Throughout The Poker MBA, we have shared the successes of some incredible businesspeople. It’s our hope that you learn from the Kings andQueens of history and business so that you can put them into your own “deck of cards.” For each suit, we’ve chosen a historical and a contemporary King or Queen who best represents the principles discussed in the book.
QUEENS OF CLUBS (STRATEGY)
Queen Elizabeth I
When Queen Elizabeth took control of England in 1558, the country was troubled with runaway inflation, a lack of strategic alliances, and discontent among its troops. When Elizabeth died forty-five years later, England was well on its way to becoming the greatest empire the world would ever know.
Elizabeth was known for her ability to read human character—a skill she developed while growing up, when every friend was a potential enemy. A master strategist, she was incorporating the principles of game theory before the field had even been discovered. Her motto of “No Leader Is a Solo Act” empowered her employees and allowed her to build loyalty. Elizabeth was a true visionary who was known for her ability to create a vision, communicate a vision, and overcome adversity to make that vision a reality.
As CEO of eBay, perhaps the most successful Internet-based business, Meg Whitman has become a master strategist, in large part because of her ability to listen. “Our best ideas are our users’ ideas,” she said. Her ability to understand who her customers are—both internal and extermal—allows eBay to make decisions quickly and implement quickly.
“For the users, it needs to feel like their eBay,” said Whitman, who has succeeded in building not only a trusted brand but also a feeling of community among her customers. By striking the perfect balance between expanding the business and not diversifying beyond its core competency, Whitman has built eBay into a formidable online empire.
KINGS OF DIAMONDS (MONEY)
Elvis was the king of rock and roll. He was the king of Las Vegas. Elvis made a fortune in part because he had an aura that made people want to see him—and spend whatever it cost to do so. His problem wasn’t making money; it was holding onto it. Elvis got burned by both the vig and by his own leaks.
Elvis allowed his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, to control every aspect of his career, while taking up to fifty percent of everything Elvis earned, yet the King defended him right up until the end. Elvis was legendary for spending money, and his leaks got the best of him. The lesson we learn from Elvis is that even a King has to fight through his own weaknesses to hold onto the money that he makes.
The “Oracle of Omaha” focuses on fundamentals and values business based on cash flows. Buffett is known for his “punchcard” approach to investing and believes you’ll be lucky to find twenty good businesses over the course of your lifetime. When Internet stocks skyrocketed, he didn’t jump on the bandwagon, stating that he refused to invest in businesses that he didn’t understand. Despite much criticism, Buffett stuck to his beliefs, and when the dot-com bubble burst, the public learned two valuable lessons: Your best chance to win is playing in the right game, and the value of a business comes from cash flows.
Buffett has amassed a net worth of more than $30 billion because, in sharp contrast to Elvis, he is known for not having any leaks. For both men, their wealth is measured not just in billions, but also in legacy.
QUEENS OF HEARTS (PEOPLE)
As the queen of Spain, Isabella had many suitors who were after her money. At a time when some still believed that the world was flat, she had to rely on her ability to choose the right person to prove them wrong. Christopher Columbus might have been bluffing when he asked for money to sail around the world, but Isabella weighed all the variables and trusted her gut instinct to fund the exploration that resulted in the colonizing of America.
Queen Isabella personified the importance of ethics and learning. While she was interested in exploring new lands, she showed great concern for Native Americans and ordered her charges to treat them as equals. As an adult, she devoted herself to the study of Latin and amassed an enormous library of books. Even though she had made her mark through Columbus’s voyage, she never lost sight of the importance of continuous self-improvement.
Oprah has made a fortune helping others get what they want by believing in themselves. She reinvented talk TV to a point where her show is now widely copied. The success of The Oprah Show proves that it’s not the idea of her show that makes it successful; it’s the execution.
Oprah has shown that “weak is strong” and is beloved because she is unafraid to share her struggles with her life in front of others. Her appeal has allowed her to create a valuable “brand” and extend that brand—from television to film to her own magazine. Her book club has changed the face of publishing. Oprah’s success stems from the fact that if you can help others accomplish their dreams, you can accomplish your own.
KINGS OF SPADES (POWER)
David was able to defeat the giant Goliath because he knew that power came from his ability to think, not his physical size. He understood his objective, learned the flaws of his enemy, and stayed cool under pressure. He also showed that to be accurate, you have to practice. Perfect practice leads to perfect execution.
David also knew when to shoot and that timing and delivery are paramount in achieving your objective. He mastered the art of being tight and aggressive—it wasn’t the number of times that he fired, it was the considerable effort that he put into each attempt that allowed him to defeat a giant.
Steve Wynn is famous for saying, “If you want to make money in a casino, own one.” Not only did he become the house, but he also used the profits to build more houses. Wynn reinvented the city of Las Vegas by thinking “outside the box.” The old business model was to use rooms, food, and entertainment as a loss leader and make money on gambling. Once Wynn realized that Las Vegas could become a “destination” and not just a gambling town, he found ways to turn each element of a hotel into a memorable experience and a profit center.
By walking in the shoes of his customers, Wynn learned how to serve memorably. He changed the face of America’s best-known gambling destination forever by combining the hospitality of a hotelier with the vision and drive of an entrepreneur. Now, people come from all over the world to visit his temples.
WANT T0 BE A KING OR QUEEN?
|Study other kings and queens—continually educate yourself.|
|Think you are—it’s a title only you can give yourself.|
|Show humility, and don’t flaunt your power.|
|Don’t be afraid to admit your flaws—weak usually means strong.|
|Don’t tax others too much—if you want to be “the house,” you have to be fair.|
|Look like one—you wear your brand.|
|Maintain your poise and stature in times of adversity.|
|Think of your legacy in history each time you take action.|
|Love what you do, and every day becomes a holiday.|
|Treat yourself royally.|