Richard Branson founded Virgin in 1970 at the age of 20, and he hasn’t looked back.
He’s the only entrepreneur to have built eight separate billion-dollar companies in eight different industries — and he did it all without a degree in business.
“Had I pursued my education long enough to learn all the conventional dos and don’ts of starting a business I often wonder how different my life and career might have been,” he writes in his new book,
Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School.
This week we’ll list 6 of his top tips from that book. We’ll list six more over the next two weeks.
Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.
Running a business takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (and caffeine). But at the end of the day, you should be building something you will be proud of.
Branson says, “When I started Virgin from a basement in west London, there was no great plan or strategy. I didn’t set out to build a business empire … For me, building a business is all about doing something to be proud of, bringing talented people together and creating something that’s going to make a real difference to other people’s lives.”
Branson received some timeless advice when building Virgin Airlines from Sir Freddie Laker, a British airline “tycoon.”
“Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages,” said Laker. “You are going to have to get out there and sell yourself. Make a fool of yourself, whatever it takes. Otherwise you won’t survive”.
Branson always makes a point of traveling often and meeting as many people as he can. This, he says, is how he came by some of the best suggestions and ideas for his business.
Choose your name wisely.
The unique name and brand that Virgin employs is one of the things that has made the company a success. Branson makes sure that the name ‘Virgin’ represents added value, improved service, and a fresh, sexy approach.
Branson says that he is asked all the time about the origin of the Virgin name, back when Virgin was just starting. “One night, I was chatting with a group of sixteen-year-old girls over a few drinks about a name for the record store,” he says. “A bunch of ideas were bounced around, then, as we were all new to business, someone suggested Virgin. It smacked of new and fresh and at the time the word was still slightly risqué, so, thinking it would be an attention-grabber, we went with it.”
You can’t run a business without taking risks.
Branson thinks of one of his favorite sayings when advising about taking business risks: “‘The brave may not live forever—but the cautious do not live at all!’”
Every business involves risks. Be prepared to get knocked down, says Branson, but success rarely comes from playing it safe. You may fail, but Branson also dares to point out that “there’s no such thing as a total failure.”
The first impression is everything. So is the second.
The first impression you make on customers will probably be when you acquire them. The first impression is extremely important, says Branson, but the second is equally as important.
The second time a customer usually contacts Virgin, it’s because he or she is having problems with the product or service. How you present yourself and your brand in these situations says a lot about how your brand maintains good customer relationships and handles obstacles.
Perfection is unattainable.
“There’s an inherent danger in letting people think that they have perfected something,” says Branson. “When they believe they’ve ‘nailed it’, most people tend to sit back and rest on their laurels while countless others will be laboring furiously to better their work!”
For this reason, Branson never gives anyone a 100% perfect review of their work. He believes that no matter how “brilliantly conceived” something is, there is always room for improvement.
One final tip that may or may not be attributable to Sir Richard Branson is that to be successful base your business at Executive Suites at Lakewood Ranch!