The 20-something kid racked up a resume that would impress no one: high-school dropout with poor reading and math skills, failed get-rich-quick schemes, long-haired, barefooted hippie, struggling business that led to two arrests and a night in jail on suspicion of tax evasion.
But as he turns 63 in July, Richard Branson’s life seems as golden as his locks. Worth about $4.2 billion, he ranked as the 255th richest person in 2012, according to Forbes. Richard Branson has put his Virgin brand on independent businesses in the airline, hospitality, space travel and financial industries, to name a few. He has made headlines as a humanitarian, environmentalist and adventurer. In 2000, he was knighted for his services to entrepreneurship.
Perseverance, imagination and courage sustained his transformation. His family nurtured his independence and entrepreneurial spirit; however, many of his strengths were born out of struggles.
“Always Challenge The Limits”
Dyslexia, for instance, made reading and understanding some concepts painfully difficult.For some reason this made him want to be a reporter, a job where reading and writing were always needed. When he found that his school had an essay contact he entered. He doesn’t know who was the most surprised when he won. He was the boy who was often caned for failing tests. But he had won an essay contest & he was thrilled.
When he told to his mother, She said, ‘I knew you could win, Ricky.’ According to Richard Branson his mother was one of those people who never says ‘can’t’. She believed anything is possible if you try.
He doesn’t believe that that little word ‘can’t’ should stop you. If you don’t have the right experience to reach your goal, look for another way in.
Lessons from Mother
It is important to know that this fighting spirit in Richard Branson came through his mother. For that I would like to share a story of her from his book “Screw it Let’s Do it“. He wrote
“My mum, Eve, is a perfect example of this.During the war, she wanted to be a pilot. She went to Heston airfield and asked for a job. She was told only men could be pilots. Mum was very pretty and had been a dancer on stage. She didn’t look like a man. That didn’t stop her. She wore a leather flying jacket and hid her blonde hair under a leather helmet. She talked with a deep voice. And she got the job she wanted. She learned how to glide and began to teach the new pilots. These were the young men who flew fighter planes in the Battle of Britain.
After the war, she wanted to be an air hostess.Back then, they had to speak Spanish and be trained as nurses, but Mum chatted up the night porter at the airline and he secretly put her name on the list. Soon, she was an air hostess. She still couldn’t speak Spanish and she wasn’t a nurse. But she had used her wits. She wouldn’t say no. She just did it.
Mum wasn’t the only person in our family who said, ‘Let’s do it!’ ”
Even today, he says he doesn’t trust numbers. “I don’t complicate my life with financial reports,” he says, laughing. But he compensated for what he lacked by exceeding in other areas, developing extraordinary people skills and learning to trust his instincts.
“Entrepreneurship is business’s beating heart. Entrepreneurship isn’t about capital; it’s about ideas. Entrepreneurship is also about excellence. Not excellence measured in awards or other people’s approval, but the sort that one achieves for oneself by exploring what the world has to offer.”
“In the end, you’ve got to take calculated risks; otherwise, you’re going to sit in mothballs all day and do nothing,” he says. “Life is a helluva lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.”
“Always take calculated risks.”
“In 2004 I made a TV series, The rebel Billionaire.The final episode had a twist at the end. I offered the prize winner, Shawn Nelson, a cheque for one million dollars – but there was a catch. He could take the cheque or toss a coin for an even bigger mystery prize. If he lost the toss, he would lose it all. I held out the cheque. He took it and saw the long line of zeros. Then I took it back and put it all. I held out the cheque. He took it and saw the long line of zeros. Then I took it back and saw the long line of zeros. Then I took it back and put it in my hip pocket. I held out a silver coin.
‘Which one will it be?’ I said. ‘The coin or the cheque?‘
Life is full of hard choices. Which one would he go for? Shawn looked shaken. It was a huge gamble.All or nothing. He asked me, ‘what would you do, Richard?”It’s up to you, ‘I said. I could have told him,’I take risks, but they are calculated risks. I weigh up the odds in everything I do.’ Instead,I said nothing. He had to make up his own mind.
Shawn walked back and forth, trying to decide. It was tempting to gamble. It would make him look cool. Also, the unknown prize might be amazing. At last, he said he couldn’t risk losing that much money on the toss of a coin.
He owned a small company. He could use the money wisely to help his business grow. It could change his life for the better. It would also help the people who worked for him and believed in him.
‘I’ll take the cheque, ‘ he said.
I was pleased. ‘If you had gone for the coin toss, I would have lost all respect for you,’ I said.
He made the right choice and didn’t gamble on something that he couldn’t control. He got the million dollars and the mystery prize.”
“I have always lived my life by thriving on opportunism and adventure,” Branson says. “Some of the best ideas come out of the blue and you have to keep an open mind to see their virtue.”
Richard Branson three keys to business success
Provide Untapped Value to the Customer
“The most critical thing with any new venture is we must deliver a tremendous value to the consumer so that it enhances all the ventures we’ve done before it,”
Always provide something unique in each venture; something the competition lacks. Find the value, find the customers.
Exploit a Passion
“I start businesses when I have a passion for something. That’s also why I went into the airline business, even though everybody I talked to told me that there was no money to be made there. I felt that I could make a difference. That’s the best reason to go into business because you feel strongly that you can change things,”.
It’s the entrepreneurial passion and attitude that makes the difference in achieving lasting success.
Trust Your Instincts
“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” Case in point, the “rebel-billionaire” relied on gut instincts to take advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.
Richard Branson wasn’t born wealthy, and began his empire by selling yet-to-be touched (i.e. “Virgin”) records out of the trunk of his car when it was unheard of to do so. Slowly but surely, he expanded his business until it became the multi-billion dollar empire we know today. Follow his lead and mix a great idea with real passion
Richard Branson knows all too well about the challenges entrepreneurs face.
He says one of the best things they can do to stay motivated and embrace challenges is to
“Surround yourself with encouraging people who support your pursuits”
A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step. If you look ahead to the end, and all the weary miles between, with all the dangers you might face, you might never take that first step. And whatever it is you want to achieve in life, if you don’t make the effort. You won’t reach your goal. So take the first step. There will be many challenges. You might get knocked back – but in the end, you will make it.
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