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.
We’ve compiled some of the best tips from his book here.
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.'
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.'
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.
When it comes to defining your brand, Branson advises entrepreneurs to do the opposite of what he did with Virgin, which is spreading out all over the place. And while it's true that Virgin branches into many different industries, Branson says the company is actually quite focused on one thing: 'finding new ways to help people have a good time.'
Stick to what you know. Underpromise and overdeliver. Because if you don't define your brand, your competitors will.
Employees must feel free and encouraged to openly express themselves without rigid confines so they can do better work and make good, impactful decisions.
'This may sound like a truism,' begins Branson, 'But it has to be said: It takes an engaged, motivated and committed workforce to deliver a first-class product or service and build a successful, sustainable enterprise.'
Business ventures with another person, be it a friend or a partner, don't always work out. If this is the case, successful entrepreneurs know when to part ways.
But just because you decide to go in another direction doesn't mean things have to end badly, especially with a friend, says Branson. Handle any problems quickly and head-on, and end the relationship as amicably as possible.
Your decision will not always be the best decision. Everyone makes mistakes, but the best thing you can do in the face of a mistake is own up to it.
Honesty isn't just the best policy, it's the only policy, notes Branson. When a mistake is made, don't let it consume you. Uncover the problem and get to work fixing it.