I mentioned in earlier posts the need to take ACTION. The world is full of people who will never get off their butts and do anything.
In the “Start a Business” section I will talk about starting businesses with little or no money and the fact that if you are stuck for an idea then look around you at existing businesses & see if you can think of doing something similar but BETTER.
At first glance he is hardly the archetypal business tycoon, as he says himself “”For me business is not about wearing suits, or keeping stockholders pleased. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”
And yet the following traits are attributed to Sir Richard and you may recognize all of them from the previous post. Here is someone who is incredibly successful, the important lessons for me are these:
- Everything he started was born from an idea or improving an existing business model as he did with Virgin Airlines
- He had no money
- He had no educational qualifications
- He does have an incredibly positive mental attitude
- He has always had a burning desire to succeed
- He is obviously very enthusiastic about everything he does
- He is willing to learn from his and others mistakes
- He is a keen advocate of goal setting “I believe in goals”
- He has created his own mastermind group
- He is an excellent manager of his time
- He takes action “Screw it, lets do it” is his mantra
- He is not afraid to fail but learns from it
- He works hard, but his priority is to have fun. If he is involved in a business that he doesn’t enjoy he gets out
In other words although the first impression is that he does not fit the conventional image of a billionaire business magnate and yet he has all the attributes + a few more of what was discussed in The 10 Key Steps to Your Success.
On a separate note I have just finished reading Sam Waltons autobiography. He was the founder of Walmart and its a fascinating story of how he grew his business from a small mom & pop shop to become the biggest retailer in the USA, he also is a perfect example of the 10 steps principle AND he was quite happy to copy new ideas from his competitors.
This is another important point to note in improving your financial education. Read as many books and articles by and about successful people. Discover what makes them tick. What attributes they have that you may be lacking and need to work upon. I read this type of book on a regular basis.
Screw It, Lets Do It
What is it that makes Richard Branson so successful?
He himself has put forward five criteria for success:
- Enjoy what you do ”Because starting a business is a huge amount of hard work, requiring a great deal of time, you had better enjoy it.”
- Create something that is unique or stands out
- Make sure your staff can be proud of what you are doing ”Businesses generally consist of a group of people, and they are your biggest assets.”
- Be a good leader Be visible –lead from the front ” As a leader you have to be a really good listener. You need to know your own mind but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them. As a leader you’ve also got to be extremely good at praising people. Never openly criticize people; never lose your temper, and always lavish praise on your colleagues for a job well done. People flourish if they’re praised.
- Do not be afraid to fail: ”remember that most businesses fail and the best lessons are usually learned from failure. You must not get too dispirited. Just get back up and try again.”
“There is a very thin line between success & failure & I have often come very, very close to the wrong side of that dividing line” – Richard Branson
So what is his history?
Richard Branson was “asked” to leave school aged 15 due to his disruptive behaviour “Since nobody had heard of dyslexia, being unable to read, write or spell just meant to the rest of the class and the teachers that you were either stupid or lazy.”
Screw It, Lets Do It
He had started his first successful business “Student Magazine” whilst still in school. To fund the venture his mother lent him $10 for phone calls that he made from the payphone in school – Do NOT ever let anyone you can not start a business due to a lack of funds, I have done it twice and Mr Branson who is slightly wealthier became Forbes 254th richest man in the world by 2011 having started with nothing..
“The Student” survived for 5 years which is the first goal of any business owner. Richard then saw an opportunity to use his Student knowledge to open his first record shop & Virgin records was born.
Once more a lack of capital meant that he needed to be creative. He negotiated a deal with the owner of a local shoe shop and rented the room above on a minimal rent. Virgin records eventually was sold for an estimated $1 Billion.
He clearly knew what his path in life was, as by the age of 24 he was a millionaire. He started with a mail order record business, moved onto shops and then entered music production and on the Virgin record label featured Phil Collins, Culture Club, The Sex Pistols and Mike Oldfield.
The Virgin brand had been established and he transferred this to Virgin Atlantic in 1984. He had no experience in the airline field but new that if the customers were satisfied then he had overcome the first major hurdle.
He was competing against British Airways who tried all kinds of dirty tricks to drive him out of business but Branson’s persona and business skills got him through, at great expense to BA, who lost a court case and found their approach had cost them millions. The Virgin brand grew from that point into a number of other business including trains, finance, soft drinks and video games to name a few.
In the 1990’s Branson was to suffer the effects of the high price of airline fuel and the terrorist threats, and this caused him to sell Virgin Records for $1 billion. This not only shows the success he had made it, but one of the keys to his success. When you have been knocked down, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go again. Virgin Records had been the making of Branson, but he just moved on. He bought Virgin Atlantic back from the banks and put himself firmly in the driving seat.
