6 Creative Tips that New Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Richard Branson
Richard Branson had no formal education in business and still managed to make it into the “Billion-dollar club” not once, not twice but a staggering 8 times.
Yes! Eight of his companies are in the billion-dollar space.
While other billionaires would consider themselves lucky to strike gold once, Richard Branson proves that there isn’t luck involved with his conventional and innovative industries that all point towards success.
To understand how he reaps success, let’s go back a few years into Branson’s past.
RICHARD BRANSON – THE MAN BEHIND SEVERAL MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR VENTURES
At the ripe age of 20, where most youngsters are dating and having the time of their lives, Richard Branson founded his company Virgin in the year 1970.
Before that, he risked everything by dropping out of school at the tender age of 16 to launch “Student magazine”.
While many middle-aged people fear to take risks, there was this young 16-year old ready to shake the world with his high risk and high stakes approach.
Branson managed to sell over 50,000 copies of “Student” during the first year.
He raked in $8,000 in advertising and his magazine was a hit among the youth.
All though he is known in the media for being the face of several successful ventures, Branson did have several failures that paved the way to his glorious future.
Here are some of his past business failures.
- “Student” magazine initially had no investors that shared Branson’s vision
- Branson had found himself in major legal trouble with Virgin Records in 1971 for evading taxes
- With Virgin Cola, he tried to disrupt the products of marketing giant Coca-Cola but failed
- Virgin Cosmetics is now a defunct extension of his line of beauty products
- Branson launched Virgin ware to enter the fashion industry, but it didn’t end well either
- With a low sale of just 2,000 automobiles, Virgin Cars was a massive disaster
- Branson experimented with bridal wear and launched Virgin Brides. Unfortunately, it failed at launch too.
- Virgin Digital and Virgin Pulse were founded to give Apple a run for their money. It wasn’t exactly so.
- While Virgin Atlantic is Branson’s prized racehorse in the airline foray, Branson’s other airline ventures – Virgin Charter, Virgin Express were deemed massive failures
With a long list of failures, we truly see that Richard Branson wasn’t someone who was easily discouraged.
With over 400 companies in his business portfolio, Branson is someone who believes in recovering from failure and moving on to the next business idea while learning from his past mistakes.
Many of us spend our days and months revisiting our failures.
We waste valuable time in regret, and this causes us to retreat within a shell of our own fear.
Business is about trial and error and Branson’s long history is clearly an experience for new and young entrepreneurs to keep steering past failure to reach the light of success.
6 VISIONARY IDEAS OF RICHARD BRANSON TO EMULATE INTO YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL DREAM
Richard Branson has set a benchmark in customer and employee satisfaction so high that it takes emulating his own life decisions and moral values in order to taste his level of success.
To understand how he continues to build successful businesses unlike any other entrepreneur on the planet, let’s get behind the brain of Branson and learn some of the core values that he utilizes in his everyday life.
1. Failure Leads to Knowledge
Without a doubt, failure is the biggest fear that prevents us from being the perfect versions of ourselves.
Richard Branson wasn’t a stranger to failures, it followed him all through his life and continues to do so. He believes that without failure, a successful entrepreneur is never forged.
The true test lies when all odds are against you and how you find a solution to it.
In his own words, Branson states – “A person that gives up is someone that will kick himself in the future for not trying harder.”
Many multi-millionaires and billionaires have started companies that have become defunct and have generated nothing but losses. The only gain from this type of failure is – experience.
Every bit of experience adds that entrepreneur’s guidebook on what not to repeat and this creates a disciplined approach which makes every entrepreneur mentally stronger.
Like Branson, here is a list of famous entrepreneurs that have encountered failure and have risen from it –
- CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos started zShops which failed as an auction site before he went on to rule the online marketplace with Amazon.
- Larry Ellison had to mortgage his home to keep Oracle up during the early days of inception.
- Peter Thiel lost $7 billion in market value to his hedge fund called Clarium Capital. He later went on to create PayPal.
- Fred Smith had no investors for his idea as a company in the early days. The idea took shape and became FedEx.
- Colonel Sanders was refused a staggering 1000 times at the age of 56 before he went on to create a worldwide food brand known as KFC.
- Henry Ford had a string of failed automotive companies. He continued through the failure to create “Ford Motor Company” that was worth $188 billion at the time of his death.
- Oprah Winfrey was rejected as a TV show host numerous times until she managed to make it big with her own talk show.
- JK Rowling, the author of the famous Harry Potter series, was on welfare and as a single mother found it difficult to make ends meet.
All the following entrepreneurs along with Branson have tasted defeat. The one thing they didn’t succumb to was giving up.
