How to Get Rich: One of the World's Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets By Felix Dennis Portfolio; 291 pages
Five homes. Three country estates. Luxury cars. Private jets. Thousands of bottles of fine wine in the cellars. Chauffeurs, housekeepers, financial advisers and staffers galore. Yes, the self-made British magazine magnate Felix Dennis is living the high life, and he is open--nay, brazen--about his desire to make more money, and lots of it. Dennis, the founder in 1995 of the bawdy "lad" magazine Maxim (which he sold last year with two smaller publications for a reported $240 million), is from the "greed is good" school of business. Worth as much as $900 million, he estimates, the author clearly thinks he has earned bragging rights, and he intends to exercise them.
Dennis, 61, is kind enough to tip his hand about what makes him so damn smart. He is not alone in that regard. How to Get Rich, a No. 1 best seller in the U.K., is the latest entry into the burgeoning entrepreneurial tell-all-book sweepstakes. Books in Print reports that the supply of titles written by entrepreneurs or about entrepreneurship has grown more than 60% since 2002, to more than 300 in 2007.
This one is unique in that buttoned-down field, though, owing to its massive authorial flamboyance. A born contrarian and self-promoter with a taste for the outrageous pronouncement, Dennis is given to advice like "If it flies, floats or fornicates, always rent it." A published poet, Dennis loads the pages with dozens of quotations from such literary luminaries as Goethe and T.S. Eliot. By turns pretentious and earnest, the book is sui generis. At worst, it reads like a huge ego trip. But the author is nothing if not entertaining, even inspiring. The unvarnished title says it all: Dennis is an advocate of driven, obsessive ambition, all in the service of what he happily refers to as "filthy lucre."
So, what are the secrets of building a booming business? For one thing, he says, it helps to be young, penniless and inexperienced: "You have an advantage that neither education nor upbringing, nor even money, can buy--you have almost nothing. And therefore you have almost nothing to lose." The author rhapsodizes about the energy and tech savvy of the young. If you have the misfortune of having acquired a few more years and become a comfortable senior manager or a professional, Dennis is skeptical about your entrepreneurial odds.
Other qualities are also needed, he says. Single-mindedness is requisite: "Tunnel vision helps. Being a bit of a s___ helps. A thick skin helps. Stamina is crucial, as is a capacity to work so hard that your best friends mock you, your lovers despair and the rest of your acquaintances watch furtively from the sidelines, half in awe and half in contempt." Whatever you do, don't become a wage slave, writes Dennis. "The salary begins to have an attraction and addictiveness all of its own. A regular paycheck and crack cocaine have that in common."
Don't consider yourself a team player, he advises, even though you may have to pretend to be one. "Team spirit is for losers, financially speaking." Ownership is for winners, though: "Ownership isn't the important thing--it's the only thing ... You must strive with every fiber of your being, while recognizing the idiocy of your behavior, to own and retain control of as near to 100% of any company as you can."
How to Get Rich is a cautionary tale. Dennis is the first to tell you that you and your loved ones will pay a price for compulsively pursuing the almighty dollar (or the more valuable pound). The author, a lifetime bachelor, confides that his preoccupation with chasing money "led me into a lifestyle of narcotics, high-class whores, drink and consolatory debauchery."
Dennis sets a financial bar that few if any of his readers are likely to reach, alas. From his estate in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Dennis tells Time, "It's quite obvious that only a small number of people are actually going to become even the comfortably poor." And how much do the comfortably poor have? "Four or five million bucks," he replies. And be aware that in your climb, he stresses, "compulsion is mandatory."