5 entrepreneurial skills I learned from Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson. Photo: Getty/Paul Kane

For the second year in a row, The CEO Magazine was invited to Richard Branson’s Necker Island for the ‘Change Makers and Rule Breakers’ event last month – an opportunity that allowed us to spend a week networking with the world’s best entrepreneurial minds, including the tycoon himself.

Last year, I learnt that Branson is less concerned about conquering the world than he is about saving it. This year, together with our Managing Director, I went to Necker Island with the intention of focussing on the man himself and tapping into his rebellious mind.

Branson has clearly done well for himself so we wanted to understand how he makes business decisions. Here are a few things I learned from the second time around.

1. Ask for opinions, but listen to your gut

As founder or CEO, you have to make sure you take all the facts into account before you make your decisions. Do your research, gather the facts, but most importantly, don’t let your initial feelings of the proposal/idea cloud your judgement and influence the end game. If you think something’s wrong at the start, it may change two weeks down the line, so you’ve got to take time to evaluate certain things.

Listen to the opinions of your peers – your co-founder, CFO and lawyer for example – take their advice on board but you’ve got to remember that it is just advice. You need to trust your gut instinct and sometimes go against what people are telling you. Branson wouldn’t have Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels or Virgin Trains if he had listened to the opinions of others because majority told him not to do it. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to make your own decision and be able to live with the consequences.

However, it is important to remember not to let an individual business decision affect the overall plan for your business. The smaller decisions should not detract from the overall goal.

2. Do well by doing good

Branson is all about doing well in business while advancing everyone. According to him, you’re more likely to be successful at something if you’re benefiting others – doing something for the greater good and not just your own monetary needs. If you can find something that’s going to help people, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the choices you make on a day-to-day basis.

3. ‘Screw it; just do it!’

When Richard Branson says this, it could simply an exterior for what is really going on, on the inside – there are a lot of calculations behind the scenes. He’s working at a crazy speed going through all the scenarios and possible business outcomes in his head, while making sure his next ‘yes’ matches his business objectives and goals.

4. Failure is an important part of business

When you’re a kid, you don’t learn to walk by following a rule book. You learn by getting on your feet and trying over and over again. You will fall over; you will graze your knees; and you will dust yourself off and try again. That mentality needs to be carried over when you want to start your own business or work as a company CEO. Failure in business is critical because you need to understand why you failed in order to succeed. The lessons you learn from your failures will make you a better entrepreneur or businessman.

5. At the end of the day, it’s all about family

Family means more to Branson than business ever will. He always speaks to his family when he’s going to make important/life-changing business decisions and asks them what they think before coming to a resolution.

At the end of the day, if you own a company or are the CEO, the buck stops with you. You’re the head of the house and have to make that decision, whether you want to or not. If you can’t, then it may be time to leave your current role behind.

Chris Dutton is the CEO and co-founder of The CEO Magazine, a premium business and lifestyle magazine for aspiring and high-level executives who want to stay ahead of the game.

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