They continued with their idea and embraced failure and made it their strength.
While failure is a quick way to spiral out of productivity, it’s also the first real test for new entrepreneurs to face and move past their colossal mistakes.
2. Take Calculated Risks Often
In the documentary “Don’t Look Down”, Richard Branson claimed to have taken big risks that paved the way to his enormous fortune.
But not just any risk. Calculated risks are what lead to success.
A calculated risk provides you with information such as – the cost of the product, profitability, risk to profit ratio, etc. A calculated risk provides you with a high probability of judging whether the business is worth investing or not.
A general risk is considered a gamble. There isn’t any real information to gather about your business and you invest with no prior information. It’s like buying a lottery ticket and hoping you are the lucky winner.
But as we all know, the only winner in a lottery is the company sponsoring the tickets themselves. Because guess what? It’s a business.
Let’s give you another example – Imagine you were trying to escape a building that was on fire and you were required to jump down from two floors.
Now a general risk is to jump without looking down and without gaining any information about where you land.
A calculated risk is to examine the ground and look for the highest chances of survival – like jumping on a bush or onto a tree branch to break your fall.
Calculated risk provides you with a higher rate of survival since you’ve examined and come up with the best-case scenario and the lowest possible risk factor.
In business, there are ways to take calculated risks. Some of these ways are listed below.
- Research provides maximum clarity to an entrepreneur. Doing your due diligence before you execute a plan will alert you of all the potential issues.
- Don’t put all eggs into one basket. The likelihood of failure when all your finances are put into one single entity is higher than if you were to spread it around multiple areas in your business.
- Anticipating your failure is a big part of a calculated risk approach. Knowing how your business should respond at an unlikely failure should be a part of your backup plan. Always think 2 steps ahead.
- If an opportunity comes knocking and you’ve found no pitfalls attached, go all in and take a grand risk. Chances are the rewards are greater than the failure. Even if you fail, you’ll have valuable lessons to take over to your next business idea.
- Calculated risks are a part of evolving your brand or company. No company grows without risk so stop being overly conservative with your finances and take calculated risks often.
3. Prioritize on Customer Service
Virgin Atlantic owned by Richard Branson came into existence when Branson couldn’t board a flight due to an unscheduled cancellation and noticed the disappointment in the faces of the other flyers.
He founded Virgin Atlantic with instilled values to ensure all Flyers would never have to deal with the disappointment of a canceled flight.
In all his billion-dollar ventures, Richard Branson knows and continues to follow the universal truth – “A Business is nothing without its Customers”.
New entrepreneurs usually start a business with certain values in mind but by the time a year has passed – the business no longer has these values embedded.
Richard Branson is close to celebrating his 35th anniversary with Virgin Atlantic this year, and if you were to compare the values of Virgin Atlantic during its first year to its current year – you’ll find very little change in its basic customer values.
A report conducted by Business Case Studies demonstrates how Virgin Atlantic continues to remain loyal to its customers throughout its tenure.
Here are 3 customer lessons in providing the best service possible by the man himself.
1. Be visible
Richard Branson always finds himself directly interacting with customers to find out how pleased they are with his services.
A leader that cares about his audience should always spend time meeting his customers and communicate directly with them.
Don’t hide behind your desk and have your customer service representatives reach out to grieved customers.
By being on the field and enquiring about customer satisfaction, your customers are bound to enjoy the conversation with the head honcho and share their experience with their friends and family.
2. Reward the customer
Customer service that doesn’t come from the heart usually never reciprocates well with your customers. When there is a passion for serving customers, you’ll have a good time coming up with customer reward programs to bring a smile on their faces.
Richard Branson recognizes his customers with various reward programs such as
- The Flying Club program that provides free air miles and free hotel stays and train journeys to frequent flyers
- Virgin Red loyalty app provides plenty of interactive ways for customers to earn prizes and vouchers such as free coffees and free rewards every month.
- The Virgin Pulse program provides gift hampers and gift coupons for customers. There is also a way to earn PulseCash that can be spent in the rewards category.
Branson certainly takes his customers seriously as his reward programs show us.
Implementing a way to reward your customers is a way forward for new entrepreneurs to retain existing customers.
After all, a happy customer is a loyal customer.
3. Never promise to deliver something you can’t
Something many young entrepreneurs fall prey to in the long run is promising the heavens and delivering an ordinary product.
Building hype is great but honesty is the best way to bond positively with your customers.
Disappointing your customers will make them switch their loyalty and it’s a time-tested way of losing customers.
Branson believes in portraying a transparent relationship with his customers and that’s how he manages to attract customers to all his various billion-dollar ventures.
