If I Knew Then Advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard Business School's Class of 1963
Lawrence D. Ackman
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I could have been a better leader if I’d left line responsibilities earlier and spent more time thinking about strategy to compete successfully.
A successful leader:
- Inspires by actions and words
- Clearly communicates the goals of the organization to all
- Is good at motivating and incentivizing people in the company
- Sets forth a clear policy that no compromise in ethical behavior is acceptable
If possible, don’t retire. Stay active mentally and physically. You’ll be a more interesting person if you are involved in a number of businesses or activities.
- Having created and led a successful business — with a good succession plan
- Taking pride and pleasure from having a positive effect on the lives of many people
- A reasonable degree of financial security and the lack of worry about having enough assets to live comfortably in old age
- Children and grandchildren who are happy and healthy and making their own important contributions
- Living with the same wife for 49 years and sharing the joys of life with her
Encourage family togetherness, frequent communications, joyous occasions.
If things get tough in a marriage, don’t give up the first (or second) time there is a problem. Too many marriages are terminated after hitting the first rough spot.
Hire the best people.
- Fear of hiring people who are smarter than you are
- Borrowing too much money
- Growing a business too quickly
- Failing to let people grow by not delegating enough responsibility
- Not emphasizing the importance of reputation and good ethics
I have lived a wonderful life. I have survived lung and prostate cancer and am feeling great. I believe that G-d has watched over me and my family, and I have been extremely lucky and blessed.
I have been very charitable. I’ve given far more than most others who have the same resources as I have. I feel that philanthropists are rewarded by G-d and live longer lives than people who are not charitable.
- Don’t retire. Mental decay will inevitably set in. Stay active in something — philanthropy, business, mentoring, teaching.
- Don’t risk everything you’ve saved on any one “deal.”
- The more philanthropic you are, the longer you’ll live.
- Good business ethics is good business. Reputations are made slowly and can disappear quickly. You can be very successful without compromising your business ethics.
- Give each decision a small test before going ahead with it.
- Don’t give children or grandchildren money. It takes away their incentive.