In his forty plus years of being an entrepreneur, Richard Branson has done it all, done it his way and learned a lot of lessons along the way. From delivering the perfect pitch, to taking risks and surviving downturn, this is your guide to success.
FIVE SECRETS TO STARTING A BUSINESS – and making it work
1. If you don”t enjoy it don”t do it
Starting a business take huge amounts of hard work and time so you had better enjoy doing it. When he started Virgin from a basement in west London, there was no great plan or strategy. He didn”t set out to build a business empire. He simply wanted to create something people would enjoy using, have fun doing it, and at the end of the day prayed that it would make enough to pay the bills.
For him, 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.
Business people are not unlike artists. What you have when you start a company is a black canvas; you have to fill it. Just as a good artist has to get every single detail right on that canvas, a businessman or woman has to get every single little thing right when first setting up in business in order to succeed. However, unlike a work of art, the business is never finished. It constantly involves and it”s also not that easy to paint over your mistakes!
If a businessperson sets out to make a real difference and achieves that objective, he or she will be able to pay the bills and have a successful business to boot.
2. Be innovative – create something different
Whether you have a product, a service or a brand, it is not easy to start a company and to survive and thrive in the modern world. In fact, you”ve got to do something radically different to make your mark today.
Look at the most successful businesses of the past twenty years. Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook all shook up the world we live in by doing things that had never been done before and then by continually innovating. They are now among the dominant forces.
Not everyone can aspire to such level; however, should you decide to enter an already crowded segment you had better be ready to offer customer service that blows the competition away.
When Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic the positive buzz that he created focused on the simple fact that he”s crews were really nice to his passengers. Go figure – what a breakthrough idea for an airline!
3. Pride of association works wonders
Businesses are nothing more than a group of people, and they are by far and away your biggest assets. In fact in probaby the majority of businesses your people are your product.
For Richard there is nothing sadder than hearing someone being apologetic about the place where they are working. When people are proud to be associated with their company it generates a special level of advocacy and dedication that is a huge differentiator in a world of mediocrity and indifference.
4. Lead by listening
To be a good leader you have to be a good listener. Sure, you need to know your own mind, but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate and a degree of consensus. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice.
Get out there, listen to people, draw people out and learn from them. As a leader you”ve also got to be extremely good at lavishing praise. Never openly criticise people; never loose your temper, and always be quick to applaud a job well done.
People flourish on praise. Usually they don”t need to be told when they”ve done wrong because most of the time they know it.
5. Be visible
A good leader doesn”t get stuck behind the desk. He never worked in an office – He always worked from home – but he is constantly out and about, meeting people. It seems he is travelling all the time but he always have a notebook handy to jot down questions, concerns or good ideas.
If he”s on any of the Virgin airlines he always try hard to meet as many of the cabin crew and passengers as possible, and will usually come away with a dozen or more good suggestions or ideas. If he didn”t write them down he might remember only a few, but putting them in the infamous notebook means he remember them all. Talk to your staff and customers at every opportunity, listen to what they tell you, good and bad, and act on it. Keep your business proactive, responsive and friendly.