Engineering Success: How Slimís Pockets Got Fat

There is no one in the world quite like Carlos Slim Helu. Until his recent jump to the second spot on the Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest, he was something of a mystery to the business world. He worked in relative isolation, with no computers in the basement of his drab two-storey office building. But, his seclusion should not be mistaken for a weakness. Indeed, his power is so great, that when he did suffer a weakness in the form of heart surgery a few years back, his companies’ shares actually began to tremble. So, just how did this son of Lebanese immigrants become one of the wealthiest people in the world, and a household name across an entire continent?

Instinct: From the time his father taught him about hunting for bargains during the Mexican Revolution, Helu has been developing his gut instinct when it comes to detecting a good business deal. And, he has learned to trust that gut, even when it went against what all of his competitors, the market, and industry analysts were saying. It was that confidence that took him to the top.

Vision: Helu is a traditional man who, himself, eschews many of the conveniences of modern technology. However, like any good businessman, Helu understands that he alone is not the market. By keeping one eye on the past and one eye on the future, Helu has been able to anticipate the direction of industries, and establish his position at the forefront of that change.

Efficiency: Helu is willing to do whatever it takes to make his companies operate as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. If that means cutting thousands of jobs, so be it. If it means retaining previous management, so be that. He wanted his corporate structures simple and bare of the bureaucracy that burdens so many others.

Ambition: Anybody who knew Helu as a young boy knew he was going to make something of himself. After all, by the time he was 15 years old, he had made more money from stocks than most of his parents’ friends had saved up in their entire lifetimes. It was by being unwilling to rest, even after he had achieved modest success, that Helu continued his rise to the top.

Giving: Ask most people to name two or three of the greatest philanthropists and chances are Helu will not top any of their lists. Despite the fact that he has not given away as much money as others at the top of the corporate ladder, Helu has brought his sound business sense to his charitable foundations. After all, for Helu, everything has to have a bottom line.

Helu has recently stepped out of the limelight and has passed the torch onto his three sons. However, the impact of his career, which he single handedly built from scratch, can still be felt throughout Latin America and beyond. Helu will not only go down in history as one of the most successful Mexican businessmen, but indeed as one of the world’s most successful businessmen of all time.

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