When one talks of a “flamboyant billionaire,” the biggest name that springs to mind is that of Oracle founder Larry Ellison. Ellison is no longer the young playboy billionaire he used to be.
He is 70, and has led a rich, fruitful and productive life and is no longer actively involved in the running of Oracle – a software company he founded in 1977 as young man who had been written off by virtually everyone he met, even by an ex-wife.
Oracle is today worth $186 billion in market capitalization and Ellison himself is worth $43.6 billion, which makes him the seventh richest man in the world.
Here are the 10 Success lessons from Larry Ellison – “Flamboyant Billionaire” for entrepreneurs,
1. Never retire
He was the longest-running founder CEO the tech industry has ever seen. He held the CEO role at Oracle since 1977.
Back then, a 70-year-old CEO would have been unheard of. Even today, IBM has a tradition where CEOs are asked to retire at age 60.
With Ellison as a role model, other CEOs have decided to staying on longer, too, including Cisco’s John Chambers and EMC’s Joe Tucci.
Ellison has never even publicly discussed retirement and even though he will no longer be CEO, he still isn’t really retiring. He will stay on as both executive chairman of Oracle and as its CTO.
2. College degree not required
Larry Ellison certainly isn’t the only billionaire college dropout to find success in Silicon Valley but he was one of the first: Before Bill Gates, before his best friend Steve Jobs, before Michael Dell.
Ellison dropped out of college not just once, but twice, before moving to Northern California at age 22, in 1966.
He stayed in school long enough to learn about computer design and, a few years later, invented a database by reading a paper about it written by an IBM scientist.
3. Fire Anyone Who Doesn’t Measure Up
Ellison always overpays his employees, whether they are high level managers or junior executives. In return, he expects them to perform according to the demanding standards set by him. Anyone who fails to perform will be out of a job soon, as slackers are not allowed at Oracle. When you join Oracle, it really is perform or perish.
4. Never Promise Something That You Cannot Deliver
Ellison always had one rule in business – offer the customer what they are looking for, no more and no less. Ellison never over promised with his software products, and so there was never a complaint about Oracle not delivering what was promised.
Oracle products were never the greatest, but they were fully functional and satisfied the immediate customer requirements. Later, further iterations were made on the software and the products were improved with time.
5. Competitive spirit is the greatest motivator
Ask Ellison why he still comes to work every day — what drives him after all he’s achieved — and he’ll tell you the same answer: he loves to compete.
“I’m addicted to winning. The more you win, the more you want to win,” he says.
6. Know how to break the rules
Ellison doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but his own.
The latest biggest example was the 2013 America’s Cup.
After winning it in 2010, he was allowed to dictate the kind of boats to be raced in the next championship. He chose an extremely fast, expensive but dangerous design. And a sailor died during a training run when the boat capsized: British sailor and gold medal Olympian Andrew “Bart” Simpson.
Ellison’s team was also penalized for cheating.
None of that mattered in the end. The world held its breath as Ellison’s team won in spectacular televised comeback.
7. Never stop growing
Ellison drove Oracle to be the world’s biggest provider of database software, then he moved on to dominate the business software industry, conducting one of the nastiest hostile take-overs in tech history to do it, with his purchase of PeopleSoft for $10.3 billion.
A few years ago, he pushed Oracle again into new areas, the hardware business, by buying Sun Microsystems (a company that didn’t figure out how to reinvent itself).
Ellison taught the Valley that no matter how big you get, you only survive through reinventing yourself.
8. Geeks can be bad boys, or superheros
If all of that were not enough, Larry Ellison is also the original “bad boy” geek, a daring adventurer who dates models, races fast vehicles on land, air and water, and has wound up in surgery for injuries from sports ranging from body surfing to mountain biking.
Ellison was said to be the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, the bad boy billionaire in the “Iron Man” movies, CNBC reports.
9. Expect Professionalism
In the Silicon Valley, people normally wear jeans and T-shirts to work, some even come in shorts. But in Oracle, all programmers dress professionally and sharply in formal clothes. You know as soon as you step into an Oracle office that you are expected to be professional in your conduct – if not, that would be it for your future in the company.
10. Be generous
Larry Ellison has been called a closet philanthropist.
Unlike other billionaires such as Bill Gates, he doesn’t talk much about his philanthropic efforts, though he’s focused on medical research and green energy.
When he signed the Giving Pledge organized by Gates and Warren Buffet, Ellison revealed that he planned to give billions of dollars to charity.