Twenty-five years ago, I got Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Masayoshi Son, Stan Shih, Ann Winblad, and a dozen other self-made tech billionaires to tell me exactly how they became so successful. 

This was, of course, right when the internet was in the process of completely transforming everything in the business world. As such, the on-the-spot observations of this original crop of wildly successful moguls are of enormous value to today's entrepreneurs.

Here's the gist of what they told me, personally, during these interviews, which has been adapted from my international bestseller, Giant Killers (Orion Publishers, London, 1997).

1. Make work fun.

Lighten up and make work a good time. People naturally like to spend time where they're having fun. If work is something that brings them pleasure, then the corporation can't help but see higher productivity, less absenteeism, and a more positive social impact.

2. Increase power by dispersing it.

The more that management pushes power and decision-making authority down into the organizations, the more power and flexibility the entire corporation has.

3. Launch new generations.

Don't cling to products and services that are successful today. Always be on the lookout for new products and services that will make your current winners obsolete. Then become the company that develops those new products and services.

4. Eliminate fancy perks.

Avoid the kind of perks that create distance between managers and employees. Integrate the management and executive staff into the base of employees so that everyone feels as if they are part of the same community.

5. Build symbiotic relationships.

Craft business arrangements so that everybody benefits. When business is treated as a zero-sum game, with a winner and a loser, even the so-called winner eventually loses. When business is treated as a symbiosis, then markets and profits grow all around you.

6. Communicate directly.

Promote regular contact between executives and line employees, so that all members of the organization -- even the people working in the loading bay -- feel deeply connected to the goals and direction of the corporation.

7. Encourage informality.

Put everybody on a first-name basis and let every day be "casual day." Create an environment where people feel as if they're at home with their friends and family.

8. Create opportunities for social interaction.

Encourage employees to set up social functions where there's a lot of intergroup mingling. It's especially important that top management get involved in this, so that they become an important part of the connected social network.

9. Encourage diversity.

Create organizations in which there are different opinions, backgrounds, and approaches to solving problems. The more intellectually diverse the organization, the better it can adapt to changing market circumstances.

10. Encourage creative dissent.

The combination of diversity of opinion and dispersion of power naturally creates an atmosphere where people disagree on the approaches to be taken. Make this dissent, and the resolution that inevitably follows, part of the process of creating new value.

11. Build autonomous teams.

Rather than organizing along broad functional lines, make certain that each product and service has a team that's dedicated to the success of that product and service. Make certain that the team actually has to decision-making power to get things done.

12. Hire the self-motivated.

When hiring and promoting, locate or cultivate people who don't require direction. This will help influence everybody else in the organization to act in a more independent fashion.

13. Create a climate of trust.

Look for opportunities to build trust between individuals, teams, and organizations. Always act in a way that is congruent with the positive ideal of your corporate culture.

14. Create a sense of mission.

Make certain there is a shared vision that resonates with everybody in the organization. Make sure that, within the context of that vision, everybody knows what mission they're supposed to be accomplishing.

15. Compensate for missions accomplished.

Tie extra, team-based compensation to the accomplishment of the mission at hand within the larger context of the corporate vision. Make certain that the success of the organization translates into the success of the individuals it includes.

16. Have long-term vision, short-term plans.

Look ahead to the future for guidance, but don't waste time mapping out a detailed plan to get there. Instead, concentrate on what needs to be done next to move you closer to your ultimate goal.

17. Keep jobs fluid and flexible.

Don't bother writing detailed job descriptions and trying to set up a "system." Instead, let individuals, teams, and organizations define themselves as necessary to accomplish the job at hand.

18. Make decisions quickly and broadly.

Promote an environment where important decisions receive lively debate from all levels of the organization. Then drive the decision to a close.

19. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Make certain that everyone knows that layoffs are a fact of life. Encourage individuals and organizations to have contingency plans in case the worst comes to the worst.

20. Recalibrate your current culture.

Constantly examine your current corporate culture to see whether it matches the goals that it has set out to achieve. Make adjustments as necessary.

21. Cultivate corporate role models.

Examine the best companies both inside and outside your industry so that you can emulate the culture attributes that will make your company successful.

22. Use failure to your advantage.

Stay alert to the all-too-human tendency to refuse to look at unpleasant realities. Make certain that your failures are exposed and examined, so that you can learn as much as possible from them.

23. Create a community.

Use technology to keep employees in remote locations connected to the goals and social fabric of the corporate community.

24. Keep it short and simple.

Write in plain language, so that people can absorb and understand your ideas as quickly, easily, and thoroughly as possible.

25. Ruthlessly prioritize.

Don't let the flow of information become an overflow. Limit your exposure to information to that subset that helps you achieve your goals.

26. Transform your vocabulary.

If you have to change your corporate culture, make a list of terminology that reinforces the old culture and, through daily usage, replace it with a list of terminology that reinforces the new culture.

27. Cultivate constant challenge.

Avoid burnout by making certain that your job and the jobs of your employees remain interesting and exciting.

28. Turn employees into owners.

Give all your employees -- even those that are often considered low-level -- a financial stake in your company's future success.

29. Learn to disconnect.

Find a physical or mental space where you can escape from the daily demands of the work environment. Learn to set complicated tasks aside when you need to rest.

30. Take frequent sabbaticals.

There will be times when you're going to need to work long hours. After doing so, take some time off to recharge your batteries. There are also points in your career where a longer sabbatical can help you achieve the sense of balance that leads to lasting success.

31. Don't give lip service to all of this.

The more you talk about these success strategies, the less time and energy you'll put into actually implementing them. Walk the talk; don't talk the walk.