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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: 7 / 9)

Financier and Philanthropist

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  Carlos Slim

What part of what you do is instinct -- which is innate, you were born with it -- and what part is experience, a skill set that has been taught?

Carlos Slim: I don't know. I think that more than instinct, there are circumstances. Experience, I think, is important. To know the whole. I think that from the first moment in '65, that I founded the companies, I always knew that I'm not an executive. I'm more an entrepreneur. I'm not a person that works from 8:00 to 6:00, or from 9:00 to 5:00. I don't have the characteristics of the executives. I think in business, you have the executives or the COs, the investors, and the entrepreneurs. They are different personalities.

What is the difference between an entrepreneur, a businessman, and an investor?

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: Well, I don't know in English. In Spanish, we say empresario, we don't say businessman. The entrepreneur is more a creator, a promoter, and he works with executives. The executives are the ones who have the work to be done, the organization, a leadership in the organization, but the entrepreneur needs to be the leadership of the leadership.

A really good entrepreneur knows the power of a good idea. A manager knows how to operate, and an investor, how do they know? You are now an investor in many businesses. How do you distinguish that?

Carlos Slim: Well, I think in the small and middle-size business, the same one is all three things. The same person is the owner, is the investor and is the executive. You can't make a separation in the middle and small business because the entrepreneur has all three characteristics. He is the owner of the business. He is the investor in the business. Sometimes they find partners that invest with them. The investor is one that has confidence in the management and in the economic sector and makes an investment in private companies and in public companies. Mostly, the investor is thinking in middle-term or maybe long-term. He is not selling and buying everything. No? The one who sells and buys all day is like a gambler. He looks for the adrenaline, like kind of a Rambo, an economic Rambo, a business Rambo, financier Rambo. No? They want to feel the adrenaline.

Some very good investors say, "I never buy anything that I wouldn't want to keep forever." Do you agree with that?

Carlos Slim: Forever is too long. When you make an investment, it is because you are not thinking in moves from one day to another, except if you're a gambler or you are playing. When you invest in something, it's because you can become big with this business, like if it were yours. Not forever. Forever is too long. Some investments are not only for your life. They follow in your family, no?

You've been an enormously successful entrepreneur, you've been an enormously successful businessman, and you've been an enormously successful investor. It's a rare talent that can do those three things. Aside from your skill set, the tangibles, what about the intangible skill set such as attitude, the ability to read people, the ability to motivate people? How has that influenced your business life?

Carlos Slim: Well, I began to invest when I was -- not a teenager -- maybe 10 or 12 years old. I learn at those times, how do you call it, when you capitalize interest? Compuesto. Compound interest.

I learned many things when I was very young, maybe 12 or 13 years old. Then I learned how to understand a balance sheet. I didn't learn that in school. When you look at a balance sheet, there is a lot of information. Not only a balance sheet, but also an estado de resultados. That is a report, financial statement in general. I think finances -- to invest, there are some principles that are very clear, but very easy. You invest with basic conditions. You invest when you have confidence in the management, in the sector -- you like the sector -- and the value of the prices are not high, or are low, low value. Buying intrinsic values in good companies, in good markets and in good sectors. No? I think these kind of things are basics and are not complicated.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

The problem is when you want to buy and sell and buy and sell, and that is when the investor gets into gambling, or speculation. That is not necessary, not something rational.

The training I have, for one thing, and the other -- to study financial statements during many years, maybe 10 years or 15 years -- and my experience in many areas, and the ability maybe to simplify the variables, take out parameters that are not necessary, or variables that are secondary, and look at the essential issues of the business. I really think that I make things that are not very rational, like I get involved with so many, too many areas, too many sectors, doing so many things, so different things. The reason was, when you don't have an area to grow in one business, you diversify. Thus, I have done really, maybe 50 or 60 different things. I don't know how many, a lot. That doesn't make too much sense. It is not a recommendation to others to do that. We have done paper, candies, tires. We compete with international companies, soft drinks, construction, bicycles, mining, the telecommunications, metals, financial services, insurance, and oil platforms, infrastructure to run roads, (collect) tolls, et cetera, et cetera.

We've done bakery, retail. I think that's dangerous. We were relatively successful, but we have got out of some of these areas.

