Billionaire Michael Lee-Chin's 5 Principles of Wealth Creation

Feb 26, 2021

More Black Americans are learning about global billionaires like Michael Lee-Chin, Chairman and CEO of Portland Holdings, Inc. thanks to profiles like this in Black Enterprise and his inclusion on a number of lists of wealthy individuals.He continues to do numerous interviews and repeatedly shares his 5 Principles of Wealth Creation to anyone who will listen. Years ago I was fortunate enough to be in a room with him at a private gathering in Kingston, Jamaica where I heard it in person for the first time and took notes, managing to score 40 minutes with him after for my father and I to ask additional questions.

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There are many ways to create wealth so consider this as one approach that has worked for a very successful person who also seems to be very happy with his life and is giving back through his philanthropic endeavors.Before launching into the 5 Principles, Lee-Chin usually lays the foundation of the 3 steps to success as he sees it:

  1. Find a role model
  2. Get the recipe
  3. Do not change the recipe

"You can only change the recipe if you have exceeded the role model" is what he said to us that day and his role model for investing is the same as mine, Warren Buffett.Alternately, he told Paul C. Brunson during a Black Enterprise interview that he realized early on that the most successful people had developed a framework, stuck to the framework religiously and gotten access, access to people, to capital and to deals, by networking.

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This is not a person born into wealth but a man born in 1951 in a small village on the Eastern side of Jamaica named Port Antonio. He worked as a bouncer at one point before becoming a mutual fund salesman.

His story is a reminder that anyone can make it if they follow the first 3 steps and then apply the 5 Principles. They are laid out below and require you to think about any wealthy person:

  1. The person owned/owns a few high-quality businesses, mostly private
  2. The person understands the businesses and the environment
  3. The businesses are domiciled in strong, long-term growth industries
  4. The person uses OPM - Other People's Money - and OPT - Other People's Time
  5. They created wealth by holding for the long run

I emphasize the specific things that Lee-Chin emphasizes in his appearances. Does the person you think of fit these 5 criteria?

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I have been told in the past to put my eggs in a few baskets and watch them like a hawk. That is what Lee-Chin advocates with the first principle.The second principle is taken directly from Warren Buffett - invest in what you understand and stay within your circle of competence. If you know technology then invest there.No one is saying to copy the investments of Buffett or Lee-Chin but instead to understand how they make decisions.The third principle focuses on the business environment. It would not be wise to be investing in coal today when renewable energy costs are going down or to have invested in horse whip manufacturers when Henry Ford invented the assembly line to build cars more efficiently.The fourth principle is critical because you can create wealth with your own capital but it will take a very long time.

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Getting access to OPM - Other People's Money - is critical to wealth creation and this takes many forms.It can be as simple as selling a product or service, that revenue is other people's money, or attracting investors to support your venture (much harder than people think).It can also be based on borrowing wisely and using debt prudently, the riskiest option. OPT - Other People's Time is also important because that tax advisor, an accountant, the lawyer, an investment advisor, business partner or employees, all help you to achieve much more than you could accomplish on your own.

"I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people's efforts than 100% of my own efforts." - John D. Rockefeller

The fifth and final principle is focusing on the long-term. This is where most people fall down, especially when it comes to the stock market or real estate.There is a desire to do things quickly, to flip an investment and cash out early then repeat the process.

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Holding most stocks or an Index Fund for 20 years would have been a much better deal in most cases and far less work or risk.Is it really that simple? Yes. Simple, however, does not mean easy. It is not easy to ignore talking heads on television telling you to sell or to buy, to ignore a Bear Market and the falling stock prices or the family members and friends telling you that you are foolish for sticking it out.

If you have a conviction that the businesses are in strong, long-term growth industries then stick with them. The market in the short-term is usually wrong. Focus on the long-term and ignore the herd.Mr. Lee-Chin believes strongly in the repeatability of this framework for investing and has certainly been financially successful by practicing what he preaches. I never take advice from someone just because they ware wealthy but I do think through their words and decide if they make sense to test out.David P.A. Mullings is the Founder and CEO of Blue Mahoe Partners, Inc. and a General Partner with Tessera Venture Partners.

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