Entrepreneurship lessons to learn from Richard Branson5 years ago Shalini B
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” is one of my favourite quotes and was quoted by none other than Richard Branson.
The founder of Virgin group, an investor and a philanthropist, Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for his “services to entrepreneurship” in 2000. In July 2015, Forbes listed Branson’s estimated net worth at US $5.2 billion. The Virgin group, which comprises of more than 400 companies under its umbrella, is nothing but the result of his patience, sheer determination and zeal to keep moving forward with each passing day.
Branson once said, “There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration.” The name “Virgin” was suggested by one of Branson’s early employees because they were all new at business. His entrepreneurial pursuits started at the age of 16 when he launched a magazine in 1966 , Student, run by the students and for the students, and sold $8,000 worth of advertising in its first edition. The company did modest business and he added a record shop to it. The record shop was a hit and the high school dropout went ahead to build recording studio.
Branson founded Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, launched Virgin Mobile in 1999, and Virgin Blue in Australia (now named Virgin Australia) in 2000 and more recently a space-tourism company Virgin Galactic. He was ninth in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 of the wealthiest people or families in the UK, worth slightly more than £3 billion.
Branson wrote in his autobiography of the decision to start an airline that “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them … from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it.”
There are a lot of lessons one can get from the life of this inspiring man. Here are some few important lessons an entrepreneur can absorb from the life of Richard Branson –
#1: Be ready to work for free
During the early days of Virgin records, it set up its brand slowly by offering Mike Oldfield use their recording studio for free. The recording sessions led to Tubular Bells (1973), Virgin’s first release and a best-seller. So, if you have to work for free or allow customers to use your services for free – all because you wish to set up your brand image, do not hesitate!
#2: Talk to your customers
“We like to listen to our customers, because it’s an opportunity to be creative,”. Branson has been a strong advocate of having conversations. ” Have a fearlessness of engaging with people, because conversations can change the world.”
#3: Hire Attitude, not experience
“You don’t train attitudes, you have to hire them.”
Most companies prefer to hire people with relevant experience. According to Richard Branson, Virgin group has always preferred “friendliness over experienced” and always looked for potential employees with great perspectives and attitude.
#4: Everything changes. The only thing that doesn’t is change itself
As an entrepreneur you have to be adaptable to the process for change – change in customers, changes in market, and changes in competition. Branson is a live example to witness loads of changes – politically, socially and environmentally. He has experienced globalization, liberalization, changes in currency and changes in tastes of consumers, yet is as strong as the mountain and his company is still amongst the top.
#5: Age is just a number
You are never too young to start anything nor are you too old to pursue what you like. Richard tasted his first success at the age of 16, with the success of his magazine “Student”. Today at 61, he is attempting to break world records in kite surfing.
#6: Treat business as an endurance race not a sprint
Adding another of his famous one liners here: “There are no quick wins in business – it takes years to become an overnight success.” One should definitely focus on the longer race rather than short term successes.
#7: Think like a customer
“We had no idea how serious airlines were supposed to be run—so we looked at it entirely from the passenger’s perspective.” He founded Virgin Airways after his miserable experience with commercial airlines.
#8: Do not stick to one business line. Keep exploring
When one has a look at Branson’s diverse field of business, you will see that he is into exploring various inter related fields of business. Branson’s magazine led him to sell records. His record store led him to start a label, which led him to buy a recording studio and a night club. By starting ventures in complementary industries, you get an opportunity to create a network of businesses that reinforce one another.
#9: Give back to the society
Branson is involved with quite a few non-profit humanitarian efforts: Virgin Healthcare Foundation, Global Zero, Water.org, Girls Not Brides and several others. He also pledged an enormous $3 billion to help solve solve the climate change problem.
#10: Screw it, just do it