I have just finished reading the autobiography of Jean Paul Getty, known as J. Paul Getty, “How To Be Rich” (*****). Born in 1892 and died in 1976, Getty had long been the richest American and perhaps the richest man in the world. He made his fortune in oil, having started his career prospecting for oil in Oklahoma. By dint of hard work and rational, calculated decisions, over the decades he built an industrial empire, the Getty Oil Company, and invested in real estate and the stock market, not to mention a large collection of works of art of great value. He was also a great patron: the J. Paul Getty Trust is one of the largest cultural foundations in the world.

The book “How To Be Rich” is full of lessons for many people, entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, and anyone who wants to get rich. The title of the book can be confusing; it does not only aim to show us how to enrich ourselves materially, but above all how to enrich ourselves more broadly as individuals. As Mr. Getty himself wrote in the preface to his book, “richness” is at least as much a matter of character, of philosophy, outlook and attitude, as it is of money.

I have highlighted some of the book’s messages.

Mr. Getty had an unwavering faith in the system and the American and global economy. In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s, he continued to invest as everyone applied the brakes. He wrote this referring to the terrible 1930s: I was convinced the nation’s economy was essentially sound – that though it might sag lower in the near future, it would eventually bounce back, healthier than ever. I thought it was the time to buy – not sell.

Getty had developed the “contrarian” spirit that seems to me so important for a long-term stock market investor. He was willing to go against the tide and make decisions that seemed rash, even foolish, to others. In the book, which was written in 1965, he wrote: The businessman who moves counter to the tide of prevailing opinion must expect to be obstructed, derided and damned. And added, The truly successful businessman is essentially a maverick, a rebel who is rarely, if ever, satisfied with the status quo.

Like many entrepreneurs, Mr. Getty was ambitious and wanted to grow his business to create value and contribute to the growth of his country by creating jobs. He writes: It might be said that he views business as a creative art. He uses his money as capital, investing and reinvesting it to create businesses and jobs and produce goods and services.

I particularly liked the ten fundamental rules he lists for success in business:

1-    Almost without exception, there is only one way to make a great deal of money in the business world – and that is in one’s own business.
2-    The businessman should never lose sight of the central aim of all business – to produce more and better goods or provide more and better services to more people at lower cost.
3-    A sense of thrift is essential for success in business.
4-    Legitimate opportunities for expansion should never be ignored or overlooked.
5-    A businessman must run his own business.
6-    The businessman must be constantly alert for new ways to improve his products and services and increase his production and sales.
7-    A businessman must be willing to take risks. But borrowed money must always be promptly repaid.
8-    A businessman must constantly seek new horizons and untapped or under-exploited markets.
9-    Nothing builds confidence and volume faster or better than a reputation for standing behind one’s work or products.
10-    No matter how many millions an individual amasses, if he is in business he must always consider his wealth as a means for improving living conditions everywhere. 

I’ve always believed it makes sense to learn the keys to success by studying the most successful people in any field. This book by J. Paul Getty should be required reading for anyone who wants to start a business.