Lessons in customer honesty we can learn from Branson are.
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself if you want to be treated like the way you treat your customers.
- Create products that provide maximum value to your customers. That way you won’t have to lie about features that don’t exist.
- A good customer support team will ensure that your customers don’t get mislead by falsified information.
- Communicate your product as clearly as you can
- Always maintain a realistic expectation from your audience
- Fix issues during a product launch to ensure your product is as the manual states
4. Innovation is the Key to the Future
There’s one thing Richard Branson does best – to break the rules set by his competitors and those before him. Richard Branson believes in developing new ideas through trial and error.
Over his 200 companies, Branson makes it a point to come up with a new aspect through diversification.
In fact, Richard Branson has created his own music festival – called the Virgin Fest to create an immersive experience for music lovers.
The festival itself contains several interactive elements such as — a virtual reality dome to isolate the listener into a music experience like no other, a silent disco and popular bands from across the world headlining the event.
We don’t mean everyone should start their own music festival to come up with new ways to innovate.
The point Branson consistently makes to the business world is his approach to how he does things differently compared to other traditional entrepreneurs who stick by a tested approach.
To add a touch of innovation to your own brand of products and services, follow Branson’s 2 rules of innovation.
1. The Humanitarian Rule
If you believe business is all about dirty politics and serious work, it’s time to think different.
Starting a social cause in and around your area is good enough to get the attention of your customers. For example, hosting a ‘Clean N Green’ drive in your neighborhood, where people come and collect trash and are rewarded with ‘Green points’ which can be reimbursed for gifts from your store is a great way to get the word around.
By cleaning the streets and advertising your brand, you create an opportunity for your business and set the right example to preserve the environment without much effort.
Now that’s a dose of innovation for you.
2. The Simplification Rule
How many times have you broken your head thinking about solving a problem with complex features in order to be different?
Innovation isn’t about complex solutions always. Innovation is about being smarter than your competitors to get the idea across in a simplified manner.
Let’s take the example of ‘The Wheel’ – one of the grandest inventions of mankind.
The wheel itself is a simple concept that revolves around circular technology and was invented with the idea of making transportation possible in the Bronze Age.
But the wheel isn’t just used for transportation anymore – the simple concept has spawned advanced mechanisms such as cylinders, machinery, irrigation, pottery, water-wheels, windmills, etc.
The idea that innovation must be advanced is a myth and a mistake that young and upcoming entrepreneurs make obsessively. Instead, concentrate on keeping the idea of your product simple and focus on creating value in ways that weren’t done before.
It’s not that Branson created the first airline company, but he managed to beat his competitors by providing an unbeatable customer experience through Virgin Atlantic.
The same can be said with Virgin Records, it wasn’t the first record label but by deciding to include new-age rock stars and controversial artists that other record labels didn’t include, it became a grand success.
By uniting the two rules together, you get a product that contributes to humanitarian means while also keeping the basic idea simple.
That’s how Branson created several billion-dollar businesses by simply adding a touch of innovation to all his businesses and products.
5. Respect Your Employees
The employees are the heart of any company and Richard Branson demonstrates their loyalty by rewarding his staff with lavish parties and gifts. Virgin Group even ranked as the 7th best company to work for in LinkedIn’s list.
The perks for the employees included – free gym memberships, unlimited vacation time, flexible work timings, 50 weeks of maternity/parental time off, and free lodging for new employees at Virgin Hotels.
And why not? A happy employee is a hardworking employee for the company.
Branson goes all out to make a rewarding work experience for his employees and this proves just how important work culture is to success.
Here are 4 ways to build a better employee experience with Branson’s own viewpoints.
1. Employees First, Customers Second
While most businesses put emphasis on the customer, they forget that to have an excellent customer experience, it begins first with an excellent employee satisfaction rate.
Rewarding your employees is giving them recognition for a job well done. And who doesn’t feel great for a job well done?
In a study by Socialcast, it was reported that over 69% of employees gave their best to the company when they were appreciated for their work.
Gaining a high productivity rate from your employees converts to more positive customer engagement which directly leads to increased sales.
2. Extended Vacation Time
Virgin Group provides an unlimited vacation time for their employees.
This demonstrates that the company offers full control of vacation time in the hands of their employees which builds trust and dedication.
Employees that are overworked never give their best efforts to the company. Workplace stress causes employees to build up fatigue and naturally, this drains their overall enthusiasm to work.
Paid vacation time or flexible vacation time is a great way to incentivize employees that have given their best efforts forward.
This allows your employees to de-stress and come back in a refreshed mood. Their emotional and psychological moods are also boosted, and this directly increases the productivity of the company.
