Richard Branson’s Tips for Starting a Business
Sir Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group. What makes him particularly special, as probably one of the most successful businesspersons in the world, is his great entrepreneurial spirit. Branson left school at the age of 16, setting up Student Magazine with his friend.
In the 1970s, he then started Virgin Records. By the 1980s, he started his airline, Virgin Atlantic and in the 1990s, Virgin Trains and Virgin Mobile. His most recent project is called Virgin Galactic. As the name sounds, he hopes that this would turn into a space tourism company.
As a whole, he is probably the only entrepreneur with eight individual billion dollar corporations, two-hundred companies, in eight various industries — and he accomplished all of these without a business degree.
Evidently, Branson began as a humble entrepreneur in his teens. He knows exactly what it would take to start a business from the ground-up. In this article, we discuss some of his best tips to start a business from finding inspiration to managing your employees.
RICHARD BRANSON’S TIPS FOR STARTING A BUSINESS
From conceptualizing your business to running its day-to-day operations, Richard Branson gives you, as an entrepreneur, these valuable tips to start a business.
Think about what moves you.
As you mull over which idea to transform into a company, ponder over the topics and challenges that you are interested in. Is there a particular industry that you love? A specific talent that you have? A cause that you support?
Do not begin a business simply because you want to earn a profit. If you do not love your business idea, you would not be impassioned enough to turn it into reality. Remember, running your own business would take a lot from you, physically and mentally.
Thus, build a business that moves you. Branson is quoted to have said, “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.”
If you are having some difficulty in figuring out what moves you, try to find your passion with these five creativity exercises.
Begin at your doorstep.
If you already have an idea in mind, take a good look around yourself and your environment. What do you think the market truly needs? What services do you and your family and friends use that are subpar and could benefit from some kind of improvements?
Consider how your company could help your city, neighborhood, even your street. Starting from this point, you could then expand to larger markets.
Shake things up.
When you create your good or service, keep in mind that you want to serve as many people as possible. Having a business means you need to improve the lives of other people.
As you do this, hopefully more money comes your way rather than goes out. The Virgin Group started Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Records all the way to Virgin Active and Virgin Money. Patently, all these businesses started because of the genuine passion of Branson to shake things up and to change the status quo.
Ultimately, by shaking things up, the Virgin Group hopes to improve the lives of their customers.
Define your brand.
As you define your brand, Branson suggests that you do the opposite of what Virgin did initially — spreading itself out too much. Even though it is true that Virgin branched into too many varying industries, the company still succeeded in concentrating on one single thing — to find brand new ways to help people have a good time.
So, define your brand well or else your competitors may do it for you. For your brand, stick to your competencies; promise a little but deliver a lot.
Listen to advice. Do not listen to naysayers.
When you are just starting with your business, ask those with experience in your industry for advice, particularly your parents. However, do not confuse discouraging feedback for good advice. Numerous people would declare that your idea is not feasible or it has already been done. When Branson was just beginning with his businesses, several people would tell him that he would not be successful.
Thus, when you listen to good advice, always have a notebook with you. This is what Branson does: he writes things people say so he can easily remember it later on. This is actually how he arrives at new business ideas. On the other hand, when you hear disparaging remarks, do not let it get you down. Try to prove them wrong instead.
Stay focused and motivated.
Of course, you can have big dreams and lofty objectives. Nonetheless, during your first year, focus on creating your business and being on survival mode. Concentrate on your day to day operations, have short targets per day, then per week, then per month, then per quarter, and finally per year. Tick these tasks off a checklist as you accomplish them.
Besides being focused, be self-motivated as well. Branson says that is important to know what your motivations are so you can focus on your goals. He also says, however, that money should not be your major motivator. You have to work on a business that you are proud of. If you simply go into a business to make money, then you should not start a business at all.
Love what you do.
It has always been a top priority at Branson’s Virgin to have fun while doing business. This is important in their success. When you love what you do, your employees will love what they do, and your customers would love your brand and product as well.
Branson highlighted that you only have one life to live, so enjoy it. So while he acknowledges he has a small Caribbean island, they tend to just stay in the kitchen anyway.
In fact, Branson says that as long as you have a kitchen, a bedroom, a place for a sofa, and someone to love, you do not need the unnecessary additions in your life. If you are doing something that you love and interests you, you will live a much more enjoyable life than simply accumulating money.
Challenge the status quo.
Challenge what is expected of yourself, of others, and of your company and ask your employees to do the same. Put on the lenses of your customer.
Take these examples from Virgin. Virgin Money, a British Bank, is a bank that looks like a living room, not your quintessential bank. It has Wi-Fi, comfortable seats, and newspapers. This removes the teller windows and the customer queues.
In addition, there is also Virgin America Terminal 2, which is a terminal with a wide array of food choices, a yoga room, and the like. So challenge the status quo, make something different. They will surely stand out.
Branson has said that he only begins a business if it would help enhance the lives of people. Since he did not like the customer service from British Airways, case in point, he started Virgin Atlantic, which focuses on the customer.
Keep things simple when pitching.
If you want to pitch your idea to an investor or to a bank for a loan, keep your pitch clear and simple, yet memorable. Eliminate unsure language such as “with some luck…” or “we hope that.”
You have to be confident and concrete in your ideas. Branson says that it is significant to have a concise and understandable plan that can be relayed by the investors and bankers to others.
For your first meeting, do not make overly detailed presentations with too many numbers and statistics. You can even give an explanation as to why your business can be sustainable through technological shifts and changes in your market.
