Entrepreneurs

WWE billionaire McMahon: This is the most important thing people are never prepared for

Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Pool | Getty Images
Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration.

It's hard to believe, but there was a time when $12 was a big deal to cofounder of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon, who has an estimated net worth of over $1 billion with husband Vincent.

Long before World Wrestling Entertainment was called that, when her and her husband Vince were just building the wrestling promotion business, the pair had to carefully consider whether to rent a typewriter for $12 a month or to invest and buy one outright.

"With any small business, you are really running on your cash, it's about cash flow and you have to manage that cash flow, especially if you're only operating on the cash that you're generating" — which is how the McMahon's business was operating at the time. They would invest money made from promoting wrestling in one regional television market to expand into a new market, explains Linda McMahon, head of the Small Business Administration, during a recent SBA Facebook Live.

"So there were a lot of little things, like the typewriter," says McMahon. (They ended up leasing the typewriter at first until they could eventually afford to buy a better model.)

At the time, McMahon could never have imagined the scope their business would eventually reach. But an experience during those lean days taught her an important business lesson: Prepare for opportunity and success, even before you have it.

Linda McMahon, President and CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment poses for a portrait with the federation posters in the background.
Jean-Christian Bourcart | Getty Images
Linda McMahon, President and CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment poses for a portrait with the federation posters in the background.

"Early on at [wrestling] events, there wasn't any merchandise sold," she says. "But at rock concerts they sold t-shirts, so we decided to have t-shirts."

They sold out completely at the first arena, says McMahon. "People would come up and say, … '[I]s there a place we can write to [to get a shirt]?' So we started taking names and addresses and next thing you know the mail-order business was born for t-shirts and hats.

"It's something we did not recognize," she continues. "We couldn't keep up with the sales; we couldn't get the business together fast enough.

"Something I think I've learned is that … while you always have to protect the downside, Plan B has to be planning for success — be ready to move and take that next step.

"It might not come, you hope it comes, but you have to think about it," adds McMahon.