What Made Richard Branson So Successful? Read His Secrets
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson has lived a life that many of us would consider a dream. He’s the founder of the Virgin Group, which consists of over 400 companies. His estimated net worth as of 2014 is $5 billion. According to the Forbes 2012 billionaire list, Branson is the sixth richest citizen in the United Kingdom.
It’s no secret that Branson struggled in school and eventually dropped out when he was 16. He went on to create Virgin Records and many other business ventures including:
1993 Virgin Trains
1996 Virgin Express
1999 Virgin Mobile
2000 Virgin Australia
Moreover, on September 25, 2004 Branson signed a deal to create Virgin Galactic to take passengers into suborbital space.
Branson has broken world records with his Virgin Atlantic Challenger 2 in 1986 when he beat the fastest Atlantic ocean crossing by two hours. In 1987, he crossed the Atlantic in a hot air balloon named the Virgin Atlantic Flyer. Branson has gone on to set many other records over the years in amphibious vehicles, sailboats, and more.
Branson said, "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."
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson can teach us a few things about how to live a successful life. Here are 14 of his secrets or rather philosophies that made him so successful:
Secret # 1 – Help others
Whether it’s business or personal life, make sure you have a positive impact on other people’s lives. In the business world, create a business that will allow you to help others. Branson also recommends uniting employees using charitable works. This is how Branson gets groups of Virgin employees to run marathons to raise money for charity.
“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” – Richard Branson
Secret # 2 – Get involved in life and follow your dreams
Branson believes in following your dreams. If you’re going to put in the effort to build a business, make sure you’re passionate about it and that it’s something you will enjoy.
Don’t just pick something simply to make money. You deserve a better life than that. Many people come up with an idea that they’re sure will make money, but the test comes when you put it to practice. Will you stick to it?
Secret # 3 – Never give up
Whether he is breaking world records on sailboats or building a commercial airline, Branson seeks out difficult challenges to overcome. You’re going to have times in life when the odds are stacked against you and you must overcome. Sometimes failure happens as a result and you have to deal with that failure and not let it get you down. Of course, the key is doing everything possible to avoid that failure.
Secret # 4 – Create lists of new challenges and then strive to meet them
“I make copious lists because I think it's the little details that make for an exceptional company over an average company. Details are very important and I think it's important to keep setting yourself new challenges and targets,” according to Alison Feeney-Hart at bbc.com.
Branson likes to use the beginning of the year as a good time to write down his goals. If you don’t write down your goals and organize what you want to achieve, you’re more likely to let time slip by and you won’t achieve your goal.
Secret # 5 – Enjoy life
Whether it’s sailing, flying, or running businesses, Branson makes the time to have fun and enjoy life. According to Branson, if you’re not having fun in your job, it might be time to move on. When you create the type of environment where people enjoy working and have fun, it trickles down and makes it pleasant for everyone.
When you pick leaders that genuinely care about their employees, it makes all the difference.
"Fun is one of the most important — and underrated — ingredients in any successful venture. If you're not having fun, then it's probably time to call it quits and try something else," says Branson.
Secret # 6 – Believe in yourself
If you have passion and believe in yourself, it is going to make people feel good about what you’re doing and you’ll be proud of it too. Passion will allow you to inspire others and create desire in them as well.
Branson believes that in order for an idea to be a good one, you should be able to pitch it in 2 to 3 sentences, which can also fit easily on the back of an envelope.
"A passionate belief in your business and personal objectives can make all the difference between success and failure. If you aren't proud of what you're doing, why should anybody else be?"
Secret # 7 – Learn how to delegate
"The art of delegation is one of the key skills any entrepreneur must master," Branson writes. The most successful leaders know that they do not have the time or learning capacity to excel at every aspect of their company and thus hire people to take care of things they're either not good at or should not be wasting time on,” says Branson.
Secret # 8 – Make time for family
Learning how to delegate also frees up time for your family. Whether spending time with your wife and kids or taking time out for your parents, learn to enjoy the time you have.
Secret # 9 – Become a better listener (and talk a lot less)
Branson always has a notebook that he carries with him. He developed this habit as a child with dyslexia so he could write things down and remember them. As a businessperson, he has gotten in the habit of writing down what others say and jotting down great ideas that pop into his head.
“Some salespeople focus exclusively on presenting statistics and accounting-based arguments to make their points, forgetting to put passion into their pitches. They lose their listeners immediately – there are few things less interesting than a PowerPoint presentation, and hearing someone read the points aloud is one of them. When you are selling something, you do need to present evidence illustrating why it is a great idea to buy it, but you should speak with feeling rather than figures.”
Secret # 10 – Encourage employees to express themselves
According to Branson, "This may sound like a truism, but it has to be said: It takes an engaged, motivated and committed workforce to deliver a first-class product or service and build a successful, sustainable enterprise."
In order to build this type of workforce, you need to remove any rigid confines and allow employees to express themselves openly so they can make the right decisions.
“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted,” says Branson.
Secret # 11 – Answer your phone
"The quality of business communications has become poorer in recent years as people avoid phone calls and face-to-face meetings, I can only assume, in some misguided quest for efficiency,” says Branson.
Many of us are caught up in texts and emails when we should pick up our phone. While modern communication is useful, some problems are easier to solve when you talk to someone.
Secret # 12 – The second impression is just as important as the first
Most people focus on making a great first impression. Always keep in mind that the second impression is just as important.
“The second time a customer usually contacts Virgin, it’s because he or she is having problems with the product or service. How you present yourself and your brand in these situations says a lot about how your brand maintains good customer relationships and handles obstacles,” says Branson.
Secret # 13 – Be seen
Sir Freddie Laker, the British airline entrepreneur, gave Branson the following advice,
“Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages. You are going to have to get out there and sell yourself. Make a fool of yourself, whatever it takes. Otherwise you won’t survive.”
Branson frequently travels to meetings where he talks and listens to people. According to Branson, this can be a great source of ideas and suggestions for his business endeavors.
Secret # 14 – The customer is always right… unless they are wrong
Always remember that your customers are human. While their opinions are important, “you should not build your customer service system on the premise that your organization will never question the whims of your clients," says Branson.
Some entrepreneurs believe if they use the philosophy that the customer is always right, it will improve business. According to Branson, this doesn’t always work. Be careful and put relationships with customers above your customer service policies.
Finally, I’d like to end with some immortal words from Branson, “Screw it, let’s just do it.”