Richard Branson is the serial entrepreneur who dropped out of school at age 16 to start a magazine and the rest, as they say, is history. His business philosophy? Screw it, let’s do it.
Branson has a legendary legacy for being a serial entrepreneur from a young age. He started his first business, Student magazine, at age 16, and worked out of a school phone box to sell advertising to raise money. While he admits he wasn’t interested in being a businessman, the experience taught him about sales, advertising, printing, paper, distribution and all the other components of running and publishing a magazine. It became his education and foundation for his future entrepreneurial pathway.
In 1970, four years later, Branson began a mail-order record business. Over the next consecutive years, he opened his first record store, established a recording studio and started his own record label. The seeds of Virgin had been planted before Branson was even 24 years old and today the Virgin Group is a global conglomerate of about 350 companies.
Known as Dr Yes at Virgin, Branson is not averse to taking risks and accepting challenges. “Life is a lot more fun if you say yes,” he says. However, he follows that up with “fatherly advice” to think about the downside of saying yes when in a business situation.
Branson works extremely hard to make sure his businesses succeed, but with big risk comes the possibility of failure and not all of Branson’s ideas have been successful. Remember Virgin Cola? But as Branson told Eric Schurenberg, president and editor in chief of Inc., “I think the most important thing is not to be put off by failure. I will work day and night to avoid failure, and…if I’ve tried everything to avoid it, the very next day we’ll pick ourselves up and we’ll move forward.”
The serial entrepreneur relies on three principles to keep focussed on success:
Purpose: Embrace the challenge. How do you want to make a difference?
Passion: Remember what flips your switch on even when you’re tired, disappointed or sad.
Performance: It’s normal not to feel successful in each and every moment… If you’re suffering right now, you are in good company.
“An entrepreneur is coming up with an idea that makes other people’s lives better,” Branson says. “Most young people with good ideas…will find that 99 percent of people will give them every reason why their idea’s been done before, or why it’s not a good idea, or why they’re going to fall flat on their face. In the end you have to say, ‘Screw it, let’s do it.’”