Today, Tilman Fertitta, 59, is worth almost $3 billion. He is the CEO and sole shareholder of Landry's, a parent company that owns and operates more than 500 properties and 40 brands of restaurants, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Morton's The Steakhouse. He's also the host of the reality TV show, "Billion Dollar Buyer," the second season of which premiered last night on CNBC.
But the restaurant mogul started peeling shrimp in the back of his dad's restaurant in Galveston, Texas.
A $6,000 loan from the bank set him on his way.
Fertitta says growing businesses is in his blood. "I think you are born with the business gene," he tells CNBC via Facebook Live. He bought and sold stocks in high school, and he used that profit as collateral to get his first loan.
"I will never forget that $6,000 loan that I borrowed. That's where it all began," says Fertitta.
Here are Fertitta's 12 secrets to success for entrepreneurs eager to follow his example.
"It's not easy for anybody. Unless you happen to be a tech baby and you happen to go to work for the right company and you get a bunch of options and you wake up and you are worth $100 million. But I had to do it the hard way, with sticks and bricks," says Fertitta.
"It's just hard. But don't give up. You are going to hit roadblocks."
He adds, "Man, if I got discouraged and quit, I would just be working for somebody today. Don't ever quit."
Understand your cash flow. "When you get your business going, you have got to know if you are really making money or not," says Fertitta.
When you quit your job to start a business, make sure you have more cash than you think you need. "You always need more liquidity than you think. Just always remember that," says Fertitta. "Make sure you have liquidity, even if it takes a little longer to start your business because what happens is that everybody runs out of money."
"If you are a financial person, then get a sales and marketing person or an operations person. Where people make their mistake, they go get into business with their best friend," says Fertitta.
Bring people onto your team who know a piece of the business that you don't. "That's one thing I always did. I knew my strengths and I knew my weaknesses. And I always surrounded myself with people who knew things that I didn't."
When Fertitta bought his business partners out of his first restaurant, the next two restaurants he started in Texas were failures. "I could have easily said, 'Let me go do something else,'" says Fertitta. "Make a mistake. It's fine. Learn from it and move on."
"If you look at the people that are real successful today, they worked for somebody else, or they had already done it somewhere else and already made the mistakes," says Fertitta.
"You don't want somebody who bounces around," says Fertitta. He looks to hire people who he thinks will be able to grow with the company as the company grows.
"I have been really good at growing people from within. Very few people come from the outside," says Fertitta of his own staff.
The billionaire restaurateur says that as much as he is proud of the size of the empire he has built, he is more proud of how long his employees have worked with him. Members of his senior management team have been working with Fertitta started with him in much more junior positions.
"That's what makes our company unique is the longevity of the people," says Fertitta. "Of all my accomplishments, I would say that's my biggest."
Fertitta invests heavily in researching menus and designs. "If you don't change, you will get run over. Not passed by, run over," says Fertitta. "I don't care if you totally redid a concept five years earlier. If things change, you have to change it again."
"Use your different personalities with different people. Know how to understand people," says Fertitta.
"You have got to be a leader. The people working for you have got to know they are working for the best leader," says Fertitta.