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4 Timeless Pieces of Business Advice from Tesla Founder Elon Musk

Tesla Motors | SpaceX | Business Advice

Elon Musk has made headlines recently as he momentarily surpassed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world. Although he quickly slipped back into second place, his ability to take the top spot even for a brief time speaks volumes to his success. Most well-known as CEO of Tesla Motors, Musk has also founded another headline-making company, SpaceX, as well as lesser-known companies like Neuralink and The Boring Company.

As with many well-known and innovative – and extremely wealthy – business figures, Elon is both highly criticized and highly praised. Regardless how he is perceived one thing is indisputable: he knows how to build successful businesses. Here are some of the rules he lives by to turn even the most far-fetched business idea into a thriving reality.

1. Prepare to Work Harder than Most (But Stay Focused)

Elon is well known for 100-hour work weeks. He firmly believes that to truly get ahead you must work harder than most. His advice: “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80-to-100-hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

However, he also encourages – despite his own self-admitted hypocrisy – to not spread yourself too thin. While he has been the head of many companies simultaneously, he admits that it’s draining and can take away from what you’re doing. So instead, he encourages people to focus on developing one idea at a time for maximum impact. “I’d really strongly recommend someone to just focus on one company and throw as many hours at it as you possibly can,” he says.

Infographic - Hard Work

2. Having the Right Team Really Matters

Despite his focus on hard work, Musk will be one of the first to admit that no matter how hard you work, you cannot build a business on your own. In his assessment, having capable people and a strong team is absolutely imperative.

At a commencement speech at University of Southern California, he gave this advice: “If you’re building a company, you’ve got to gather great people. I mean, all a company is, is a group of people that have gathered together to create a product or service. So, depending upon how talented and hardworking that group is, and to the degree in which they are focused cohesively in a good direction, that will determine the success of the company. So, do everything you can to gather great people, if you’re creating a company.”

Infographic - Team

3. Feedback – Especially Criticism – Is Crucial

One thing Elon is known for is going out of his way to seek feedback, especially negative feedback. Taking in criticism is never easy or fun but, it’s something that everyone needs to hear. He places a huge emphasis on this saying, “Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.”

While a great deal of popular advice focuses on ignoring skeptics or those that bring you down, Musk encourages it. He thinks the closer a person is to your products or to you personally, the more beneficial their criticism may be. As he says, “Pay attention to negative feedback and solicit it, particularly from friends. Hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.” As most people choose to avoid criticism, actively seeking it out can truly set you apart if you’re able to take it and use it to your advantage.

Infographic - Feedback

4. Always Operate with a Higher Purpose

Operating with a higher purpose seems to be a recurring theme with business leaders we’ve recently written about including Julie Sweet and Richard Branson. While Branson focuses on fun and Sweet focuses on building a more sustainable society for all, Musk’s focus is on creating a future to be excited about.

In Musk’s own words, “My motivation for all my companies has been to be involved in something that I thought would have a significant impact on the world.” He spends a great deal of time envisioning what he wants the future to be like and gets to work creating companies that allow him to pursue that end. As he says, “I don’t create companies for the sake of creating companies, but to get things done.”

Infographic Higher Purpose

Taking advice from someone as successful as Musk can feel a little ludicrous. After all, it sometimes seems like he operates on a completely different level than most of us. Yet, the great thing about Elon’s advice is that it can be applied by entrepreneurs at any stage of business in any industry. These tips are practically universal and can help any business or aspiring entrepreneur create products, services, and business models that are poised for long-term success.

Jeff Bezos
Julie Sweet
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