The important point to note is that Branson has led from the front, but he has surrounded himself with a solid management team. Yes he is a good leader but each business has its own directors and they are guided by the Virgin Management Company Ltd. This company stands aside from the day-to-day management of any of the companies and looks at the overall strategy and reports to Branson direct. This is part of the Branson success. Surround yourself with the right people, lead from the front and focus on the customers.
This experience led him to reevaluate his business position and he felt that the way forward was to ‘brand’. He took a fresh approach to success with ‘branded venture capital’. This allowed him to grow the brand by gaining controlling interests in other businesses. That interest now extends to more than 250 businesses that operate under the Virgin brand. The secret here is that the Virgin brand is at the forefront and the vast majority of people do not know more than a few of the names of the 250 companies.
The shareholders include Branson but are largely the people, who by having a stake in the company, are driven to make it succeed. The delegation of management responsibility and the sense of belonging are the key to success.
This target of ‘brand’ drove Branson to say “he wanted to turn Virgin into the most respected brand in the world”. Branson has indicated that originally it was all about business but now it is brand: “Back then we would create a company based on frustration at other people’s service, and suddenly we realized we had one of the most respected brands in the world”, said Branson.
Branson has seen the dangers of licensing the brand and he counteracts any criticism of licensing by taking the stance that each business is individual, and thus there is no group policy that will dominate the business.
It can be said that the only hint of a group policy is to promote the Virgin brand, which is now the key to Branson’s success, but that brand is driven by the individual success of each business. The brand expansion is now through organic growth and not further business expansion.
By allowing each business to diversify and create its own growth Branson sees this as the best form of success. The brand develops, the staff increase their value in the company and the customer is better served.
So what is the overriding philosophy?
Enjoy yourself and have fun. If the business does not interest or excite you, then dispose of it even if it is profitable, as you will become bored and that boredom saps your energy. Your home life should be fun, so take that fun into your business. This is of course easier said than done if you have an existing business. I grew to hate my offline business and the impact it was having on my quality of life, so I did follow Bransons mantra.
If you are currently looking to start something new, then wherever possible choose something that interests you and that you will enjoy. Believe in yourself
So lets look again at those five points that Branson used as his criteria:
- Enjoy what you do
- Create something that is unique or stands out
- Make sure your staff can be proud of what you are doing
- Be a good leader
- Do not be afraid to fail
Does he enjoy what he does? I think it is clear that he does and he ensures that those who work with him, and for him, share in that enjoyment. Has he created something that is unique? He had a virgin idea at the beginning and turned that into ‘Virgin’ that is now a unique brand.
Are the staff proud? Whilst it is best that they speak for themselves, the fact that they are investors in the business through their shares and management contributions would suggest that they are proud of their involvement. If the business you contribute to is a success, then justifiable pride will follow
Is Branson a good leader? If the success of the Virgin Group is an answer to that question then the he is a good leader. He leads by delegation and example and that gives motivation.
Has he experienced failures? The banks threatened to foreclose Virgin Atlantic the day before its launch which must have been his darkest hour. Virgin Vodka, launched in 1994, was a flop, similarly, Virgin Cola only achieved a 3% market share in the UK. These companies have since virtually disappeared.
Branson was also forced to sell Virgin Cinemas and Virgin Cars, two ventures that he could just not make profitable. “If you are trying to do something for the first time, it’s always an enormous challenge, and there is no guarantee of success,” says Branson. “You never know with these things when you’re trying something new what can happen. This is all experimental.”
But, that is precisely the Branson philosophy – try new things, branch out, and when you can’t find success with one venture, you simply move on to the next. He understood that an integral part of being an entrepreneur meant being willing to not only accept failure but to also be able to rise up and start again. After launching Virgin Vines in 2005, a hip new wine brand, Branson said, “We’ve got an engaging, edgy, vibrant, fun product. It may or may not work, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Branson once said: “Business is giving people in their lifetime what they need and what they want. And you know, I’ve had great fun turning a lot of different industries on their head and making sure those industries will never be the same again, because Virgin went in and took them on.” Try new things and if they do not succeed don’t cry over spilt milk. Business opportunities are like London buses. You miss one but another comes along soon after.
The key to Branson’s success comes from how he views himself. He is not an entrepreneur; he is not a businessman; he is simply someone who likes to set exciting challenges for himself and rise to the occasion.
“If I was a businessman, or saw myself as a businessman, I would have never gone into the airline business,” he says. “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.”
Here is an interesting brief interview with Richard Branson, where he discusses his philosophy & career advice on becoming an entrepreneur:
In the next article I show you how the new rich approach modern day business. The mentality being that its best to outsource as much of it as possible whilst you make the big profits! I am all for that and recommend you start any new business or income stream with the same philosophy: New Age, New Thinking
Author: Marc Walton
Screw It, Lets Do It