Branson advises would-be entrepreneurs to always be visible. He received this piece of advice from Sir Freddie Laker, who was in the British airline industry.
Laker advised him to make sure that he is on the front page of the newspaper and not on its back pages. He said that Branson has to go out there and sell himself — whatever it would take. The only alternative to this is that your business will not survive.
Thus, Branson travels a lot and meets with numerous people as much as possible. This was actually how he comes into his greatest business ideas.
Explore uncharted territories.
Branson believes that there are countless things in this world that have yet to be discovered, achieved, or invented. Try to tap into these uncharted territories to create innovations and new ideas.
Hence, if you are still deciding on what businesses to launch, do some research; go outside; talk to people; and check out heretofore-untapped opportunities!
First impression matters, but so does the second.
It is most likely that you would get your customers based on their first impression of your brand, product, or service. Hence, first impression does matter. But, so does the second, according to Branson.
Typically, when a customer contacts Virgin the second time, it is because they have problems with their product or service. How you handle these situations would say much about your brand and how you value customer relationships and tackle problems.
Pick a good name.
Virgin has become such a success because of its distinct name and brand. Now, the Virgin name represents improved service, added value, and a sexy strategy. He has previously shared how he came up with the Virgin name.
Branson was talking to a group of 16 year old girls over a couple of drinks and discussing possible names for the record store. There were a couple of ideas presented and since they were all new to the business world, someone suggested Virgin.
He liked it because it communicates freshness but also a risqué nature. It helps that the name also grabs people’s attention. Here are some tips to naming your business.
You cannot attain perfection.
There are pitfalls to allowing people to think that what they have come up with is already perfection. When people have the belief that they have already perfected something, they tend to be complacent, while others work quickly to improve their work.
It is due to this that Branson never gives anyone at his work a perfect review. He thinks that even if something has been conceived completely brilliantly, there is always room for growth and improvement.
Avoid an “us versus them” mentality.
Your workplace should be one wherein the boss and his or her staff work and communicate well as a team going towards the same objectives.
If your employees do not connect themselves to your business, it means that there is no communication within the chain of command. When you find there is stress or a disconnection among management and employees, check with middle management to get to the problem source and then address it.
Create a corporate comfort zone.
Create a comfortable environment for your employees. This environment must make employees feel encouraged and free to voice their opinions so they can make good and effective decisions and better work.
According to Branson, you need to have a motivated, engaged, and committed team to produce a quality and sustainable product or service.
Get more than one opinion.
Branson says that you have to learn to be a good listener to succeed. This means you bounce off every idea you have to many people before you decide on whether you want to give an idea a go or to let it pass.
What this means is that you are purposeful and detailed prior to implementing your decisions. By seeking more than one opinion, it can save you much more money and time. Just make sure, Branson says, that you do not tell the people you are asking advice from about the opinions you already gathered.
Some more startup advice from the founders of eBay, Amazon, Google, Apple, Dell, and more.
Do not burn bridges.
Sometimes, things just don’t work out, whether it may be your business venture with a friend, another person, or a partner. If this is the case, know when you should end things.
However, Branson says that just because you are parting ways, things do not need to end on a bad note, especially if he or she is a friend. Tackle challenges directly and quickly and finish the relationship amicably.
Talk to people over the phone.
It is wonderful to be savvy with technology, but do not email or text when you can simply call. Through the years, Branson has noted that the quality of communications in business has become poorer. More and more people are avoiding face-to-face meetings and phone calls, with the misguided perception to achieve efficiency.
However, difficulties are challenging to solve if you only use emails and texts. It is not very efficient to have a small difficulty increase exponentially when it could simply be addressed with a call.
Do not fear change – manage it.
Branson says that nothing lasts forever and not all companies are safe from what the future brings. As an entrepreneur, you should know how to adapt.
This means you also have to eliminate nostalgia about what your company once was. Due to changes in opportunities and circumstances, Branson suggests that you would have to bring your company towards a new direction.
To accomplish this, inspire your employees to think just like entrepreneurs. The more responsibilities they have, the better they would perform.
When you make a mistake, don’t fall down—bounce back.
The decisions that you make are not always the best ones. Everyone can make a mistake, so the best you can do is to take responsibility for it.
Branson says that honesty is not just the best policy, but it is the only policy. When you make a mistake, do not let it consume yourself. Figure out the problem and then fix it.
Customers are almost always right.
Of course, the customer is always right, that is, unless they are wrong. Although the opinions of your customers are important, you should not always take the word of your customer as gold and make it the center of your customer service system.
Branson says that loads of entrepreneurs think that offering products and services according to the notion that the customer is always right would help their business. But this is not always the case. You have to be aware that your relationships with your staff or customers might be damaged if you do not have a robust customer service policy.
Be a leader, not the boss.
Be the leader, not the boss. While the boss gives orders, the leader organizes. According to Branson, he gets miffed when he hears “Okay, fine. You’re the boss.”
In essence, what he thinks the person is saying is that he or she does not agree with him, but they would just do it because they told them so. A leader and a good one at that, is someone who implements his or her ideas, but also inspires other people to bring their own.
Branson has a great saying for those wary about risk in business: “The brave may not live forever — but the cautious do not live at all.”
All businesses have their risks. You have to be prepared to be knocked down, but success usually does not come if you play it safe. If you fail, you do not completely fail because you do learn.
Branson says that you have to dream big and set improbable challenges. Try to always catch up to your big goals. If you do not dream and you do not dream big, nothing can happen.
In San Francisco, we talked with entrepreneur Marco Zappacosta, the co-founder & CEO of …