Michael R. Bloomberg was born on February 14, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts. Seventy years on, he is now the 7th richest person in America with a net worth of $27 billion, an achievement topped off by an epic stint of three terms as arguably the most successful mayor of New York City.Mayor Bloomberg was recently asked on his weekly radio show about his personal formula for success. His response? Arrive early at work, stay late, eat lunch at your desk, and take fewer bathroom breaks.
From an entry-level job to becoming a global giant
No doubt this will encourage a few scatter-brained Wall Streeters already chained to their desks to hold their bladder and forego carbonated drinks. But seriously, how does one go from an entry-level job at a brokerage to founding a startup which ends up as a global giant with more than 15,000 employees and well over 300,000 subscribers in 160 countries? Perhaps a closer examination of the life of times of Michael Rubens Bloomberg might provide a few clues. Bloomberg was raised in Medford, Massachusetts, and attended Johns Hopkins University, paying his way by working as a parking lot attendant and taking loans. He went on to get an MBA from Harvard Business School, and got his first full-time job at Salomon Brothers, a Wall Street securities brokerage.
Bloomberg’s career graph at Salomon was nothing short of spectacular, and pretty much laid the foundation for what was to come. In short order, he was in charge of the firm’s equity trading and sales, and then headed up their information systems division. When Salomon was acquired in 1981, Bloomberg found himself without a job and quickly turned the adverse circumstances into an opportunity by founding a new startup in Oct 1981 called Innovative Market Systems (renamed Bloomberg LP in 1987).
His product had awesome quality
Using his $10 million severance and the wealth of experience obtained while heading up Salomon’s information systems development, Bloomberg created an information company that made use of technology to provide in-depth information for sellers and buyers of financial securities. The quality of data and tools provided by his product had the potential to radically improve the transparency of transactions and bring a lot more efficiency to the process.
His first customer was Merrill Lynch, which purchased 22 of the “terminals” that are now ubiquitous around the globe as Bloomberg Terminals. Merrill Lynch also took a 30 percent ownership stake in the startup with an investment of $30 million. As the number of number of subscribers and the company’s sales figures ballooned over the years, so did the number of offshoots launched, including Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Tradebook and Bloomberg Message. The Bloomberg media empire now includes major assets including television and radio networks, a wire service and two magazines (Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets).
He always shows dedication at work
For 20 years, Michael Bloomberg came early, eat lunch at his desk and worked late as the CEO and chairman of Bloomberg LP. The company, headquartered in the Bloomberg Tower in Midtown Manhattan, now has a global footprint with 192 offices. By coincidence, Bloomberg’s pivot towards giving back to the City that had given him so much came right on time when New York badly needed a strong leader and business wizard. Bloomberg was elected mayor just a few weeks before the Sept 11, 2001 attack brought the City to a grinding halt and pulled the rug out from under the economy, made all that much worse by the dot-com crash.
His Bloomberg Philanthropies foundation was shoveling out hundreds of millions of dollars every year for projects in public health, education, environment and the arts. Mayor Bloomberg himself set about charting a new course for New York City with ruthless efficiency and the same statistical result-oriented approach that had helped guide the fortunes of Bloomberg LP. He started with the state’s broken public education system and turned it around. High school graduation rates are now up 27 percent as compared to 2001. He tackled safety by pushing for gun control, and New York now has 35 percent less crime. He took on public health by banning smoking in public places, parks and beaches. Teen smoking has dropped 50 percent, and life expectancy in general has increased by three years.
New York was the epicenter of the subprime crash which took down investment banks and triggered a global credit crunch. To add to New York’s cup of woes, Hurricane Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan and destroyed businesses and homes alike. Unlike 2001, this time New York was well prepared for a disaster and came out of it faster. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg is once again turning adversity and challenges into an opportunity, using billions of dollars in federal disaster funding to rebuild New York as a more resilient and greener city that can withstand the impact of climate change, super storms and rising sea levels.
Anyone interested in finding out how Bloomberg manages to pull it off time and again must read his autobiography “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.” One bit stands out in the preface, in which Bloomberg says that that the success of his company is derived mostly from one thing – the company’s people. He says if there’s one thing that defines Bloomberg LP, it is “an awareness that nothing is more important than customer service. The only way to have the best customer service is treat our people the best.”