Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta shares secrets to his success

Fertitta shares what he's coined as 'Tilmanisms' in his new book

Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta put $5,000 into a billion dollar empire. Now, he's sharing the secrets to his success in his new book, "Shut Up and Listen."

HOUSTON – Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta put $5,000 into a billion dollar empire. Now, he's sharing the secrets to his success in his new book, "Shut Up and Listen."

In his new book, Fertitta shares what he’s coined as "Tilmanisms," lessons he said all business owners should know.

Here's a little more of our interview with Tilman Fertitta.

Fertitta talked about business, bad CEOs and the Rockets' chance at a championship:

What do you do if a company has a bad CEO?

"Well, you gotta find a way to get rid of the CEO. I've bought so many companies, and probably the weakest position of companies around America -- if it's a sales company, it's not the salesmen. If it's a restaurant, it's not the server. It's usually the CEO.

"There's so many weak CEOs that it just blows me away. For some reason, once you've been a CEO, everybody thinks, 'Well, they know how to do it.' I've watched people just go from one company to another and screw 'em up, but they always talk a good line when they're interviewing, and they seem to get the job.

"It's just really shocking how poorly of a job that can follow you, and you can still get the job."

Where do you like to find talent for your team?

"I like to home grow people. When I've done acquisitions, I like to see that that person at that particular company is really good in any particular department and bring them in with us, also. Very seldom have I gone with the true outside and brought in the senior person."

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

"Well, believe it or not, I've been really doing things the same way. Probably, sometimes not negotiate so hard. I've lost deals because I've probably negotiated them too hard. But I've also negotiated hard and I've made a better deal. But probably, 'If you really want something, don't lose it.'"

Do you think you need a mentor in order to succeed in business?

"There isn't a road map. You know, I love millennials, but they want it to happen now.

"But I never had that one mentor. I just kind of watched successful businesses and successful people.

"And when somebody comes up to me and says, 'I want to be just like you,' and I say, 'Maybe.' And I say this in a nice way, 'Maybe you ought to lower your target or your dreams just a little bit. There's nothing wrong with being worth a billion dollars."

Thoughts on the Houston Rockets winning a championship?

"You know, we've been really good the last two years, and I think we're a better team this year. I think it's wide open. There's not one team like Golden State. I think there's probably one of six teams that could easily win the championship this year. It all gets down to injuries more than anything else -- and chemistry.

"I’ve always said you've gotta have luck to win the championship. If you even look at Golden State, they had luck to win the championship. When Toronto won their championship last year, there was luck. You had a lot of key injuries. When the Rockets won their two championships, you know, 25 ... 27 years ago, Michael Jordan took a couple of years off.

"You set yourself up to be one of the best teams, and that's all you can do. And then you always need a little luck."

Will Houston ever have a hockey team?

You know, we talk about it every month. There's not a month that goes by that it doesn't come up, and it's just finding the right situation. A team that we can buy, or a team maybe that wants to relocate here, and we do something with them at the Toyota Center. We're looking at all of our options.

"It's just a little more difficult for a hockey team when you get below the Mason-Dixon line, so it's just gotta be the right deal. But do I think hockey will come to Houston one day? For sure. It's just gotta be the right deal."


Fertitta on dominating in business:

  • "Be the bull."
  • "When things are bad, eat the weak and grow your business."
  • "You're trying to run a marathon, and you haven't even shown me you can crawl."
  • "By anticipating change, you don't just change with the times, you change the times themselves."
  • "Never become partners with someone who has the same skill set as you."
  • "Follow the 95/5 Rule: 95% of your business may be operating fine, but seek out the 5% that's wrong."
  • "One of the things about being a good leader is hiring people who are stronger than you, and if you hire people who are stronger than you, they'll never take your job. They'll help you keep your job."
  • "Consultants can consult you out of business."

Fertitta on finances in business:

  • "There are no spare customers."
  • "Know your numbers."
  • "Never put your lifestyle ahead of the growth of your business."
  • "You're not out of business until you don't have the last dollar to go out and buy product, until somebody comes and padlocks your door or you can't make payroll."

Fertitta on business mindset:

  • "Every day is a learning day for me, too. Somebody does something in a day that makes me a little bit smarter than I was when the day began, because I'm not always talking. I'm also listening."
  • "Take 'No' out of your vocabulary."
  • "You might think you know what you're doing, but I'm going to show you what you don't know."
  • "Change, change, change."
  • "Don't ever think that your position is too high to teach others, because I still teach every single day."
  • "Be Plappy."

"Shut Up and Listen" is available Sept. 17.