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If you like Carlos Slim's story, you might also like:
Steve Case,
Ray Dalio,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
Henry Kravis,
Craig McCaw,
Ted Turner,
Stephen Schwarzman and
Dennis Washington

Related Links:
Carlos Slim's Web Site
Fundación Carso
Grupo Carso

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Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim
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Carlos Slim Interview (page: 5 / 9)

Financier and Philanthropist

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  Carlos Slim

We've read about the "official principles" you created for Grupo Carso. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Carlos Slim: There are some principles that we use that are the way we work. We try to live by them all the time and work with them. One is that the money from a business goes into operation, you look for reinvestment. Another is that you be very competitive with modern equipment and technology and that you use an international reference (benchmarks). The structure should be very, very thin, not to have many levels of management. When you have the president, the subpresidente, the represidente and so on, you are too far from the operation. The concept is to be directly in the operation.

Hands on?

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: Hands on. The director and the president of the company works inside the industry, with the labor people. When there are good times, capitalize strongly and accelerate the growth, and in the bad times, you don't need to make layoffs, because you're working with what you need. You know the English economist Keynes?

John Maynard Keynes?

Carlos Slim: Yes. You know, Keynes was not original. It's in the Bible, seven years of fat cows and seven years of thin cows. Vacas flacas. How you say vacas flacas?

Skinny cows?

Carlos Slim: You remember in the Bible, Joseph makes an interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh, and he says, "You will have seven years of fat cows and then seven years of starving cows. So in the years of the fat cows, let's save grain for the years of the skinny cows." That means, in the new economy, the fat cows are superávit (surplus) and the starving cows are the deficit.

So you save and prepare for the lean years.

Carlos Slim: Yes. That's Keynes. What I say is that in the years of the fat cows, business needs to capitalize and accelerate development, so in the years of the starving cows, you don't lay off people. You've already created the wealth and the surplus for these starving cows. You will grow, because you have the grain.

It takes discipline to do that.

Carlos Slim: It takes a combination of ways to do these things, more than discipline. It's a way of life. It's like diet or gymnastics. You can know all the gymnastic things, all the exercises. You can know all the diets, but if you don't do the diets, if you don't do the exercise, it won't work. It's the same if you have some rules, but you don't live them. It doesn't work.

So in that way of life, no matter what the immediate conditions are, you conduct yourself in that manner?

Carlos Slim: Yes. And the organization works in this direction. When we buy a company outside Mexico, we only send two or three people there. The main point for them is to be in a winning team and a winner company. Triumfador, how you say? A winner. In a good company, it has to be clear that he will have a job, that he will have his material problems solved, and that he will have the possibility of personal development, human development.

A good future.

Carlos Slim: A good future, but not because of his face, or his attitude, or because of what we call "Fighting to the public." You need to fight to the bull, not to the public. When you work for your chiefs, to convince them, giving speeches instead of having both hands on, then you're not doing your job okay.

Very good principles. They sound so simple and basic, but profound. They make a difference in the way a business is run, even in the way you conduct yourself in life.

Carlos Slim: Yes. It's like in sports.

Sometimes you have a team, and there is a manager or a coach or something in charge, or a technical director. Some of them make a very good team, and others make a very bad team of the same people. You need the people that love what they are doing, to work in harmony, to work in a team, to work together, and that they feel that they are working in a group that is a winner. Actually, from other teams, we take people. We fill the executive functions from the same people that are working within the group. We can move the group from one company to another, but we don't bring people from outside, regularly. We create the people inside. We develop the people inside.

So you train them in your principles.

Carlos Slim: Yes. The director of the group is the same in one company as in the other. They feel that they can confront any challenge and make it, to be winners in life and professionally.

Were you a "hands on" manager?

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: Me? Yes. I get involved. One day, I look for something, some problem to solve, that I think is important, and some strategy to change, some proposition for doing things. We're very innovative. I worry that we cannot patent some of our innovations. Now we have a big problem in Mexico, because a mountain -- or a hill -- fell down and blocked the river, a big river. There were 20 million meters of earth and rocks that moved and made a dam in the river, creating a big problem. We're making a channel to open the river to boats. There are 120 machines working there, 24 hours a day, all night and day, and our people are developing a new concept that is very interesting to finish this.

Someone in your position is also bound to attract some criticism. How do you deal with criticism, wherever it comes from?

Carlos Slim: First, you need to be clear that you're doing the right thing. And the criticism can come, in my case, that we're a partner of politicians or that we benefit by government or are supported by investors from other places. How you say enfrentamos? We confront the problems and we make a declaration. I think problems should be attacked immediately. Confront the problems, any kind of problem, not only criticism. The truth will come and the problems will go.

How much pressure does someone feel in your position? How do you feel when you read in the paper, "Carlos Slim is $3 billion poorer this year" or "Carlos Slim is $5 billion richer" because of this or that? Is there a pressure involved in what you do?

Carlos Slim: Oh no. Many of these things they write about me, or about anyone, are not true, first of all. Second, you're not setting records.

You have the privilege and responsibility of managing wealth. I know -- and my children are agreed in the same area -- that when I die I will not take anything. I think that people (a person), that has wealth of his own, or maybe a government, a politician that manages the wealth of the people, or has the responsibility to manage money, the responsibility is to be efficient with the wealth, to manage it okay. And you are worried about the efficiency and the way you use it. At the end, you manage the wealth temporarily when you are alive, and maybe you are still alive and you put the wealth to be managed by others.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

When you are worried about the organization, actually you are taking care of the interest of the investors. You are worried if there is something bad in the price, or the value of the company, because you are doing the wrong things. But if you're doing the right things, and the markets move up and down, you worry what to do about things. Not to worry to make things happen in the short term, but in the long term, no? And when you are doing the right things, the value will be there. It will come.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

When we spoke to Bill Gates some years ago, he said it was the worst thing that happened to him, when they named him the richest man in the world. Suddenly everybody wants something. The government wants to regulate him, wants to break up Microsoft. Now people are calling you the richest man in the world. Do you feel the same kind of burden?

Carlos Slim: Well, I don't know if I am. It's not a football game. I don't know who is, but that doesn't matter. All my life, people send me letters asking for many things, every day, but you have your own plans, your own programs. Ten years ago, the regulators were very tough. Now they are tough, but that's life. Competitors want to take away your market, and they want it free. If they have problems, they want asymmetric regulations. They want you to lose your market and give up 20 or 50 percent of the market just because of their beautiful face or because they're so loving.

What are the responsibilities of acquiring wealth?

Carlos Slim: I think it's a social responsibility to make wealth produce more wealth, for at the end of the day it will go to society. It also gives you the possibility to use this wealth for other purposes beyond the business. That's my belief that it's crazy that you make wealth and you leave it to a foundation when you die, for others to do you don't know what. During life, you should use your wealth outside the business, for other causes, for other risks, for other jobs, like nutrition. That's what we do in our foundations. Nutrition, health, child health, health education, education, education. That's the main reason for civilization. You need to have more education. We try to do it in high impact.

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This page last revised on Apr 06, 2012 14:46 EDT
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