Sir Richard Branson has built not one, not two, but eight separate billion-dollar companies in eight different industries – without a business degree. Sir Branson is a business magnate, an investor and philanthropist. He is the founder of the Virgin group of companies, which comprises of more than 400 companies.
Branson is widely known for his unique approach to business with forward-thinking quotes such as: “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” And “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”
What makes him so successful? In his book “Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School” he offers advice and shares some valuable tips.
Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it. Success doesn’t come easy and requires a lot of commitment, time and energy. In the end you need to be proud of what you’ve built, believe in it, and ultimately enjoy it.
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.”
Be visible: In order to survive in business, you need to be visible. Your marketing strategy including your PR strategy and Social Media strategy needs to make “noise”. This is an approach our Consilia Group CEO, Johan Botes and Branson share. Marketing efforts assist in building some recognition through visibility of the brand and ultimately brand loyalty where customers will specifically seek out your product or brand.
Choose your name wisely: In choosing a name Branson cites: “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 name is most definitely that – attention grabbing.
A few other good reasons to put some extra thought into your name is, firstly, Search Engine Optimisation. If you have the product name that you are selling in your company name, the search engine is more likely to pick up your company’s details than the next. Secondly, if you have a name that is easy to pronounce or remember, your clients or the general public are more likely to remember it. Thirdly, if you are considering to expand into a global market it is always a good idea to do some research into the meaning of the name in other languages and also consider whether people will be able to pronounce it in other countries.
You can’t run a business without taking risks. Serial Entrepreneurs are often the entrepreneurs that turn out to be successful. Many successful business ventures derived from earlier business ventures and were not the first business venture to succeed. It is often the second or third attempt that succeeds. “‘The brave may not live forever—but the cautious do not live at all!’” Branson advises to take risks and states that success “rarely comes from playing it safe.”
The first impression is everything – So is the second. According to Branson, the first impression you make on customers will probably be when you acquire them or the first encounter of doing business with them. The first impression is extremely important, but the second is as important as the first. The second is often when the customer returns with a challenge, problem or return. This contact is paramount for creating a recurring relationship with the customer. It provides the customer with a very good view of how the business deals with challenges.
The customer is always right, most of the time. The traditional notion of the customer is always right is challenged on the basis that customers are only human and therefore fallible. This notion is expanded on the warning of building your entire customer experience on this as not to damage relationships with customers and/or staff with the related company policies.
Define your brand. Stick to what you know to define your brand. Branson says Virgin’s focus is “finding new ways to help people have a good time.” Define your brand with values true to your initial aim. Be aware of what other brands are doing, but don’t change the uniqueness of your own brand to the detriment of commercialism. You still need to differentiate your company or brand from the next company.
Not everyone is suited to be a CEO. Branson says a CEO must “bring out the best in people,” and be able to communicate well – to help employees learn from mistakes through encouragement instead of criticism. This is not part of everyone’s list of talents, but the CEO needs to be the one who can do this well. Branson has always said that your employees are your best asset and if you look after them, they will automatically look after your customers.
In his book Branson shares 18 business tips. Read it, keep what is valuable to you and discard the rest. Small changes might just bring the change you require and assist you in growing your operations.