In a time of recession when the government is mailing out $600 rebate checks to stimulate the economy, shouldn't a smart businessman sell a book called How to Get Rich?
That businessman is Felix Dennis, the chairman of Dennis Publishing - better known as the man responsible for the lad mag
. Dennis is an outspoken, colorful chap with a background in music who rose up to become one of the wealthiest men in Britain. An Americanized version of his 2006 book
How to Get Rich
debuted here June 12.
He stopped to talk to MainStreet about making money.
MainStreet: Why is How to Get Rich based on all of your failures?
Nobody wants to read some boring, fat, old fart going on about his or her wonderful successes. It's far more interesting to read about failure. And here's the second thing, this is more important: It's far more instructive. Understanding how people who made a lot of money failed again and again is instructive, it means that if you fail, you're going to do it again.
Is now really the best time to get rich?
This is the best time ever to be in a startup. There's room for creativity and there's room for maneuverability. When everybody's doing well, the big guys will steamroll you to death...Now that the recession is beginning to be accepted as a fact of life -- though not necessarily if you look at the Fox network
-- there has never been a better time. Launching entrepreneurial activities in a recession is a slam dunk.
But isn't what you're saying about startups counter to conventional wisdom?
All of the money I ever made was acting counter to conventional wisdom. (laughs) I think conventional wisdom is wisdom of a kind. It's better than nothing. But it isn't anything that helps people get a lot of money. If everybody's doing it, then why would you think that you're going to make a lot of money?
What do you think of the way Americans run their companies?
Americans actually believe in hierarchies! People are actually immensely respectful to the person they're reporting to. (laughs) I can tell you in Europe we cease to be respectful to the person we're reporting to in about third grade. I'm like Rodney Dangerfield; I can't get any respect at all for the people that work for me in England, India, in Australia. When I come here... in the office, people say, "Good morning, Mr. Dennis." I'm thinking, 'What? What?' (laughs)
One of the themes in your book is being willing to sacrifice if you want to be financially wealthy. What did you personally sacrifice for your career?
I forgot to have many sensible relationships. Forgot to get married, forgot to have children...I would have preferred it the other way. But, I was spending all day every day doing what I was doing and I had no time to figure it out...This is a pretty lonely road, you know. And, I do say throughout the book, 'Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to do this?' If their answer is 'Yeah, I want to do this,' I say, 'Yeah, here's what we do' and then start off saying, 'Are you sure you really want to do this?' (laughs)
Another point you make in the book is about intelligence and how surrounding yourself with smart people is integral to success.
It's been my experience that the vast majority of entrepreneurs are really not that bright (laughs) and I include myself in there. I truly do employ, and have employed, hundreds of people who are smarter than me. You can get people that are much, much smarter than you to actually make you a hell of a lot of money by working for you, providing you treat them properly. That doesn't mean spoiling them and turning them into prima donnas or over-compensating them. It just means you've got to understand how to choose these people and motivate them.
You sound to me like you have a strong sense of self.
Yeah, maybe. But, if I had to do it over, would I do it the same way? No.
This interview was originally published earlier today on MainStreet. Don't miss these related MainStreet stories:
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Jessica Wakeman is a staff writer for MainStreet.com.