3. Excellent Candidate Experience
The recruitment process is an important procedure in a company that not only helps in gaining valuable employees but can also directly affect the recruitment of your competitor.
Are you wondering how your recruitment process affects your competitor? Here’s how.
Let’s say, you’ve rejected an employee and provided a terrible candidate experience for him.
According to Virgin Media’s findings, a majority of their rejected candidates ended up choosing a competitor’s service and this indirectly affects the growth of your company.
That’s why Virgin Media ended up spending $7 million in improving their candidate experience to reduce the number of candidates that joined a rival business.
Bad candidate experiences include
- Grumpy receptionists that don’t greet candidates properly
- No punctuality in the interview process
- Interruptions caused by the interviewer between the recruitment process (phone calls, leaving the room, etc.)
- No valid reasons provided for candidate rejection
4. Positive Company Culture
Branson would often surprise his employees during work by inviting them over for surprise lunches and conversing on stories of his past. This created a direct bond between the CEO and his employees.
Imagine working at a workplace that is filled with smiles and laughter all over compared to a serious and monotonous workplace.
Employees give their best when they have fun at their workplace rather than a stressed-out environment.
Positive company culture is built with the right mix of job satisfaction, employee loyalty, performance, and teamwork.
Good culture also promotes employee morale and people remain more focused to complete their work on time.
6. Most Importantly – Have Fun!
And the most important tip for new entrepreneurs is to never forget to switch off. Richard Branson has a plethora of hobbies – Yachting, Hot Air Ballooning, Biking, etc.
A successful entrepreneur isn’t just someone who spends burning his midnight oil at the work desk. Having hobbies is just as important.
If you’re not having fun at work, you probably need to analyze yourself.
Begin by asking a series of questions such as.
What are the 3 key reasons that I look for in my company?
Does my company have any room for fun and entertainment?
Are my employees afraid to be open with me?
Is the work culture ringing a positive note?
Do I see myself doing this for 5 years or even 10 years from now?
Questions such as these provide you with insight on whether you’re running a prison or Disneyland.
Running a business doesn’t always have to be a dark and gloomy dungeon filled with stressful hours.
With the right amount of balance, you can implement a fun work environment.
- Schedule group lunches with your team. Collaborating and having team lunches breaks the ice between boss and employee.
- The workplace reflects your company’s culture. Spend time redecorating the interiors and add in fun themes and decals to bring in a new buzz.
- Celebrate the completion of a big project by ordering food for your employees.
- Ask employees to pin their most loved photos on their desks to improve their productivity and happiness.
- Encourage employees to take part in sports and other activities that destress their minds.
- Create a small space dedicated to a games room. Add in a pool table, musical instruments, and other fun elements to give your employees a place to have fun during a break.
- Have an events bulletin board that promotes activities for the month. Exciting contests and birthdays can be included here.
THE GRAND TAKEAWAY – SUMMARIZED POINTS OF RICHARD BRANSON FOR ACHIEVING SUCCESS
- Luck has nothing to do with success. Richard Branson proves this with over 8 companies in the billion-dollar space
- Richard Branson believes in moving past your failures and learning from them.
- Employee satisfaction comes before customer experience always
- Failure is the road to knowledge and experience
- Self-doubt causes insecurity and weakens our mind
- When first starting a business, don’t focus on success, just focus on not giving up
- Most famous personalities have started off in extreme poverty before rising to the stars
- Calculated risk is the secret formula for achieving growth and success in a brand
- Keep your customers happy with reward programs and loyalty memberships
- As the CEO, it’s vital to be visible to your audience
- Avoid over hyping your product or service and keep your promises up
- Innovation is the key to the future
- Mixing charity with business is a great way to attract an audience and do your green bit for the planet
- When in doubt, keep the idea to its simplest state and innovate from there
- Employees are the heart and soul of your company, provide perks to keep them happy and your company is bound to grow leaps and bounds
- Improve candidate experience to ensure rejected candidates don’t always join a competitor’s company
- Positive company culture is a force to be reckoned with
- Maintain an idea of fun for your employees and yourself in the workplace to keep things less stressful
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ACHIEVING SUCCESS LIKE RICHARD BRANSON DID
Richard Branson was known to have dyslexia, which was a major cognitive condition that hampered the way he would take in information.
Undeterred, he contributes dyslexia to his success as it made him self-aware of how important communication and delegation was at an early age.
The takeaway here is that as humans, we are prone to failure and defects, but true success comes to those that convert a disadvantage into a benefit.
Find your own negatives and turn them into positives, that’s one of the shortcuts to achieving success.
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