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Updated 24 Sep 2020

Elon Musk’s secrets to mega growth

Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City. South African-born Elon Musk is at the cutting edge of modern technology and is currently involved in several companies that could alter the course of human existence. Here are his secrets to growing great companies.   

GG van Rooyen, 19 January 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

For serial-entrepreneur Elon Musk, business is about more than making money. For him, it is about building an empire, leaving a legacy and truly improving humanity’s future.

How has he managed to take some dubious future technologies and turn them into successful companies? Here are his secrets to success.

Related: Nic Haralambous on why real growth still happens in the ‘real’ world


If you’re only trying to grow profits and make money, you won’t build a truly transformational company. In order to leave a legacy, you need to look beyond the bottom line.

Like what you’re doing

Elon -Musk -workshop

“If you like what you’re doing, you think about it even when you’re not working. It’s something that your mind is drawn to,” Musk says. The entrepreneur famously works all the time (up to 80 or 100 hours a week), but for him it doesn’t feel like work. Why? Because he genuinely enjoys what he does.

Aim for the stars… and don’t be afraid to fail   

Both Tesla and SpaceX are long shots, focusing on technologies that are really only in their infancy. But this doesn’t scare Musk. He knows that failure is a possibility, but that doesn’t worry him.

“I didn’t really think Tesla would be successful. I thought we would most likely fail, but I thought we could at least address the false perception that people had, that an electric car had to be ugly and slow and boring, like a golf cart. If something is important enough, you need to try, even if the probable outcome is failure,” he says.

Put the customer first

Even if you’re aiming for the stars and taking risks, you need to focus on the experience of your customers. Regardless of your product or service, customers need to come first.

“You’ve got to make sure that, whatever you’re doing, you’re offering a great product or service. It has to be really great,” believes Musk.

“If you’re entering anything where there’s an existing market place with large, entrenched competitors, then your product or service needs to be much better than theirs. It can’t just be a little bit better, because, if you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer, then you think. ‘Why should I buy that?’ You’re always going to buy the trusted brand, unless there’s a big difference. A lot of times, an entrepreneur will come out with something that is just a little bit better. It can’t just be slightly better; it’s got to be a lot better.”

Related: Bisila Bokoko on shifting your perspective

Assemble an excellent team

Whatever you’re doing, it all comes down to the people you work with, believes Musk. “All a company is, is a group of people who have gathered together to create a product or service. Depending on how hard-working and how talented that group is, and the degree to which they are focused cohesively in a good direction, that will determine the success of the company,” says Musk.


  • Do what you enjoy – it’s the only way to be truly successful.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • The customer experience is crucial.
  • Work with the right people.
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GG van Rooyen

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