As reported by Forbes, he turned his digital banking group, WB21, into a $2.2 billion company in less than 10 months. With close to a million customers and $1.2 billion in monthly processing, it’s become the largest digital bank in FinTech history.
While the company behind Michael’s success is fascinating, I was more interested in discovering the business habits that he used to help him turn WB21 into what it is today.
Through my work at Taco, I got the opportunity to meet him for breakfast and find out the key to his success firsthand.
I wanted our interview to go past the surface-level jargon we commonly hear and get to the meat of what allowed Michael to have success after success (his last company sold for $480 million, after all).
Here are five keys to success I learned from Michael over breakfast:
1. THE ABILITY TO CHARM ANYONE IN THE ROOM
Before our interview, saying I had nerves would be an understatement. Astonishingly, from the moment I sat down with Michael to the moment we said goodbye, I became completely comfortable with him. It was as if we had been friends for years and were just catching up.
We often see this in major politicians and actors. The ability to make anyone feel at ease with you is a skill that gives you a leg up, especially when you’re a powerful person who might make a lot of people nervous.
Two takeaways from Michael:
Ask questions. During our interview, I talked at length about my mediation, eating, and work habits. Without realizing it, I almost forgot who was being interviewed — Michael or myself.
Have relaxed body language. Whenever I was nervous, Michael was able to pick up on it and slouch a little, change to a less formal tone, or smile.
2. AN UNRELENTING WORK ETHIC
If you ever meet Michael in person and ask him the date and time, there’s a good chance he will get it wrong. He travels to over 15 countries a month, often just for a few hours at a time.
“It’s come to the point that when I see a bed, I’ll just sleep in it for a few hours and get back up. It doesn’t matter the time and it doesn’t matter the place, whenever I can find time to get rest, I get it,” Michael said.
An employee noted that when the executive team gets up at 6 a.m., typically Michael has already been up for around 2 hours. While this employee’s workday ends at 7 p.m., it’s not uncommon to get an email or call from Michael up until midnight.
When I heard stories of Elon Musk’s 100+ hour workweeks, I thought this was unique. But I’m learning that the super successful often aquire an insane work ethic before they evenBECOME WEALTHY. From my conversation with Michael, it seems like long hours are not so much a badge of honor, but rather an expectation of what is required for success.
3. HAVING A HIGHER PURPOSE
I asked Michael about what drives him to spend so many hours day after day on WB21. He said that, over everything else, he has a strong desire to give people the ability to achieve financial success in places where until now it’s been nearly impossible. Helping people in the poorest parts of AsiaSTART BUSINESSES, empowering more women to work in FinTech, and solving the growing wealth disparity motivates him. The money, attention, and awards are all just cherries on top.
It’s usually not just money that drives the super successful. At some point, you get to a place where there’s no way you’re going to spend all the money you have during your lifetime. So why do these people continue to work like crazy and keep going? They are serving a higher purpose.
When you’re motivated to build a business for more than money, you think differently. Decisions become simpler, being a strong leader is more natural, andMAKING MONEY becomes easier. Michael has a higher purpose, and it drives him to keep pushing forward every day.
4. DON’T DO WHAT’S POPULAR, DO WHAT MAKES SENSE
After selling his first company, Michael self-funded WB21 by investing $24 million of his own money into the company. After the company experienced hockey-stick growth during the first six months of launch, venture capitalists began calling. Presented with the opportunity to raise an over-$50 million Series A, Michael made the executive call to not accept the term sheets.
Whether we like it or not, we idolize the companies that raise huge rounds and dismiss the ones that don’t. Everything about startup culture says, “Raise. Raise. And then raise again.” But while everyone zigged, Michael decided to zag. This resulted in him and his team keeping 100% of WB21’s equity all the way to a $2.2 billion valuation.
Apartfrom just business, Michael also shared that he rarely drinks alcohol and almost never parties. “I love business, and that’s what I want to spend my time doing. It doesn’t matter to me what everyone else is doing, because the majority of people are not out to build billion-dollar businesses. To build a business that size, you have to be completely obsessed,” he said.
Super successful people think independently and aren’t influenced by what society tells them. They choose their own path, and many of them are fine with being considered different by the general public. As the saying goes, “You don’t change the world doing the same thing everyone else is doing.”
By Sep 30, 2016