Entrepreneurs rise to the top

I’ve only just started to pore over Forbes magazine’s billionaire list, but one thing stands out – the money men and financial engineers are gone and the entrepreneurs have risen to the top.

Of the 355 people that fell off the list, about one quarter were from the financial services sector. The era of the hedge fund manager, the investment banker and the money manager appears to be well and truly over.  

Indeed, four of the top five are true business builders – Bill Gates (Microsoft), Carlos Slim (Telefonos de Mexico), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea) – who built their empires from the ground up.

Even the other member of the top five, the world’s greatest investor Warren Buffett, could be counted as an entrepreneur, given a huge portion of his portfolio is invested in private businesses.

For the past few years, it seemed that the best way to make a fortune was by grabbing as much money from other people as possible. But in many ways, these boom-time business models have been shown to be empty vessels.

They employed very few people. They made precious little contribution to the local economies in which they were based. They didn’t actually do anything, other than move money from one place to another.  

In fact in the next few years the main wealth building tool won’t be tax schemes or the share market. It will be building a business.

Perhaps the most important message from this year’s Forbes list is that only true business builders are able to withstand downturns.

I’m off to keep trawling through the Forbes list…stay tuned for Monday’s Rich Secrets column where I’ll take a look at those billionaires who have actually made money in the last 12 months.


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