Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a billionaire?

In this increasingly two-tiered society, there are places like Manhattan where, unless you are one, you can't afford to live like a human being (slight exaggeration). If you are a regular wage slave in the Big Apple, you have to pay exorbitant rents to cram yourself into a tiny box with four other people.

If you want to reach that coveted spot in the economic stratosphere, you have to do many things right. And among those things is being smart enough to make luck work for you more often than not.

But for the past decade I have been teaching a course, Strategic Decision Making, that aims to give Babson College students an edge when it comes to making the right business choices.

Here are the 16 business decisions I think those students must learn to make in the right way.

1. Play chess with rivals

Most companies face rivals.

A great leader must know how to think about competitors, how they might try to stop you from taking their customers, and what you should do about it.

2. Learn by doing

It's hard to know whether a new product will work.

To be successful, you have to decide how to use frugal experiments to boost your odds of success before investing too much money.

3. Plan scenarios

There is vast uncertainty about where many industries will be in five years.

When building a business in such an industry, how can you identify the most likely scenarios and position your company to succeed in those?

4. Shuffle your portfolio

If you're CEO of a company with many different products, some may be doing great, while others are draining resources.

How should you decide which businesses to sell or exit and which to invest in to raise capital and boost profit growth?

5. Build on strengths

The iPod, iPhone, and iPad all soared thanks to Apple's strengths in building content partnerships, hardware design, marketing, and supply chain management.

This highlights how important it is for you to be able to apply the strengths that made your company a leader to gain share in new markets.

6. Refresh skills

Blockbuster Video is no more--but Netflix is still around because it gained new skills--such as producing great shows--to boost its online streaming business.

If you're in charge, how can you enhance your corporate skills to accelerate profit growth?

7. Buy or hold

Acquisitions are a good way to grow--but how can you keep from being among the half of them that fail?

For that, you need skills to decide whether a potential acquisition target will make your company more successful.

8. Join the family

Even if you get the analytics of an acquisition right, its financial benefits will evaporate unless you keep the right people.

To do that, you must decide how to integrate an acquired company to achieve cost savings while boosting the productivity of its people.

9. Pick new markets

Someday you might saturate the customer group that got your company off the ground. If so, you have to identify and evaluate new markets from which to source revenue growth.

10. Cut fat, not bone

If you are running low on cash and want to raise more, you will have to convince a capital provider that you have your business on a tight leash.

How can you meet cost-reduction targets without sacrificing people and know-how that contribute to your company's growth?

11. Do the right things

If you have a team, you are not going to be able to make all their decisions.

How can you design a reward system that boosts employee productivity and enhances customer loyalty?

12. Beat startups

Technology, customer needs, and rivals change fast these days.

How can you boost revenue growth in response to a startup that's exploiting change and threatening your core business?

13. Gain market share

If you run a startup, nothing is more important than winning new customers. How should you position your startup to gain market share?

14. Divide the pie

Another tough choice for a founder is how to give away your equity pie in a way that makes everyone better off.

How should you split your startup's equity with co-founders, executives, employees, and investors?

15. Hire your boss

If your startup gets outside capital, you are hiring your boss. You want one who shares your vision and will be there when times get tough.

How can you pick the right investors as your startup grows, and how can you persuade them to invest?

16. Bring it back to life

Your startup can be on a roll--and suddenly hit the wall. If you don't act, it will die.

How can you revive a startup whose growth is slowing down?

If you can get the right answers to these 16 choices, you could be a billionaire.

Otherwise my course might help.

Published on: Nov 6, 2015