Business Building Lessons From Ted Turner

Real Estate Investing Audio CD

It's fun to read the latest business-building lessons about how "new media" will change the world or why everyone in a business must be "on the right seat on the bus".

Lately, I've found myself drawn to biographies instead of business books.

There's so much to learn from the actual stories of what people go through to achieve their dreams.

It's much better fodder for the brain than theoretical concepts and "pie in the sky" ideas.

We've found that most business strategy books share results from case studies that can be interpreted a million different ways to suit the premise of the book.

So instead of "business philosophy" today we want to share with you some excerpts from Ted Turner's autobiography, "Call Me Ted".

If you're not familiar with the Tedd Turner, he's the guy who started CNN.

Business Building Lessons: Excerpts From the Founder of CNN

Excerpt #1: "When The Chips Are Down..."

When Ted's dad passed away he learned that his father had agreed to sell a large portion of his advertising business to a business associate, Bob Neagle.

When Ted learned about this he started working feverishly to stop it.

Here's Ted describing what happened after he approached Bob Neagle about canceling the sale:

"...He could now tell that I didn't intend to go quietly into the night.

With that in mind, he met with his advisers and came up with a new offer, presented in the form of two $200,000 alternatives. If I agreed to return all the leases and simply go away, he would pay me $200,000 cash. This was 1963, I was twenty-four years old, and that was a ton of money (more than $1 million today). My other option if I wanted to retain the General Outdoor assets, was to pay $200,000 to Neagle and for this price he would tear up the agreement he had reached with my father. I'm sure Neagle thought I'd jump at their offer to buy me out. But without considering how in the world I would come up with another $200,000, I agreed on the spot that I would take the second option. This was my chance to save the business and I wasn't going to blow it for $200,000.

...Suddenly, I was like the dog that finally catches the bus - I had a deal but what could I do next? My recent inheritance came in the form of company equity and personal property, not cash. Turner Advertising had very little disposable cash, as we'd been making capital investments and had just six months to come up with $600,000 to make our first debt payment to cover the General Outdoor acquisition. Working through these challenges, I learned a lesson that would stick with me throughout my career. When the chips are down and the pressure is on, it's amazing to see how creative people can be. And with a ninety-day clock ticking, we had to get really creative very fast."

Ted went on to figure out a way to negotiate the deal.

Excerpt #2: "Learning how to win..."

Ted was a huge sailing fan and a competitive sailor. He won the famous America's Cup sailing competition in the 1970's.

There's a story he shares where after an entire summer of competing in a sailing competition the races didn't go as planned and day after day he and his crew would lose race after race until they were eventually humiliated and eliminated.

Here's what Ted walked away saying...

"The lessons learned by such a crushing defeat would stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. When I suffer a setback, I don't think of myself as losing, I'm simply learning how to win."


Excerpt #3: "Backs against the wall...."

In the middle of launch, CNN Ted was trying to get distribution deals done with satellite operators and trying to fend off competition from ABC, CBS, and NBC. Huge networks that dwarfed him in size.

The satellite they were going to lease to broadcast CNN across the country ended up getting lost in space.

How crazy is that?

This left them with no distribution options and imminent collapse of their entire business.

But at the last second Ted's team of lawyers found an old provision in a previous contract that gave them the opportunity they needed to use a different satellite that they were being locked out of.

"Our lawyers kept digging until one of them remembered a provision he had carved out in the deal with had reached with RCA a few years before when we sold our Atlanta uplink facility to them. This clause stipulated that whenever RCA allocated new satellite transponders they owed Turner Broadcasting the first right of refusal. RCA had leased several transponders in the years since this agreement was signed and in every case they had overlooked this particular provision. While this contract had no direct bearing on the current situation (and the truth is, we wouldn't have needed these transponders had they been offered), they were technically in breach. It looked like we might have some leverage in our negotiations.

Our backs were against the wall, but that also played to our advantage. I'm convinced that one of the reasons I've been successful is that I've almost always competed against people who were bigger and stronger but who had less commitment and desire then I did."

Ah, how insightful.

It's not how good you are.

It's how hard you hustle.

Excerpt #4: "No silver platter..."

This one needs no introduction.

"One of the reasons I like military schools was I wanted my boys to be tough and self-sufficient. I also tried to set a personal example for all my children when it came to hard work and appreciating the value of hard-earned money. My kids obviously saw the hours I put in at the office and at the height of my wealth I still drove around Atlanta in a Ford Taurus and bought my clothes off the rack. In fact, I was so thrifty that someone at the company once said, "Ted Turner could squeeze Lincoln off a penny!" During my sailing career and my time at Brown, I'd seen plenty of wealthy people's children who were spoiled and didn't have much of a work ethic. I didn't want to see my kids end up like that and while they certainly enjoyed some of the fruits of my success ... I made it a point to be sure that they didn't get too much handed to them on a silver platter."

That paragraph has so many lessons in it I don't even know where to start. I'll leave it with you to re-read and digest.

There's easily another half dozen gems in the book.

The next time you find yourself face-to-face with the latest business philosophies, real estate short cuts or Internet marketing tactics remember to reflect on the principles in these paragraphs.

The road less traveled is the one full of pressure, failures, hustle and self-sufficiency.

These lessons are timeless but so often forgotten. But not by you!!

Until next time... be a Renegade!

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