I think it is important to focus in the areas where you -- the sectors that you look -- with a good potential, that they are part of the dynamic sectors that will grow strongly, where you can do something, where you can do things, and follow world reference. We have competed with many companies. Actually, let's say in paper, we compete with Kimberly Clark and Scott Paper without a partner, a foreign partner. In tires, we compete with Bridgestone, with Michelin, with Goodyear, without the foreign partner, and we were the leaders in the market. In tobacco, we compete with British American Tobacco. We have a foreign partner. I think that it's important not only to separate your activities, like an investor and like an entrepreneur, but also to have more focus. There is a moment where you cannot -- it is not recomendable -- it is not good for others to get involved in so much areas. We have got out of many of these fields. We have sold out many of these sectors because they were too much.

What do you know now about achievement that you didn't know when you were a young person starting out?

Carlos Slim: I think I understand better the civilization we're living in. I'm understanding the future better. I have a more clear vision of the future and a more clear vision of the present, and for me that changed many things in life. One of them is a new company that will make efforts to push the development of Latin America. There are many projects, and you need to put them together. That's what we will do. As you grow older, you have other challenges and this is one of the biggest challenges. I feel that I'm just beginning my big challenges now. These other challenges were in the past, but my big challenge is coming just today, in this age, to accelerate the development of our country.

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
As much as I look not only at the business environment, but also at what is happening in the world, and how the economy is managed, I am more convinced that many things can be adjusted. Governments should be more clear about what this new civilization is, what it means, what are the new paradigms, what things will happen. The terrible risk we have in this transformation is that during this transition there will be a lot of problems, because people fear change, fear something that they don't understand. If we don't manage it very well, it will be very costly socially, economically and to many people it will be terrible.

That's a big challenge, and that's something I didn't know ten years ago, that way of thinking and learning and reading. The last six, eight years I'm looking at it very clearly, and every day I look at it more clearly. Talking with people who were first in these ideas is very important, like Alan Toffler, and other people that have studied that in a very theoretical and pioneering way.

You have a high energy level and a curious mind, so many things to be interested in, and yet time is your most precious resource. How do you manage your time?

Carlos Slim: I'm not sure that I'm very efficient in managing my time, because all these interests and curiosity take me out of focus sometimes, but time is very important.

How do you allocate that time to business, to family, to your other interests?

Carlos Slim: You cannot do it mechanically and methodologically. Family and personal life is not only a problem of quantity, but of quality. We have dinner with my children every Monday. We get together with all my grandchildren a few times a year for a weekend and things like that. Seventeen grandchildren altogether.

People who've known you for years say you're the same today as you've always been. That's not easy to do with so much success. How do you think you've maintained that balance?

Carlos Slim: The real success is not from outside. The real success is not a professional success, a business success, or wealth. The real success is your personal life, your family life, your personal environment. That is your success. The other is not success.

All three of your sons are involved in your business now. How about your daughters?

Carlos Slim Interview Photo
Carlos Slim: Three of my children are involved in the business. Two of my sons-in-law are also involved. The other is a great architect. For my daughters, two of them are on the board of directors. One is managing the museum. The other was managing a foundation of my wife's, called ASUME (Asociación de Superación por México), for personal superación. How we say? To get better. Human development. That's a very important program, and the other has an institute for children, for early development. They learn to swim very young, two or three years old, as a stimulation for development in physical activities. So two of them are on the board. One has five children.

A lot of times, people who are very successful professionally, fail on a personal level, with their family, with personal relationships. This is not the case with you. You have a wonderful family. You have friends who love you. What is your secret?

Carlos Slim: I think it's a good question. I think there is not a secret.

I believe that family and personal life and business -- professional life -- is not only compatible. It is necessary. You will have a better professional life with a good personal life and family life than if you don't have a good personal life and a family life. I don't understand the contrary. It is very clear that the good personal life makes you stronger. You are stronger for the challenges. You are working. I think I don't believe in working 20 hours or 16 hours or 14 hours. When you work too much, it is because your job is beyond you. You are not controlling the -- you are not doing well at your job. If you need to work 15 hours, 16 hours, this is because you're not organized. You don't have delegation of your responsibility, and I don't believe that in any business, in any activity, you need to work 15 or 16 hours, and you don't have time for yourself or for your family or for anyone.

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