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Learning from Richard Branson

Richard Branson – the businessman and founder of such companies as Virgin Megastores, Virgin Atlantic, and now, of course, Virgin Galactic – has always been someone I admire.

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This article originally appeared at Gen-i’

Richard Branson – the businessman and founder of such companies as Virgin Megastores, Virgin Atlantic, and now, of course, Virgin Galactic – has always been someone I admire. Alongside his philanthropy and his commitment to help address things like global warming, his business skill and his assistance of start-ups and small business is a bit of an inspiration. He started Virgin when he was only twenty!

Branson has always had interesting and important things to say about setting up and maintaining your own business. And, in this article, I want to look at some of the things that I have learnt from him – and at some of the things that he has said that I have found really helpful in my business. I hope they can be helpful for you too!

Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.

The thing about business is that it’s a lot of work. You need to be self-motivated, willing to take risks, and happy to work long hours before it all gets off the ground.

As such, there’s only one thing that can really guarantee that you will keep going with it. And that’s enjoying it! Branson has always said that he didn’t plan to build his multi-billion-pound empire. Rather, his passion for his work took him there.

So, if you don’t enjoy it, maybe business is not the world for you – and that’s totally okay!

You can’t run a business without taking risks.

As I’ve said one hundred times before, business is all about taking risks. You cannot be a great leader unless you are willing to stick your nose out a little – or, to mix metaphors, to take the plunge! You cannot be right all the time, but failure is just the stage prior to success.

The same applies to life in general. Apparently, one of Branson’s favourite quotes is “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all!”. It’s been important for me to learn to get outside my comfort zone and to push myself.

Perfection is unattainable.

A lot of people think that perfection is a virtue, and they may not stop going at a project until it is, in their eyes, perfect. Yet, I pointed out some of the issues with this mindset in my Insights from last week.

Branson’s perspective is that the pursuit of perfection is useless in itself – because perfection doesn’t really exist. What it does do, however, is make people complacent. As he points out, “When they believe they’ve ‘nailed it,’ most people tend to sit back and rest on their laurels while countless others will be labouring furiously to better their work!”

Believe in your ideas and be the best.

The thing about business is that, if you don’t believe that you have a great idea, how is anyone else going to? And if you don’t believe that your idea is great, how are you going to give yourself the energy and motivation to turn it into a reality?

To succeed in business, you have to strive to be the best – in whichever niche or field you are in. So, throw the perfectionism aside and let your competition motivate you to be better and better and better.

The best way to learn is by doing.

People often say “you don’t learn to drive in driving lessons. You really learn once you have passed your test and you are out on the road alone”. The same is all fields of life: you only learn something when you have to do it yourself, when you give it your all in the moment.

In business, you can’t sit and study the best way to do this or that. Rather, you’ll pick it up on the way – and the lessons will be learnt much better because of it. So, as Branson says, “Screw it; let’s do it”.

Set yourself tough challenges and don’t give up.

When running your own business, you are your own boss. Only you can demand success of yourself – and only you can make yourself achieve it.

So, push yourself. Forget that cautiousness. Aim high. If you don’t challenge yourself, no-one else is going to. And success doesn’t come from taking it easy.

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