Richard Branson’s 13 Tips On How To Build A Multi-Billion Conglomerate

For Business Insider.

There aren’t many billionaires that own entire islands, while at the same time are cool enough that you’d want to hang out with them.

dyslexic with poor academic credentials, Richard Branson started his first company at the age of 16, with a magazine called Student. He went on to start a record label, an airline, a mobile phone company, and a few hundred other companies in his vast Virgin empire. His latest pursuit is spaceflight.

He spends his free time breaking land speed records, flying across oceans in hot air balloons, and  attempting to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. He’s now worth a reported $4.2 billion.

It’s no surprise Branson has a lot to say to burgeoning entrepreneurs. We checked out past interviews and one of his books, “Losing My Virginity,” to find his best advice on life and business.

Don’t judge a person by his or her CV

Don't judge a person by his or her CV

Image: Virgin

“When hiring somebody, I never ask to see a curriculum vitae. I feel that since I didn’t have one myself, it would be a bit presumptuous to ask to see anyone else’s.”

“We have a philosophy at Virgin of trying to promote from within. The advantage is you know someone’s weaknesses and strengths when they get promoted. We often promote people above the position they’d expect. I’ve had the cleaning lady running the record studio. I’ve had someone who was a flight attendant managing a hotel. She worked her way up. ”

“I normally make up my mind about whether I can trust somebody within 60 seconds of meeting them.”

Source: Esquire, Losing My Virginity, Forbes

Make a fool of yourself

Make a fool of yourself

Image: Virgin

“In the 1980s Freddie Laker, the British airline executive, gave me a great piece of advice on setting up my own airline. He told me two key things: ‘You’ll never have the advertising power to outsell British Airways. You are going to have to get out there and use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.’ He also wisely said: ‘Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages.’ I’ve followed that advice ever since. I’ve been very visible and made a fool of myself on more than one occasion.”

I found the press enjoyed writing stories about Virgin if they could put a face to the name. For the first time I began to use myself to promote the companies and the brand. Apart from never involving my family, I was happy to do anything to increase Virgin’s profile: promotion was one of the keys to our growth.”

Source: Entrepreneur, “Losing My Virginity”

Surround yourself with people better than yourself. Praise is better than criticism

Surround yourself with people better than yourself. Praise is better than criticism

“The absolute key is 
how good you are with people. If you can surround yourself with people who are genuinely excited about what you are doing; if you can draw out the best in people, if you are good at lavishing praise and not criticizing, inspiring your people, that’s something you have to do from day one.”

“If you look for the best in your employees, they’ll flourish. If you criticize or look for the worst, they’ll shrivel up. We all need lots of watering.”

Source: EsquireThe Genius Network

Delegate: It isn’t all about you

Delegate: It isn't all about you

“The next stage is to be a great delegator, and not try to do everything yourself. Try to find people that are better than you, who could put you out of business effectively. Whatever you spend all day doing, try to find someone better than you to do that to replace you at it so you can go off and think about the next big picture.

“
An entrepreneur is not a manager. An entrepreneur is someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas, building ideas, but then handing over to good managers to handle the business.”

Source: The Genius Network

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat

Don't be afraid to rock the boat

“I have never enjoyed being accountable to anyone else or being out of control of my own destiny. I have always enjoyed breaking the rules, whether they were school rules or more general rules such as the idea that no 17-year-old can edit a national magazine.”

Source: “Losing My Virginity”

Money should not be your only goal

Money should not be your only goal

“Our priorities are the opposite of most competitors, who worry about shareholders first, customers next, employees last. For us, employees matter most. Start off with a happy well-motivated workforce, you’re far more likely to have happy customers.”

“I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

Source: “Losing My Virginity”

Be impulsive – and don’t always trust numbers

Be impulsive - and don't always trust numbers

“I make up my mind about a business proposal within 30 seconds and whether it excites me. I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics. I feel numbers can be twisted to prove anything.”

Source: “Losing My Virginity”

Stay organized: keep lists (and lots of them)

Stay organized: keep lists (and lots of them)

Image: Stephen Chernin / Getty Images

“I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls propels me forward.”

Source: “Losing My Virginity”

Take risks, and prepare for the worst

Take risks, and prepare for the worst

“Remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not be the company it is today if we had not taken risks along the way. … Devote yourself to it 100 percent and be prepared to take a few hits along the way. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of 10, it will.”

“Though I believe in taking risks, I also firmly believe in “protecting the downside.” This means working out in advance all the things that could go wrong and making sure you have all those eventualities covered. We have come close to failure many times. Most entrepreneurs skirt close to it.”

Source: Entrepreneur

Keep your employees close, and your family closer

Keep your employees close, and your family closer

“I’ve always worked from home. I’ve never worked from an office. I would pop in a lot to our record company. I originally worked in a houseboat, the kids would be crawling around on the floor, I would be meeting with people, I might be changing a nappy. So the kids literally grew up with me while we were building the Virgin empire.”

“With modern communication, one shouldn’t get stuck in the office. The more one can get out and about the better. Spend as much time as you can with your people and spend as much time with your family as you can. Getting that balance is absolutely critical.”

Source: The Genius Network

Don’t rest on your laurels

Don't rest on your laurels

“Once we get comfortable as a company, I like to push the boat out again. My wife keeps saying, ‘Why? Why? You’re fifty [now sixty]. Take it easy. Let’s enjoy it.’ But I’m in a fairly unique position. … If I put all my money in the bank and drink myself to death in the Caribbean, I just think that would be a waste of the fantastic position I’ve found myself in.”

“Whenever Virgin has money, I always renew my search for new opportunities. I am always trying to broaden the group so that we are not dependent upon a narrow source of income, but I suspect that this is due more to inquisitiveness and restlessness than sound financial sense.”

 Source: “Losing My Virginity”

Make good products that speak for themselves, but don’t shy away from self-promotion

Make good products that speak for themselves, but don't shy away from self-promotion

How hard can it be to sell space travel?

Image: The Blaze

“The most important thing in marketing is the product itself. Make absolutely certain that you’ve got a product that is worth going out there and shouting about. Once you’ve done that, the cheapest form of marketing is to use yourself to try and put your company on the map.”

“A good chairman, at least 1/3 of their job will be getting out there and promoting their company.”

Source: The Genius Network

Have fun!

Have fun!

“Above all, remember to have fun with it. That keeps you and your colleagues enthusiastic and motivated. One of my favorite sayings summarizes this perfectly: ‘The brave may not live forever — but the cautious do not live at all!’”

Source: Entrepreneur

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