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Netflix co-founder on building business skills: 'Don't read a book' — do this

Marc Randolph, co-founder and first CEO of Netflix
Credit: Paul Riedmiller

Marc Randolph, who co-founded Netflix with Reed Hastings, has some simple advice for those looking to develop new business skills: Skip the books and classes. 

"Don't read a book," Randolph, 62, tells CNBC Make It. "Don't take an online course."

Instead, "if you really want to learn [business] skills, figure out a way that you can actively practice them by doing them," says Randolph, who served as Netflix's first CEO. 

For example, when you need to ask a friend or family member for a favor, try to sell them on it. That takes the same skills as pitching a business to a top VC, Randoph says.

"You have to think in advance. What are my real selling points? What have they seen before. How are they are going to react?"

Randolph himself didn't know anything about the video rental business or movie industry when he co-founded Netflix in 1997, and neither did Reed. Though each had started businesses before, with Netflix, they simply had an idea and pursued it. (Other business ideas they tossed around included selling personalized shampoo or customized baseball bats.)

"I want people to know that I wasn't doing anything special, that anyone could have done something like this," Randolph previously told CNBC Make It.

Randolph says aspiring entrepreneurs won't even find answers in his own book, "That Will Never Work."

"It's like saying if you want to be a player in Major League Baseball, just read a good book," he says. "No, you get out there and start hitting. Do it. Get someone to throw you pitches in your backyard.

"That's how you get better at these things."

Randolph previously told CNBC Make It that he sees "too many" entrepreneurs who get stuck trying to piece everything together with the perfect business plan or the perfect pitch.

"It doesn't make a difference if it's a good idea or a bad idea — the whole point is starting. Once you start, that is when you begin to figure out if it's a good idea or a bad one," Randolph said. "It informs you."

After stepping down as CEO at Netflix in 1999, Randolph was the executive producer of the site until 2003 and served on the board until 2004.

Netflix currently has a market cap of about $217 billion

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