As business owners, we can all learn from those who have gone before us and made huge successes, one of the most recognizable faces in the world and a giant personality is Sir Richard Branson. From a middle class English upbringing he has built the Virgin brand into a global empire. His story is definitely worth learning about. Following are some excellent tips from an amazing and unique entrepreneur.
Richard Branson has launched more than 100 Virgin companies since starting Virgin as a mail order record retailer in 1970. He’s the only person to build eight billion-dollar companies in eight different industries. Because of his success and enthusiasm, entrepreneurs can definitely learn a lot from Sir Richard.
And one of his greatest lessons is how he treats other members of the Virgin family.
According to Branson, “Many people think that an entrepreneur is someone who operates alone, overcoming challenges and bringing his idea to market through sheer force of personality. This is completely inaccurate. Few entrepreneurs — scratch that, almost no one — ever achieved anything worthwhile without help. To be successful in business, you need to connect and collaborate and delegate.”
There’s actually a lot of truth to that statement. Lennon had McCartney. Jobs had Wozniak. Jordan had Pippen.
So, if you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Sir Richard Branson, then make sure that you never do the following 8 things. He wouldn’t.
1. Never say “I’m the boss.”
In his book Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School, Branson states that being “bossy” isn’t a trait that real leaders possess. Branson believes that bosses simply barks out orders, while real leaders organize, motivate and inspire.
“Perhaps, therefore, it is odd that if there is any one phrase that is guaranteed to set me off it’s when someone says to me, ‘Okay, fine. You’re the boss!’” He adds, “What irks me is that in 90 percent of such instances what that person is really saying is ‘Okay, then, I don’t agree with you but I’ll roll over and do it because you’re telling me to. But if it doesn’t work out I’ll be the first to remind everyone that it wasn’t my idea.’”
2. Don’t restrict creative freedom
During an Entrepreneur blog post, Branson said, “You need to give your people the freedom to get creative, to come up with their own ideas and run with them. If someone comes to you with an idea for a business, why not ask that person to launch a startup? Over the years some of our employees’ ideas have resulted in our setting up businesses. This has helped us to enter new markets and, more often than not, succeed. Your company should act as a springboard for ambitious employees, not a set of shackles.”
This was actually backed up by former Virgin exec Alexis Dormandy during an interview with OPENForum. “The creative autonomy is incredible. But that’s after you understand what’s expected and the culture of the organization, and you have to make decisions on that basis. I had the freedom to get things done that you wouldn’t believe, not ever being second-guessed about what needs to be done. It seems almost totally unrealistic.”
3. Always solve problems before they escalate
Never let a problem fester with a partner or team member. Always address the problem before things grow into a huge issue. Keep in mind, sending out an email or text message is often not a good way to handle the situation. Branson believes that you take the time to pick up the phone or walk over to their office to address the situation.
As Branson states, “There is nothing efficient about allowing a small problem to escalate.”
4. Never make a team member uncomfortable
Branson has frequently stated you can’t take yourself too seriously and you should create a fun culture. In fact, Branson has been doing this since his first business venture, a student magazine called Student and during the early days of Virgin Music. How can you create a fun culture? You can start by being passionate, encouraging team members, and having an overall sense of fun in the workplace.
As Branson adds that, “It takes an engaged, motivated and committed workforce to deliver a first-class product or service and build a successful, sustainable enterprise.”
5. Don’t point fingers
When Virgin Atlantic had its inaugural flight in 1984 the plane was forced to make an emergency landing just one minute into the flight due to an engine exploding. A couple of days later, Branson’s banker arrived at his doorstep and informed Branson that he was pulling all funding for the airline. Initially, Branson was looking for someone to blame for the entire debacle. But he realized that as the leader it was up to him to handle the situation.
Instead of pointing fingers, like Branson could have done, you have to accept responsibility for finding a resolution regardless of who you could blame.
6. Don’t back away from a debate
“Over almost 50 years in business, I have learned that having a healthy debate about strategy and direction is vital if a business is to succeed, so I always encourage my colleagues to challenge me and speak up if they disagree with any of our group’s plans,” Branson said.
You’re bound to have disagreements with partners and team members, but just because you don’t see eye-to-eye doesn’t mean that there has to be an argument or something drastic like a letting people go. Having a healthy debate gives each party a chance to voice their opinion and challenge each other.
Richard Branson is famous for saying “Screw it, let’s do it.” A man who always wants to go for it isn’t someone to back off.
7. Don’t be invisible
You often you see Richard Branson out and about. Branson has made it his business to get out there with a notebook to meet employees and customers. He’s recording their ideas and listening to what makes them happy.
Instead of sitting behind a desk all day locked up in an office, you need to get out there like and sell yourself. You’re just not making your business known, you also gathering business ideas from people who have valuable input.
8. Never burn bridges
Partnerships will dissolve. Employees will leave. That’s just a part of the business world. That doesn’t mean that things have to end on bad terms. Remember when Branson wore that flight attendant uniform? That’s because he lost a bet to a former employee turned competitor.
Instead of burning bridges with a partner or team member, part ways as amicably as possible and wish them the best of luck. Not only is that the professional thing to do, it also leaves the door open for you to work together again in the future.
As one of the most successful businessmen in the world, there is plenty to learn from Richard Branson. These suggestions are just a few tips from the great man himself! Is there anything you would add?
Some excellent tips there I’m sure you agree. If you haven’t read any of Branson’s books, you can check them out here
This article appeared in Entrepreneur and was published here as a business building aid.
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