and it led to a turning point in the way I approached business.

    Stanley's lesson reminded me of something my grandfather Irving Harris had always told me:

    “The definition of business is problems."

    His philosophy came down to a simple fact of business life: success lies not in the elimination of problems but in the art of creative, profitable problem solving. The best companies are those that distinguish themselves by solving problems most effectively.

    Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer. 

    (1:05:00) My thing about art is that I don’t like the word art because it means pretension and bullshit, and I equate those two directly. I don’t think of myself as an artist. I’m a craftsman. I don’t make a work of art; I make a movie.

    (1:06:00) I know how good I am. American Graffiti is successful because it came entirely from my head. It was my concept. And that’s the only way I can work.

    (1:09:00) Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda. (Founders #281)

    (1:21:00) The budget for Star Wars was $11 million. In brought in $775 million at the box office alone!

    (1:25:00) Steven Spielberg made over $40 million from the original Star Wars. Spielberg gave Lucas 2.5% of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Lucas gave Spielberg 2.5% of Star Wars. That to 2.5% would earn Spielberg more than $40 million over the next four decades.

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    Steven Spielberg

    Steven Spielberg

    What I learned from reading Steven Spielberg: A Biography by Joseph McBride. 

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    Episode Outline: 

    Whatever is there, he makes it work.

    Spielberg once defined his approach to filmmaking by declaring, "I am the audience."

    "He said, 'I want to be a director.' And I said, 'Well, if you want to be a director, you've gotta start at the bottom, you gotta be a gofer and work your way up.' He said, 'No, Dad. The first picture I do, I'm going to be a director.' And he was. That blew my mind. That takes guts."

    One of his boyhood friends recalls Spielberg saying "he could envision himself going to the Academy Awards and accepting an Oscar and thanking the Academy.” He was twelve.

    He was disappointed in the world, so he built one of his own.

    Spielberg remained essentially an autodidact. Spielberg followed his own eccentric path to a professional directing career. Universal Studios, in effect, was Spielberg's film school. Giving him an education that, paradoxically, was both more personal and more conventional than he would have received in an academic environment. Spielberg devised what amounted to his own private tutorial program at Universal, immersing himself in the aspects of filmmaking he found most crucial to his development.

    At the time he came to Hollywood, generations of nepotism had made the studios terminally inbred and unwelcoming to newcomers. The studio system, long under siege from television, falling box-office receipts, and skyrocketing costs, was in a state of impending collapse.

    When Steven was very discouraged trying to sell a script and break in, he always had a positive, forward motion, whatever he may have been suffering inside.

    In the two decades since Star Wars and Close Encounters were released, science-fiction films have accounted for half of the top twenty box-office hits. But before George Lucas and Spielberg revived the genre there was no real appetite at the studios for science fiction. The conventional wisdom was science-fiction films never make money.

    Your children love you. They want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? We have a few special years with our children, when they're the ones who want us around. So fast, it’s a few years, then it's over. You are not being careful. And you are missing it.

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