The Blueprint 89

"Everyone I know who is successful loves what they do."

The Blueprint 89
Photo by Matthew Henry

Billionaire of the Week

Michael Bloomberg is the co-founder and CEO of Bloomberg L.P. and the former Mayor of New York City. His net worth is $93 billion.

Lesson 1: Be Frugal

  • A headhunter once called a Bloomberg L.P. employee to ask if it was true that there were 10 people to an office and that Michael had all the desks cut in half.

Lesson 2: Make Memorable Experiences

  • When Bloomberg ran for New York City mayor, he spent 5x what the Democratic candidate (Mark Green) spent on his campaign. Every street corner, building, stadium, and TV station in New York was covered in "Bloomberg for Mayor" signs. 
  • Bloomberg throws extremely expensive parties. One year, for a Christmas party, the theme was the seven deadly sins and it cost $1.5 million.

Lesson 3: Work Hard

  • Michael got his undergraduate degree in physics and then got a Harvard MBA. Then he got hired at Salomon Brothers and had to work 12 hour days. After 1 year, he gets a promotion – he becomes a stockbroker. He makes a ton of money for the firm because he's a great salesman. He worked for the firm for 15 years but they unexpectedly fired him. 

Lesson 4: Have Extreme Self-Confidence

  • After 15 years, Salomon Brothers fired Michael and gave him $10 million in severance. That's enough money to retire, but instead, he starts his financial data business, Bloomberg L.P. He hires 24 employees and pays them with his $10 million.
  • He ran for president in the 2020 election. He lost to Biden💀 – the biggest L of Bloomberg's career.

Lesson 5: Break the Rules

  • There is a 2 consecutive term limit for mayors in New York City. In 2008, Michael Bloomberg had already served 2 terms as NYC mayor, but he convinced the people of NYC that only a businessman like himself could save them from the Great Recession. So they voted to change the 2 term limit and Bloomberg served a 3rd term. 
  • In the early days of Bloomberg LP, Michael Bloomberg installed the electrical wiring for computers for 24 employees in the Bloomberg LP office by himself on nights and weekends. He said he's glad the fire department or Local 3 (an electrician union in New York) didn't catch them. 
  • Bloomberg hates rules: "Whenever one of my employees designs a form or writes a memo, I walk out into the hallway and make a big deal of tearing it up. The last thing we need are lots of forms and procedures and policies."
  • "Make the customer think he's getting laid when he's getting fucked."

Lesson 6: Be Bold

  • "A good salesperson asks for the order. It's like the guy who goes into a bar, and walks up to every gorgeous girl there, and says 'Do you want to fuck?' He gets turned down a lot – but he gets fucked a lot, too!"
  • "I owe Merrill Lynch a great debt. In 1981, when we began this company, I went to every [company on Wall Street] to try to get them to buy our system. At that time, everyone was too busy building their own in-house stuff to take interest. But Merrill Lynch said 'We have our own project going, but in case it doesn't work out, we'll take twenty of your terminals.' It was that initial order for twenty terminals that started this company."

Lesson 7: Steal Great Ideas

  • The Bloomberg Terminal was originally called the 'MarketMaster' but customers started calling it 'the Bloomberg', so they changed the name to the Bloomberg Terminal. 

Lesson 8: Love What You Do For Work

  • "Everyone I know who is successful loves what they do. The question is: Are they successful because they love what they do, or do they love what they do because they are successful? I don't know. I suspect it's a combination of both."

