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At what age did these top 21 entrepreneurs became billionaires?

Being an entrepreneur is hard. Long hours, no pay in the beginning, and endless miles of stress. But, if you stick with it, the rewards make it all worthwhile.

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Going from millionaire to billionaire

So many entrepreneurs struggle with doubt. You wonder if you’re measuring up to your competitors. You feel like success isn’t coming fast enough. You have days where you wonder if you wouldn’t be better off going back to work for someone else. While, worrying and wondering are human nature, it’s equally important to reassure yourself that you know do know what you’re doing. Everyone has those doubtful days, but by and large you know you’re winning at this entrepreneur thing and you need to reassure yourself that you’ve got this thing nailed down.

Entrepreneur recently covered 21 highly successful entrepreneurs, including how long it took them to go from millionaire to billionaire. I feel like this is important. Not to celebrate the increase of income, or the almighty dollar, but rather to demonstrate that sometimes you have to keep your nose to the grindstone for years to see a tangible, financial payoff for all your hard work. On those days when you’re feeling down, consider it took Alan Sugar, founder of British electronics company, Amstrad, 44 years to go from millionaire to billionaire.

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Entrepreneurs that never gave up

Here are 21 entrepreneurs (plus a bonus) who kept their noses to the grindstone and didn’t give up on themselves:

  1. Judy Faulkner, Founder and CEO of Epic Systems: millionaire at 47, billionaire at 70. That’s 23 years in between, not counting the amount of time she spent before hitting millionaire status.
  2. Sir Alan Sugar, Founder of Amstrad: millionaire status at 24, billionaire status at 68. That’s an epic 44 years of hard work to get where he wanted to be.
  3. James Dyson, Inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner: millionaire status at 47, billionaire status at 62. Dyson gave a solid 15 year effort before his efforts paid off in a more tangible way.
  4. Geore Soros, investor: millionaire at 47, billionaire at 62. Again, a solid 15 years of hard work before seeing those results and this doesn’t measure the amount of work he put in before age 47.
  5. Martha Stewart, author and television personality: millionaire at 45, billionaire at 58. Although Stewart is no longer a billionaire, she worked 13 years building from millionaire to billionaire.
  6. Warren Buffett, investor: millionaire at 30, billionaire at 56. Another long stretch of keeping your nose to the grindstone; 26 years in Buffet’s case.
  7. George Lucas, filmmaker and founder of Lucasfilm & ILM: millionaire at 34, billionaire at 52. It took Lucas a surprising 18 years to push himself into billionaire status.
  8. Carlos Slim, investor: millionaire at 25, billionaire at 51. It took 26 years for Slim’s investments to pay off.
  9. Oprah Winfrey, media proprietor, producer, and talk show host: millionaire at 32, billionaire at 49. Even with Oprah’s celebrated success, it took 17 years for her to get to billionaire status.
  10. Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle: millionaire at 42, billionaire at 49. Ellison’s journey was a bit shorter at only 7 years, but it still takes time to push yourself to where you want to be.
  11. Denise Coates, founder of Bet365: millionaire at 38, billionaire at 47. Taking 9 years to get to billionaire status.
  12. Zhou Qunfei, founder and CEO of Lens Technology: millionaire at 33, billionaire at 45.
  13. Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Chairwoman of HP, Inc., and former President and CEO of eBay: millionaire at 40, billionaire at 42. Whitman’s legacy nearly rivals Zuckerberg, proving that sometimes tangible success comes quickly, but most of the time you have to work for it.
  14. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group: millionaire at 23, billionaire at 41: between his record and airline companies it took Branson nearly 18 years to see his hard work pay off.
  15. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx: millionaire at 29, billionaire at 41. Blakely owns 100% of her company; perhaps this is one reason why she achieved billionaire status in 12 years.
  16. Elon Musk, co-founder of Zip2, PayPal, and Tesla; founder of SpaceX: millionaire at 27, billionaire at 41. Taking 14 years, Musk’s billionaire status is attributed to the rise of Tesla stock.
  17. Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and ‘shark’ investor on the TV series Shark Tank: millionaire at 32, billionaire at 40. Taking only 8 years, Cuban’s billionaire status in attributed, in part, to the selling of his second company, Broadcast.com.
  18. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon: millionaire at 33, billionaire at 35. Bezos owns 48% of Amazon and the rapid rise of Amazon’s stock value made him a billionaire in only two years.
  19. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft: millionaire at 26, billionaire at 31. Gates’ billionaire status is attributed to rapid rise in Microsoft’s stock value. He was the youngest billionaire at the time (1987).
  20. Larry Page, co-founder of Google: millionaire at 25, billionaire at 30. Retaining joint majority ownership, Google IPO makes Page and co-founder Brin billionaires in only five years.
  21. Evan Spiegel, founder of Snapchat: millionaire at 23, billionaire at 25. Spiegel’s billionaire status is directly related to the value of Snapchat’s stock.

Bonus: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook: millionaire at 22, billionaire at 23. You read that right. It only took a year for Zuckerberg to become a millionaire making him the youngest self-made billionaire in history. You’ll notice the shorter amounts of time are the exception, not the rule.

While we’d all like to be millionaires, it doesn’t matter if you never reach millionaire status. As long as you’re doing what you love and making enough money to keep a roof over your head, you’re doing just fine. Really. Is there anyone else you’d like to see on this list?

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business Entrepreneur

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Business Entrepreneur

The success of your business could be tied to your succession plan

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You can’t spell ‘successor’ without success. In the age of COVID-19, are the two mutually exclusive to your ventures?

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Women at desk with laptop discussion succession.

“Heir” is a weighty term. A fun pun, to be sure, through the beauty of English homophones. But seriously, unless you’re already 10% and up rich, talk of heirs and succession does connote a certain heaviness you may not be used to.

For those choosing successors, it’s the heaviness of accepting mortality. For the potential promotees, it’s the heaviness of accepting a multitude of responsibilities. Or buying ear poison. Either way.

We expect to deal with familial succession. As eldest (assuming he doesn’t outlive me), I’m in charge of flinging Dad’s ashes into a nicer section of the ocean and distributing all of his Cosby sweaters amongst the sibs, and I take the role very seriously.

As a serial-small-business employee though, I’ve only just started wondering what would happen if my boss died. Of all the ‘lose your job’ scenarios I’ve had waking nightmares about, that one in particular only cropped up for me a year ago. And now, with the coronavirus taking up our attention, more business owners than usual might be wondering the same thing from the other side of the desk.

What’s going to happen to my employees if I’m too sick to work? Have I set things up so that this company can survive past me? Does at least one other person know the combination to the safes?

If your business is big enough to have employees and advisors on deck, these are questions you need to have answered… Preferably in written, notarized form to ensure smooth succession.

So where should you start? Probably with a good talk.

If you have a next-in-command standing ready, but don’t have a plan yet, let them know that if the inevitable happens sooner rather than later, that you’d like them to step in. A frank conversation about their future with your brand, and actually asking them if they feel up to taking the reins is a great place to start. Otherwise, consider your network— who you might sell the business to, and who might know someone who knows someone.

P.S. If your VP says they’d rather run off and sail the world if you got hit by an asteroid next week, please don’t hold it against them.

We all know that ghosts stick around because they’ve got unfinished business, right? Don’t let your literal business be the shade that haunts your team! Take a deep breath and get the ball rolling on THIS side of the dirt… Ouija boards can only do so much.

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