I am starting our short business stories with Richard Branson because I like three things about him. The first is that he is, obviously, a very determined businessman; the second is that he brings adventure into business; and the third is that he has fun doing what he does! I think that is an excellent combination that can lead any aspiring entrepreneur to a healthy success.
Richard Branson was born in 1950. As a young man, he was dyslexic, which made studies in school quite difficult for him. This made him drop out of school. But he was very active and vivacious. He therefore started his ‘Student’ magazine business at the age of sixteen. Thereafter he started a mail order business before going into music recording. He is currently into many businesses such as airline operations, mobile telecommunications, rail transportation, and of course actively in philanthropy. Now at 64, Branson is a very interesting legend. His Virgin Group is composed of some 400 companies, employing over 60,000 people, and operating in more than 30 countries. He also started Virgin Galactic, which claims to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. He is a very competitive person, giving companies operating within his industrial interests a good run for their money. He has an estimated net worth of about $5 billion.
Richard Branson is quite adventurous. In 1985 he attempted the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing by boat. In 1986 he beat the record by two hours. Thereafter, he crossed the Pacific in a hot air balloon and made several attempts to circumnavigate the globe, before his team was beaten by another in 1999. In 2010, he lost a Formula One bet to his friend, then AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes. Branson made good on the bet, donning a blazing-red shade of lipstick and shaving his legs, before serving passengers on a six-hour AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur!
As with most successful businessmen and women, Richard Branson had had his fair share of losses and set backs. Recently, he was asked: ‘What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs on how best to start?’. This was his response:
‘To remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not be the company it is today if we had not taken risks along the way. You really do have to believe in what you are doing. Devote yourself to it 100 percent and be prepared to take a few hits along the way. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of 10, it will. Above all, remember to have fun with it. That keeps you and your colleagues enthusiastic and motivated. One of my favorite sayings summarizes this perfectly: “The brave may not live forever — but the cautious do not live at all!”’ (see details of the interview on: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217385)
He works and relaxes at his private Necker Island. Staff who do very well in his Group are given regular treats at the Island.
Our next business story will be on Warren Buffett.