Lesson 9: Be a Business, Investment, and Political Strategist

  • Always remember names. On the Bloomberg L.P. customers: "I know their middle names, and the names of their first born children." 
  • When running for NYC mayor, Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat, ran as a Republican because, in 2001, there was far less competition for the Republican nomination compared to the Democratic. When he ran for US President in the 2020 election, he ran as a Democrat because he thought that would give him the best chance of winning.
  • "We build what we think people need, and what they tell us they need, not what our competitors have."
  • "I never understood the concept of volume discounts."
  • "The biggest mistake IBM made was going open architecture. The reason Apple is successful today is because they refused to open their system up. It is a strategic choice of mine to retain control over the product and the way it is delivered."
  • An example of Michael's strategic thinking: "Municipals will be a very big product over the next ten years. It's a classic case: the business can't get worse. Issues out there now are going to rollover, and there will be lots of new issues to rebuild all the bridges and roads that are falling apart 50 years after the 1930s public works programs. The Federal Government is going to support localities more, not less. And tax rates will only go up. Reagan just forgot to consult me when he put together tax reform."
  • "We have a definite pricing strategy that flies in the face of our competition. We have a razor/razorblade marketing strategy, except we define the razorblade the opposite of our competition. Quotron, Reuters, and Telerate have long since penetrated their respective markets, so the only way for them to grow, to get incremental revenue, is to charge extra for each new service they add onto their systems. We, on the other hand, have just begun to penetrate our markets. We ask our customers to pay $1000/month, and for that price they get everything. And we have an incentive to add more capability to our system, because we will get incremental revenue from placing incremental terminals within our existing customer base."
  • "With the exception of the municipal people, the equity people are the dumbest in the world, especially the block traders."
  • On the news business: "It's like Business Week - some get it Monday, some get it Friday, and for $20 some get it Thursday.'" Note: This is information arbitrage in business. The consumer could get the info for free on Monday if they knew where to look. Otherwise, they pay to see the news on Thursday (one day before the story is big and everyone else sees it).
  • "The culture of this company hasn't really changed since when we were 14 employees. I think we can keep the culture going until we reach about 2,000. 2,000 is when I felt the change at Salomon [Brothers]."
  • "Years ago we ran a testimonial ad in Institutional Investor featuring quotes from some of our customers. My favorite came from the guy who said "I have yet to find an error in the MARKETMASTER [the original name for the Bloomberg Terminal] data, but when I do, I'll know it's an honest error, unlike the data I get from Salomon or First Boston."

Lesson 10: Look At Every Statue In Your City, You'll Find No Statues of Committees

  • You need a single person to make decisions: "Lotus Version 3 is no more complex than Lotus Version 1 was – except that now Lotus has 3,000 employees instead of just Mitch Kapor. That's why they can't get Version 3 out the door. I don't want that to happen to us."

Lesson 11: Entrepreneurs Are Aggressive On Timing

  • This quote from Marc Andreessen explains why: “Entrepreneurs, by definition, are highly optimistic people. They're usually so optimistic that they're too aggressive on timing. They think the product will get to market faster than it's actually going to."
  • Bloomberg employees say that you need a timeframe translation guide for when Michael talks: 
    • "It's going over in the next set of software we move." (translation: two weeks)
    • "It'll be ready next week." (translation: two months)
    • "It'll be ready in two weeks." (translation: 8 months)
  • Elon Musk does the same with timeframes on Tesla's Full Self-Driving. Every year for the last ~4 years, he's said it would be complete by the end of the year.

Personal Life

  • "I make it a rule never to go to Queens – and since that eliminates both airports I don't travel a great deal."
  • "There are certain states you don't go to."
  • "We live in Manhattan so we don't have to go anyplace else."
  • "I would have married lots of my girlfriends if they'd bothered to ask. My wife is the only one with the guts to ask me."
  • "The only liberal I trust is a rich old liberal. Why? Because they're old enough to understand what they're saying, and they're rich enough to pay for what they say!"
  • In the 1990s, 4 female employees sued Bloomberg L.P. for sexual harassment. They say that Michael built the company with the culture of a frat house. These are some quotes from him:
    • "You know why computers will never take the place of people? Because a computer would say that the sex of the person giving you a blow job doesn't matter!"
    • "[The Bloomberg terminal] will do everything, including give you a blowjob. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business."
    • Bloomberg's code of ethics: "The first rule is 'Don't leave the toilet seat down."
  • In 2019, Bloomberg gave more money to charity than any other person. 

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