"Sir, would you mind taking off your shoes?" the captain asked as I stepped aboard the 164 ft mega yacht named "Wheels", owned by Rick Hendrick, the godfather of Nascar.
I am so extremely grateful for everything I have in my life. I was born in the United States to two loving parents which means I hit the "ovarian jackpot" as Warren Buffet likes to say. Everything in addition to that is gravy.
Making at least $34,000 per year puts you in the top 1% of income earners in the world. Almost everyone you meet who lives in the United States achieves this goal. The United States also has 5.2 million millionaires and 536 billionaires.
I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many millionaires but only 2 billionaires that I am aware of. Keep in mind that billionaires don't earn $1 billion per year, they simply own assets that are worth at least that amount (1,000x $1 million).
Those that I know in the "millionaire club" have reached this level in two different ways. The first group got a good job, lived frugally, invested wisely and slowly amassed a net worth to put them in the club. The second, more common and quickest method to achieving this goal is to be a business owner where leverage is easily applied.
The only way to become a billionaire is to follow the second method. You must own something that provides a massive amount of value to a massive amount of people.
One billionaire that I had the opportunity to meet* is Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Automotive Group (over 80 new car dealerships) and Hendrick Motor Sports (his Nascar drivers include Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kasey Kahne).
Let's dig into the choices that Rick has made leading to his success.
1. Be an owner
Rick Hendrick grew up as a poor farmer who loved cars and racing. He sold everything he owned at age 28 to finance his first Chevrolet dealership. This was the tipping point that set him on the path to becoming a billionaire.
Businesses that are worth over $1B got there because they scaled quickly. Rick did not become complacent with one dealership. Once he figured out the keys to running one successful dealership he grew as quickly as possible.
3. Amazing people
The first thing Mr. Hendrick told me over dinner was that he woudn't have gotten anywhere in life without an amazing team of people around him. As the founder and chairman he is responsible for the grand vision of the company. He cannot handle everything himself so he has to attract and retain people who share his vision. He does this by treating people well and living up to his strong family values. This is the reason why the best drivers in the business want to work for him.
From being in the right place at the right time to riding a market wave, there is always some luck involved on the path to growing and owning a billion dollar business.
5. Working hard where it matters most
Many people work extremely hard, but to be a billionaire you must be dedicated to working hard on the problems that matter most. The key to success is a relentless focus on the things that are vitally important but not always urgent. The trap most people get stuck in is working on problems that are urgent but lack importance.
So there you have it. Own a business that can scale quickly, surround yourself with amazing people, work hard where it matters most, sprinkle in a bit of luck and maybe you will one day step foot into the billionaire club.
*This past summer LaBonne's partnered with AARP's Drive to End Hunger campaign and Lime Rock Race Track to help feed over 24,000 local hungry senior citizens. AARP is Jeff Gordon's primary sponsor. Through this partnership we won the opportunity to go to the Daytona 500 and have dinner with Rick, his wife and some of his associates on his yacht.