Lessons From Great Entrepreneurs: Sir Richard Branson
Opinion: Sir Richard Branson is more than just a great entrepreneur. He is a living icon of business and social savvy. His company Virgin Group, so named because when he started he and his co-founders were “all virgins at business,” now owns over 400 companies. As with the other great thought leaders in the field of business, his thoughts on business and on life provide a great deal to think about. Branson has always been a bit of an adventurer and a rogue compared to many of his contemporaries.
Born on July 18, 1950 in Surrey, England, Branson dropped out of high school and started his first enterprise, a magazine called Student which sold $8,000 worth of advertising in its first print. His next step was to found Virgin records, in order to pay for his magazine. However, the success of Virgin Records quickly outpaced Student and soon became his main focus. By 1972, Virgin had its own studio and in 1973 recorded Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and had its first hit on the charts. The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, and Genesis were soon to follow, making his label incredibly successful as one of the top six in the world. Branson would go on to explore telecommunications, aviation and even commercial space travel. On March 30th in 2009 he was knighted by Charles, Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace for services to entrepreneurship. Branson is famous for his daring spirit and quick wit. The quotes below are just some of the interesting things that show Branson’s unique approach to business and life.
“By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default, and in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well.” Richard Branson
Some people believe that a customer first mentality is always right. Branson sees things a little differently. By standing with your employees first, they can rest assured that you will have their back with troublesome customers. This means they will be less afraid to report issues and will have higher dedication to their work. An employee who believes he has the support of his boss is more likely to be loyal and keep working for the company. It can also prevent other issues from arising. While the needs of the customer must be met, Branson is right that paying attention to your employees as a priority will reap benefits beyond the mentality that the customer is always right.
“A good leader doesn't get stuck behind a desk.” Richard Branson
In order to lead, you must get out in front. You have to be where the action is happening. Too many leaders think they can rely on reports and teleconferences. To truly know what is happening, you must see for yourself. This is valuable advice in anything, not just business. If you become stuck behind a desk, the people following you may lose faith or respect for you, and you will make poorer decisions.
“Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming.” Richard Branson
Anyone who has been in business for even a short while knows the pain of a lost opportunity. If you missed a chance to join a start up, lost a deal, or had a business fail, do not worry. There will be more opportunities, if you are ready for them.
“One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes.” Richard Branson
They will happen. Be prepared for them. It is not the end of the world, it is part of the territory.
“A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend. I say that seriously, not as some press release baloney.” Richard Branson
Dealing with upset customers is never fun. However, any chance you have to make right a service or product error on your part is an opportunity to build your brand. By showing customers your dedication to their happiness, you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal supporter.
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” Richard Branson
Don’t be afraid to take risks. If a great opportunity comes along, but you feel that you can’t do it, sometimes it is best to dive in and learn. This is one of the secrets, in my opinion, to accomplishing great things. It will require hard work and dedication but is eminently worthwhile.
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