Mario Gabelli’s Advice to Aspiring Business Leaders

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Ever wondered what it would be like to get advice from a billionaire?

In a candid talk on Sept. 6 with the 2017 freshman class of the Gabelli School of Business, Mario J. Gabelli, chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors, shared some of the secrets to his success.

Here are some of the self-made billionaire investor’s tips on how tomorrow’s leaders can use the next four years of their lives at Fordham as a stepping stone in the business world.

1. Accumulate knowledge

Whether he’s analyzing earnings-call transcripts, gathering insights from international analysts on his team, surveying the automotive industry, or getting to know executives affecting change, Gabelli is driven by intensive research. “What I do and our team does is assess talent—just like you’re assessing your professors and benefiting from their wisdom,” said Gabelli, who serves on the executive committee of the President’s Council at Fordham. “Learn about a business. Learn what makes it work, whether it’s a convenience gas station, investment business, or private equity firm. Learn the details.”

2. Learn to think

“Education is the great leveler, the engine of America’s meritocracy,” Gabelli said in 2010 after making a $25 million gift to school that now bears his name. For Gabelli, who graduated in 1965, that still rings true today. He encouraged students to view college as a testing ground for critical thinking. “The more you learn, the more flexible you’ll become, and the better off you’ll be,” he said. “Learn to think about what your options are, how you can execute them, and maximize the time that you’re here.”

3. Repurpose your fears

Fear is one of the biggest inhibitors of success, yet Gabelli has used his fears—of making mistakes, missing opportunities, and not getting details right—as motivators in his financial career. In fact, when he founded GAMCO Investors in 1977, it wasn’t the most opportune time to start a firm given the turbulent economy. “Everybody said, ‘You shouldn’t start a firm,’ and they probably were right, but that’s OK,” he said, telling the graduates to experience things for themselves and do what they love.

4. Get in the game

Although Gabelli is one of the country’s highest ranked money managers, the Bronx-born executive said he didn’t know anything about Wall Street until he got a job in his teens at a golf course frequented by financial analysts. “I decided to buy stocks at an early age,” he said. “And even when I went to high school and college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I had exposure. So my recommendation is to get on the bus. Buy a stock. Get into the game, and then figure out who you’re going to call.”

5. Live in the future

Looking ahead is crucial in the financial industry, according to Gabelli, who invests in stocks at prices below their intrinsic values. “In anything you do in business or in life, don’t look at what things are doing today,” he said. “Look at where they are going to be a year from now or 10 years from now. Where are you going to be, and how do you position yourself to take advantage of that?” Ultimately, Gabelli, whose firm has also backed environmental, social, and governance investments, said it’s all about giving back. “You want to participate not only in what you’re doing for the planet, but [also in]returning what you have.”

Mario Gabelli speaks at the Leonard Theater at Fordham Preparatory School.

Mario Gabelli speaks at the Leonard Theater at Fordham Preparatory School.

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