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Valuable Business Lessons from a Self-Made Millionaire

Posted Date 06/07/16

Poland-born Tomas Gorny first became a millionaire during the dot-com boom and then lost almost everything, only to regain his fortunes once again and become a serial entrepreneur.

He first started with web hosting and that’s where he made his first fortune, as member of Internet Communications, which was acquired for a hefty sum by Interliant. Then the dot-com bubble burst just as Gorny was buying into other sector companies. He started from scratch, again with web hosting, this time with a focus on small businesses. Between 2001 and 2007, his startup IPOWER became one of the biggest web hosting providers in the US and after merging with a peer, Endurance International, it was bought by Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs for $1 billion.

Now Gorny runs three businesses, all private: Nextiva, a cloud phone service, a business incubator called United Web, and Site Lock, a web security firm. The lessons he has learned from his colorful experience in the business world can be used by any entrepreneur, beginer or not, regardless of the business area.

You shouldn’t have an exit strategy, says Gorny, that’s lesson one. Starting a business with the aim to later sell it is not as productive as aiming to create real value for your clients. While you do it, make sure you surround yourself with good people – people who don’t add to the usual stress of running a business.

As for investments, says Gorny, the best investment you can make is in yourself. For him, this means keeping his companies private and adopting a conservative approach to investing in other companies. Related to this is his advice to put your own money in the line to ensure making better decisions. Prudence is the result of having your own neck on the line and prudence ensures survival and improves profitability.

Failure, according to Gorny, is a great teacher. He refers to it as “free tuition” and values his failures over his successes as, he says, they have taught him the best lessons in his career. He has taught others some lessons, too: Gorny says a lot of people tended to underestimate him because of his Eastern European accent and ultimately ended as losers in the business game. Says Gorny, enjoy being underestimated.

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