Not only is he an incredible businessman with unbridled passion and nerve, he's a philanthropist at heart. He's on the board of my personal passion project, X Prize, and is partially responsible for sending the first-ever privately owned spaceship into space. Which, by the way, had a “Virgin Galactic” logo plastered on the side of it.
He has built many successful businesses, daring to tackle any industry no matter the challenge. He is persistent and will go to any length to achieve what he sets out to do.
So, today, you'll discover the methods to his madness, and how he went from a young man barely making it through school, to the huge success he is today.
I'll show you his unusual journey in creating the Virgin brand…
His extreme success habits he practices every single day to stay at the top…
And how adopting even just a sliver of Richard Branson's mindset could skyrocket your business.
The Beginning of an Empire
Richard Branson started out with a rough track record. He studied at the premier Stowe School in Buckingham, England, but wasn't exactly a star student. This was most likely due to his dyslexia, which wasn't diagnosed at the time. In fact, they thought he was “lazy” and his headmaster predicted he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
A prediction that proved to be right on both accounts.
He eventually quit school to publish a magazine called Student, aimed towards college students, which was the “voice for young activists.” He distributed it for free out of the back of his car.
I should add that many successful Entrepreneurs have started out like this. I had lunch the other day with Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and that's how he distributed his first books, after being rejected by hundreds of publishers.
Despite the large readership, Student magazine suffered and Richard soon realized this endeavor alone wasn’t going to take him very far. Branson got a new idea to start a business selling records through the mail at a discount. Using his magazine for advertising, and tried-and-true Direct Response principles, he ended up with a very lucrative business.
In order to maximize his gains in this industry, he opened a discount record shop over a shoe store. He hired his magazine staff to work there, and named the store Virgin, because no one involved had any business experience.
Following that success, he started Virgin Records in 1973. Their first release was “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield, which sold over 5 million copies. They also were the only record company willing to take a chance on a little known band called the Sex Pistols, which proved to be a great move and financially successful.
Ever-willing to dabble in new markets, Richard dabbled in other industries like nightclubs, television broadcasting, and even gaming. However his biggest challenge and claim to fame would be formed in 1984.
Richard Branson's mission was to start businesses, because he believed he could do a better job than the companies already out there. In this case, he believed British Airways was no longer listening to their customers' needs. So, despite a huge move by British Airways to shut him down, he set out to form Virgin Airlines.
He looked to what airline customers were missing from their experience, and incorporated all of those elements into his airline – video screens in the back of seats, and free snacks (he even offered ice cream during movies). As you can imagine, it was a huge success.
Of course he went through major ups and downs with the company, eventually having to sell Virgin Records to keep it afloat, but ultimately the Virgin brand is a huge success. And that is in no small part due to his tenacity, optimism, and willingness to take risks.
Richard Branson's story is truly epic. And although his achievements might seem lofty, you can absolutely apply his strategies and habits to your Expertpreneur® business.
Extreme Success Secrets
One of the most famous characteristics of Richard Branson is his daredevil attitude in getting publicity. While most people would never consider trying the things he's done, applying even a small bit of his tenacity into your business can improve your growth tenfold.
1) Be Willing to Take Risks – For Richard Branson, risk-taking means attempting to cross the ocean in a racing boat, the Virgin Challenger. Then, despite having to be rescued the first time, he made a second attempt, achieving it in the fastest-ever recorded time.
You don't have to attempt death-defying feats, but the point is this: you must be willing to try new things. Put out a new product, create a unique marketing campaign, speak at events no matter how scary it might be.
As Richard puts so eloquently, “You fail if you don't try. If you look at the history of American entrepreneurs, one thing I do know about them: An awful lot of them have tried and failed in the past and gone on to great things.”
2) Love Your Business – Starting a business is a commitment. It doesn't have to be frustrating, especially with the right guidance and strategies, however, it does require dedication and persistence.
Richard started his mail-order record company because he loved music and wanted to make a living doing what he loved. He didn't even really know what to call it – “Virgin” was chosen on a whim.
The point is, as an Expertpreneur®, it's important for you to truly be passionate about what it is you're doing. Always remind yourself how much you love working with others, spreading your unique vision and mission, and transforming lives. That passion will keep you motivated through the most challenging times.
3) Go Outside and Be Present – Richard Branson has never worked in an office, always from home. And yet, he is always out meeting people and making connections. He makes a point to ask questions, listen to others, and respond to customers and employees alike.
A huge draw (and temptation) of an online business is to hide behind a website. For many Expertpreneurs® some of their income comes from over-the-phone coaching sessions, or web-based subscriptions, and info products.
The problem is, when you limit your interaction with the world, you put your business in a perilous position. You can become out of touch with what's going on with your customers and your industry. A reputation you do not want to have.
A successful Expertpreneur® always communicates with others and stays on top of the pulse of our society. After all, you never know when an event will happen that will open a huge opportunity for your business to grow.
4) Stand Out From the Pack – If you look to any of the successful businesses of our time, like Apple or Google, they all were “revolutionary” in their industries when they started out. They dared to fill a void that no one knew needed filling.
As an Expertpreneur®, you want to stand out in a similar way. That's not to say you have to create a product that has never existed before (what is sometimes called a “blue ocean” product); that's a challenging proposition. However, you need to create your Unique Selling Point – the element of your business that sets you apart.
It can be anything, really. It could be your life experiences, your way of presenting knowledge, your skills and tools. Regardless, it's important for you to dig deep, understand your competition, figure out what makes you different, and put that front and center.
Then, and only then, will you be able to thrive in your business.
5) Be Diligent With the Basics – For all of the crazy escapades Branson has attempted, he puts a lot of weight on getting things done right.
For one thing, he makes a point to exercise every day to keep his body and mind in shape. Richard wakes up at 6am to run and start his day off early. You can do whatever works for you – a long stroll in the park, a session with a personal trainer, even jumping jacks in your office. Whatever you choose, exercise is the best way to keep alert and functioning throughout your life as an Expertpreneur®.
The other basic habit? Keeping lists. Richard says…”I have always lived my life by making lists: Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls propels me forward.”
I find the best time to make a list is the night before a workday. That way you can wake up, get ready for my day, and get started right away. You don't have to waste precious productive time in the AM trying to figure out your plan for the day.
Becoming Wildly Successful
However, if you take away nothing else, I hope you will realize that no one is born successful. Many of the greatest success stories of our time come from meager beginnings, in many cases, seemingly impossible odds.
Yet, as long as you're willing to grow, are not afraid to fail, and are persistent in your pursuits, you will find success as an Expertpreneur®. You'll share your talent and passion with more people than you ever believed possible, and make a darn good living in the process.
Next week, for our final post in this series, I will give you an American history lesson on a man who was instrumental in shaping the world as we see it today. Even though he had no idea what he was doing when he started out. Stay tuned!