You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: 5 Tips on Getting Rich From Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer — former Microsoft CEO and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — has climbed the ranks to one of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of $125.8 billion, according to Forbes.

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He joined Microsoft with a starting salary of $50,000 as the company’s 30th employee. In 2000, he took over as CEO, tripling the company’s annual revenue to almost $78 billion, with a market capitalization of $3.2 trillion.

Notably, Ballmer is the only centibillionaire on Forbes’ list to reach the distinction as an employee rather than an entrepreneur (although after retiring from Microsoft he bought the L.A. Clippers). As a top-notch business leader, Ballmer has tips for those who aspire to work their way up the ranks and build wealth, rather than bootstrap their own business venture.

1. Make Sure You Can See the Forest for the Trees

Microsoft had some stiff competition during Ballmer’s tenure — notably, Apple and Google, who were rapidly growing their cloud-computing services. Ballmer kept Microsoft on top, although some say the company could have innovated faster in his later years.

“If the CEO doesn’t see the playing field, nobody else can,” Ballmer told “The team may need to see it too, but the CEO really needs to be able to see the entire competitive space.”

2. Promote from Within and Seek Workers with Passion

Microsoft’s success didn’t stem from Ballmer alone. He knew how to hire the right people. He believed in promoting internal workers 60-70% of the time, according to a Wall Street Journal interview.

3. Think and Rethink — Don’t Be Afraid of Change

“The playing field is always changing,” Ballmer said in a Fortune interview shortly before his retirement from Microsoft. Ballmer took that philosophy to heart as the owner of the L.A. Clippers, signing superstar players and launching a new brand focused on sports and entertainment teams and venues.

4. Plan for the Long Term, Execute in the Short-Term

“Getting the big things right that make all the money, that’s long cycle,” Ballmer said in the Fortune interview. However, you must be able to execute effectively and keep things moving in the short-term, too.

Daily planning, with an eye on your bigger goals, can help you build success as an employer or business owner.

5. Recognize that You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Entering new endeavors might feel overwhelming. You may realize you have a lot to learn. But there will always be unknowns that sneak up. Be prepared for this contingency and open your mind to learning new things. Ballmer, for instance, understood the business side of Microsoft but had to focus on learning more about technology to lead the company.  

Learn More: 6 Ways To Build Wealth Slowly but Efficiently

“I’ve grown, and when you grow, you say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know what I didn’t know,'” Balmer told Fortune readers.

This article originally appeared on You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: 5 Tips on Getting Rich From Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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