Like a Virgin by Richard Branson

Weekends are for good books, podcasts, and blogs.

Richard Branson is my favorite entrepreneur.  According to Branson, success in business is best measured by whether or not you have created something of which you can be truly proud.

Below are my notes from Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School.

Success in Life

  • I would rather be a nice guy working with great people having fun with a small successful business than a miserable guy heading up a hugely profitable multinational mega-corp.  But that’s your call.
  • It’s counterproductive to be ruthless.
  • We would add an F to the four Ps (people, product, price, promotion).  Fun!
  • Don’t take yourself and your business so seriously.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Plan for the best, prepare for the worst.
  • Success in business has nothing to do with profits.  Profits are necessary but that’s all.  Celebrity doesn’t matter either.  Success in business is best measured by whether or not you have created something of which you can be truly proud.
  • I’ve always loved learning about new things, trying new ventures, and meeting new people.
  • I pursue only those things about which I can be passionate.
  • Money has enabled me to start up and support a number of philanthropic causes.
  • When you’re wrong, admit it, fix it, and move on.
  • We have avoided having a glass and concrete world headquarters with the bosses in upper-level corner offices.  I have only ever worked from three places: houseboat, home, and hammock.

Success in Business

  • In most businesses, your people are your product.  The secret to success is people, people, people.  Finding them, managing them, inspiring them and then holding on to them will determine the success of your company.
  • I am constantly out and about meeting people.
  • I’ve always believed that small is beautiful. Being big means being cumbersome.  If you are big, always try to act small.
  • Be wary of over-reliance on impersonal digital communication.  One-on-one meetings and old-fashioned brainstorming are vital to your success.
  • The customer is not always right.  Treat your customers well, but treat your employees even better.
  • Think deeply about what your brand is and make sure your company culture aligns with it.
  • Big companies too often treat customers like an annoyance. “Your business is very important to us.  Please continue to hold.”  Ignore them and copy what hotels do instead.
  • Hire great people and then let them do their jobs.
  • Listen more than you talk and ask lots of questions.
  • Make face-to-face employee contact part of everyday life in your office. Management by walking around (MBWA).
  • Don’t bring me problems.  Bring me solutions.
  • Try to ensure that your company grows at a comfortable pace and involve your employees in its evolution.
  • Convincing investors is a hard job.  Never forget that overcoming adversity is the mark of a true entrepreneur.
  • Economics downturns are great for lean companies.
  • It can be superhumanly difficult to change a company’s existing culture.
  • Your employees should never feel like hired hands, but fellow entrepreneurs.
  • Be a leader not a boss.
  • Executives need to periodically dig in and get their hands dirty.
  • Stay in touch with your customers and don’t let employees shield you from what’s really going on.
  • Take care of your employees.  Encourage them to maintain a good work-life balance.  Let them work from home. Continue training and coaching employees.
  • Lead from the front.
  • I always carry a notebook with me.  Hand out your email address and phone number to employees.
  • Earn your customers’ trust and their loyalty will follow.
  • Consider job-sharing, longer holidays, sabbaticals, work from home.
  • Good customer service begins at the top.  Catch people doing something right and make an example out of them.

Starting a Business

  • Starting a business takes huge amounts of hard work and time so you had better enjoy doing it.
  • You’ve got to do something radically different.
  • It’s impossible to start a business without taking risks.  Remember, the brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.  Prepare for the worst to protect your downside, but then go do it.
  • In investment pitches, explain how you plan to tackle the inevitable technological changes and market shifts that are heading your way.
  • Call or email your own customer service line and try to see your business from the eyes of your customer.
  • If you never make mistakes, you’ll never achieve anything.  (Although learning from others’ mistakes is better.)
  • My approach to financing a startup: friends/family, bank loans, then outside investors.
  • I avoided outside investors early on so that I could give equity to employees and retain control of the company direction.

Social Responsibility

  • Explore space
  • End the war on drugs
  • Build sustainability into your business

Leave a Reply