Personal Brands

Episode 1.0

How did Richard Branson achieve a multi-billion net worth?

“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”

-Sir Richard Branson (Quote)

There are entrepreneurs and then, there are the rarely-found passionate entrepreneurs. Sir, Richard Branson comfortably finds his place in the second breed. He is an anti-typical business hero which one would rarely get to see in this generation; a generation in which people stereotype business with just earning money. People often fall trap to petty promotions like money, profits, marketability but this man has a different constitution. He’s not afraid to try new things. In fact, he thrives on it. Sir Richard Branson has been known to try his hands on almost anything; from setting a standard in the music industry to flying high in the highly competitive airline industry. While some entrepreneurs were busy searching for someone to idolize, Branson followed his passion and became an idol.

We’ve all been told that we should follow our desires and promote our dreams, but we hardly follow the same. Richard Branson realised this early in life and discovered his passion for music and entrepreneurship. He was a man who followed straight policies. One of them was to leave what you don’t like. Maybe that’s the reason why he dropped out of school at the age of 15 which ultimately led to the creation of virgin records. While a lot of people were pitying about him being dyslexic, a condition in which your brain works different than most of the normal people and your capabilities as a reader or a listener gets limited, Sir Branson, overcame it to become the most admired entrepreneur of the United Kingdom. His being dyslexic led him to failing his school even after swapping to more than one schools. His first venture, was a youth culture magazine called ‘Student’. Surprisingly, he sold $8000 worth of advertising in the first edition which was launched in 1966. People often discuss the hardships, that one went through to become successful. However, this man is different. During his childhood, he was mostly surrounded by the British music and drug scenario. It was during this time that Branson had the idea to begin a mail-order company called virgin to help fund his magazine. Realising its potential, Branson expanded his venture further by opening a record shop in London. Here’s where a dyslexic dropout turned to be the next big thing. After the immense success of the shop, he saved enough to build a recording studio in 1972 in Oxfordshire. With his entrepreneurial skills, Branson managed to make Virgin music one of the top six record companies in the world. It’s not that his success had to do something with his fate. There were times when he was crushed by losses and even his companies ran into debt. However, he never let the fun quotient be separated from the business.

Sir Richard Branson is a mass of contradictions. A man who often appears shy, yet has built a brand around his charisma. A busy management enthusiast who takes out time to enjoy the luxuries of his private island. A fervent environmentalist, who wants to send wealthy travellers into space. One of the biggest inconsistencies is that his public persona – that of an entrepreneur running a multifarious business empire – does not reflect reality. In fact, Sir Richard manages very little. He has built a perfect organisation structure which enables him to manage his companies with the least of his efforts. In today’s world, people go to business schools or management schools like Christ University itself to learn how to go on with a business but how did Sir Branson manage to build Britain’s largest business empire without any formal education? The reason is that he used to take business lessons from his day-to-day activities. He did not take any course or graduated from a leading management university, but yeah, he was gaining knowledge. This happened while Branson was all set print his new magazine ‘Student’. His dad would let him drop out of school to start a magazine, but only if he sold 4,000 pounds of advertising to cover printing and paper costs. So, he found out virgin records in order to meet his father’s demand. He repeated this strategy in 1984 when he went into the airline business with Virgin Atlantic. He was only able to convince his business partners at Virgin Records to agree to the deal after he got Boeing to agree to take back Virgin’s one 747 jet after a year if the business wasn’t operating as planned. This strategy allowed Branson to remain agile as an entrepreneur. Over the past five decades, Branson has, of course, experienced many failures, like Virgin Cola and Virgin Clothing. In total, while Branson is known to have started some five hundred companies, he has also shut down the two hundred of them that didn’t work. Richard Branson has been known for trying adventurous and out of the box stuff. We all have heard the story “Around the World in Eight Days” in which the protagonist moves around the world in a hot air balloon. Sir Richard Branson, it seems, took the movie too seriously and went on to circumnavigate the globe in balloons. He says that he wants to explore the whole world before age strikes him, which in itself is a big question.

Branson is also known for investing in start-ups to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship among the population. He also launched Virgin Start-up, an official delivery partner for the UK’s Start Up Loans programme. Through this new organisation, he will provide loans to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 30 UK-wide. Branson has also been doing his bit for the environment and has been contributing large sums of money to protect the environment. He also is a member of the African Wildlife Foundation and has been gathering awareness to the issues of wildlife poaching and trafficking. Today, he may be the 212th richest man in the world, but the way he is managing life is exemplary. At 30th March 2000 Richard Branson visited the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace to receive his knighthood, an honour which only few can even think of. The next day he clinched a deal to sell 49% stake in the Virgin Atlantic airlines to Singapore Airlines in order to recover from the debt burden which his music business was facing. It should have been a difficult moment for someone who had just been knighted for ‘services to entrepreneurship’ to sell of a huge stake of his greatest ever business triumph but for Sir Branson, this was just another fun day!

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