Richard Branson

Richard Branson

  • Richard Branson is a busi­nessman, inve­stor and phil­an­thro­pist. He founded the Virgin Group, and has started more than 400 compa­nies.

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Have you run your own busi­ness?

After laun­ching hund­reds of ventures across four decades, I know first-hand that there isn’t anything like hands-on expe­ri­ence when it comes to running a busi­ness. When star­ting out, the learning curve is steep, since you have to master a variety of fields all at once – from supply-chain manage­ment to marke­ting, to accoun­ting, to customer service. I don’t think any course of study can truly prepare an entre­pre­neur to success­fully handle all of these important aspects of an enter­prise. So as a consul­tant, unless you are an expert in a niche field rele­vant to a very specific consul­ting need, I would expect you to have an abundance of entre­pre­neu­rial expe­ri­ence. And this sort of expe­ri­ence doesn’t come down to merely under­stan­ding the nuts and bolts of the busi­ness world – it’s also about having funda­mental people skills. Show me that you under­stand how to inspire, moti­vate, and lead others; this is the single most important factor for success in busi­ness.

Have you expe­ri­enced failure?

Failure is simply indis­pensable to the entre­pre­neu­rial expe­ri­ence. At the Virgin group, I don’t think we’d be where we are today if it hadn’t been for the many small and large ventures that didn’t do as well as we had hoped. Remember Virgin Brides? Or Virgin Clothes? These ventures feature promin­ently on our list of epic fail­ures – yet they helped us to build better busi­nesses. The reason is a simple one: There is more to learn from mistakes than from successes. Under­stan­ding what went wrong, where instincts failed, or what inter­na­tional and external factors were respon­sible for taking an enter­prise, of course, are all vital lessons in busi­ness. Under­stan­ding the fail­ures of the past is key to having success in the future.

Do you know a bad idea when you see one?

In the case of Virgin Brides, our failed entry into the wedding and bridal wear sector in the 1990s, we jumped into a highly compe­ti­tive, crowded market that we knew little about, and our product failed to attract custo­mers in the same way that other Virgin brands had managed to. We learned that when people are in the market for a wedding dress, tradi­tion prevails over Virgin-style, red-hot disrup­tion, so we weren’t the right fit (so to speak). In many ways, we hadn’t done our home­work – and we also allowed our over­blown expec­ta­tions to get the better of us.

Are you hungry for know­ledge?

Busi­nesses, markets, and socie­ties are constantly evol­ving. When we started Virgin Records in the early 1970s, we were living in an analog, frag­mented world, selling vinyl records that catered to niche musical inte­rests. Fast-forward four decades, and we are in a globa­lized, inter­con­nected busi­ness envi­ron­ment that has very little in common with the world that Virgin was born into. Global supply chains, elec­tronic commerce, the arrival of social media, and chan­ging demo­gra­phics have radi­cally trans­formed the way that we do busi­ness. For a consul­tant to be successful in this quickly evol­ving world, he needs the ability to adapt frequently, a zeal for lifelong learning and a willing­ness to embrace an even greater degree of specia­li­za­tion than ever before. Just think about the armies of consul­tants who have found ways to make a living by working in search-engine opti­mi­za­tion, social-risk assess­ment or stake­holder manage­ment, to name just a few of the options.

Thank you, Richard Branson, for allo­wing us to print this article. It was origi­nally published on www.virgin.com.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

  • Richard Branson is a busi­nessman, inve­stor and phil­an­thro­pist. He founded the Virgin Group, and has started more than 400 compa­nies.

Still curious?
There is more to see here:

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