It's a sad fact, but, as should already be clear if you're a regular reader of this website, the vast majority of billion dollar fortunes in the world belong to men. This demonstrates some pretty clear imbalances in our society, but every once in a while a woman breaks free of those constraints and makes her way into the Billion Dollar Club anyway. That's precisely the case with Thai Lee, a billionaire with a net worth of $1.1 billion. Thai Lee is the head of the largest female-owned company on the planet, SHI. SHI is also the largest minority owned business in the world. And unlike many of her male counterparts, Thai Lee favors a low-key, unassuming approach to life that has her living a life that's as normal and non-billionaire-like as she can.
Many of the trappings of the modern business executive (billionaire or not) are missing from Thai Lee's work environment as well – she doesn't even have a personal assistant for keeping her schedule or her appointments, which is a luxury that a lot of people with far less money in the bank couldn't do without. Her office space is a genuine marvel of egalitarianism, found just off to the side of a modest, medium-sized block of cubicles. And maybe that's appropriate, given Lee's humble beginnings in the business world which formed the foundation of her latter and present-day successes.
Those humble beginnings started back in 1989, when Lee and her new husband pooled their resources and purchased a failing tech company called Lautek for $1 million. That company had an even smaller division known as Software House, which is where Lee saw the most potential. Over time Software House transformed into SHI (for Software House International), an online marketplace for buying enterprise level printers, servers, cloud resources and computers. Today SHI generates an estimated $4.5 billion in revenue per year, and is one of the largest privately owned businesses in the world, one that most people have probably never heard of.
But even if it's not a world famous name brand, SHI is known well enough to those in the technology field, and a big part of its success can be attributed to Thai Lee's business philosophy: Treat every customer like a human being. That philosophy has somehow managed to remain intact, despite the estimated six billion dollars in revenue now being generated by the company – and Lee still expects to see growth in the future. And like many of her billionaire brethren, Lee does find a way to squeeze out some extra time and money for charity, mostly focused on the fields of cancer research and education.
Even though Thai Lee favors a low-key approach to life, that doesn't mean she isn't putting in the hours of a garden-variety workaholic. Lee reportedly puts in 7-day weeks on the regular, and even though she and her SHI partners have avoided any kind of public offering – opting instead to keep everything privately owned – she stated in a recent interview that if that were to change, she'd appreciate being able to take weekends off. In all honesty, she could probably take 6-day weekends for the rest of her life if she really wanted to, but good luck telling her that.