Business Ideas: 3 Business Lessons From Visa Founder Dee Hock


Business Ideas: 3 Business Lessons From Visa Founder Dee Hock


Hi, I’m Evan Carmichael and welcome to another edition of Modeling the Masters. I believe that the best and fastest way to grow a business is to model the strategies of people who’ve already done what you’re trying to do. So today we're going to look at how a former brick mason refused to settle for less than he felt he deserved and went on to build one of the most successful financial companies in the world. This is the story of VISA founder Dee Hock and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.

Dee Hock is the founder and former CEO of VISA. In 1968, when credit cards were first starting to get popular, Hock convinced the Bank of America to release control over their BankAmericard credit card program. He started a new company to control the credit cards. It was called National BankAmerica and later changed to VISA.

Hock came from a modest household. His father was a utility lineman and after marrying his high school sweetheart, Hock's first jobs were working in a slaughterhouse and for a brick mason. He became interested in the banking world and walked away from three separate jobs at respected financial companies because he thought they were too hierarchical and controlling which limited his creativity. Hock went looking for an opportunity to build a different type of organization, one that valued the creativity and enthusiasm of its employees. The result of this plan was VISA. Today VISA has over $8 billion in revenues and processes over 60 billion transactions per year.

By refusing to settle for less than he felt he deserved, Hock was able to build one of the most successful brands in the world and a company that he can be proud of. To help you get what you deserve, here are 3 Action Items that you can take away from Dee Hock.

Action Item #1: Hire People Different From You

We all like to stay in our comfort zones and many entrepreneurs make the mistake of hiring people who are exactly like them. If you're great at sales you don't want to hire all sales people or your company won't have any organizational structure. If you're great at programming, you don't want to hire all programmers or there won't be anybody to promote your product. Successful entrepreneurs realize what they're good at and what they need help with and surround themselves with the people who best compliment their strengths and weaknesses.

Here's what Dee Hock had to say about hiring and managing people:

“Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance and wisdom.”

“Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to use by people with all the other qualities.”

“Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality. As Napoleon observed, ‘No amount of money will induce someone to lay down their life, but they will gladly do so for a bit of yellow ribbon.’”

Action Item #2: Be A Leader

As soon as you start building a team they're going to start looking at you as their leader. They'll not only look at what decisions you make but also the process you go through to make those decisions. They're going to want to see someone who they can respect and learn from. Your leadership skills might be weak right now but you'll need to start improving them as soon possible if you want to build a successful organization.

Here are Dee Hock's thoughts on leadership:

“Here is the very heart and soul of the matter: If you look to lead, invest at least 40 percent of your time managing yourself – your ethics, character, principle, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30 percent managing those with authority over you, and 15 percent managing your peers. Use the remainder to induce those you work for to understand and practice the theory.”

“Think back to the best boss you ever had and the worst boss you ever had. Make a list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.”

“People are not things to be manipulated, labeled, boxed, bought and sold. Above all else, they are not human resource. They are entire human beings, containing the whole of the evolving universe, limitless until we start limiting them. We must examine the concept of leading and following with new eyes. We must examine the concept of superior and subordinate with increasing skepticism. We must examine the concept of management and labor with new beliefs. And we must examine the nature of organizations that demand such distinctions with an entirely different consciousness.”

Action Item #3: Empty Your Mind

Many entrepreneurs have a hard time focusing. We're simply doing too much and never get the chance to empty our minds of the day to day to focus on the big picture and where our businesses are going. Creative ideas can't be forced and if you want more of them, you'll need to free up your mental energy so you can focus. More than being just a businessman, Dee Hock considered himself a theorist. He enjoyed playing with ideas more than spreadsheets, with concepts more than numbers. Despite a successful career in the financial industry, Hock was also an active theorist, spending his free time developing new forms of social and business organization.

Here's what Dee Hock thinks about emptying your mind:

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think, and believe out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.”

So remember, hire people who are different than you, be a leader, and empty your mind. To finish this video, I wanted to share one of my favorite true stories about Dee Hock and some of his best quotes.

After building the company he felt proud of, Hock resigned from VISA in 1984 and spent almost 10 years farming a 200-acre plot of land in California, isolated from the business world. He used the time to think about corporate life and how companies should be run.

According to Hock, “I left VISA in 1984 because I had proved everything I had set out to prove about the effectiveness of these concepts of organization. When VISA became so extraordinarily successful, I thought the world would beat a path to our door to explore the concepts, but it largely ignored us."

“It was so different, people couldn’t quite understand it. There was no stock, so it didn’t fit the normal business model. I decided I wanted to return to nature and seclusion and try to develop these ideas further, so I bought 200 acres of ravaged land in a tiny, isolated community on the coast of California, built a house with a library of four or five thousand books, and spent ten years in manual labor restoring the land to health and beauty and studying incessantly trying to develop these ideas. I wanted to see if they were applicable to other organizations and industries, or merely unique to banking and credit cards."

Thank you for joining me for another edition of Modeling the Masters. If you enjoyed the video, please give it a thumbs-up. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and feedback, if you want to leave a comment below. And stay tuned for the next episode!


Hi I'm Evan and thank you for visiting my website! I love helping entrepreneurs! I also help brands connect with entrepreneurs.

Go Deeper | Website

Want More?

New Graphic
Subscriber Counter