A source of inspiration for all daring LundaEkonomer.
Entrepreneurs are inspirational. It takes a certain kind of madness to risk one’s own living and social security to plunge themselves into the grim world of business. There are threats in every corner, there are unforeseen expenses and there’s a phenomenal quantity of challenges. For most of us, this leap of faith is too daunting to take, but for some individuals, there simply is no other option. Sir Richard Branson is one of those individuals – perhaps this is why he dropped out of school, aged 15. Today’s readers might know Branson through his multi-billion dollar businesses, such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Megastores, or Virgin Galactic. But for the “Rockstar entrepreneur”, the remarkable career in entrepreneurship – now spanning 53 years, has not always been smooth sailing. How do you go from dropping out at 15, to piloting over 60 businesses?
If you are crippled with anxiety for the upcoming exam, know that grades might not be the only variable determining your future. Branson was never a straight-A student, far from it. Struggling through most of his time in school with dyslexia at a time where little understanding or accommodation was made towards the disability, he was left in a constant uphill battle. However, the disorder probably was a blessing in disguise. Branson himself has stated on many occasions how dyslexia has forced him to approach problems from unorthodox angles and enabled thinking outside the usual boundaries. Perhaps this forced differentiation is a contributing factor as to why the headmaster of his school famously said to him, right before he dropped out, that “he will either end up in prison or become a millionaire” – if you’re thinking of trying out the same academic path (don’t tell Fredrik Andersson), do like Branson – pick the latter.
School books aren’t needed for the insight that in order to succeed in anything, one must first try it out – and sometimes fail. For Branson, this piece of wisdom was a part of his very core. He had to go through two unsuccessful ventures before his break finally came with Student in 1966. Student was a nationwide magazine for “young people in need of a voice”. Distributed all over Great Britain, its contents were varied, with articles consisting of anything from controversies surrounding the Vietnam war, to recommendations of up-and-coming rock bands. Student was a hit among the teenagers of Britain. But after just four years of managing the magazine, Branson’s would look for another adventure, which came in the form of Virgin Records. The company would use the back-cover of Student to distribute mail-order vinyl records. With time, the company would grow from a meager mail-order company with varying success to a major record label signing bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. With the increasing success of the record label, the fuel for greatness had been acquired and the spark that would turn Virgin into a wildfire was just around the corner. In the summer of 1984, the brand new airline Virgin Atlantic took off, and the Virgin brand ignited. With the niche of unparalleled air-bound service, a rebel attitude and the inevitable drive of an underdog, a journey with many daring and remarkable feats, both within business and without, laid ahead.
Today, Branson is worth a whopping 3.9 billion USD, has a total of 7 Guinness’ world records (one of which involved the fastest crossing of the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle) has built an empire from the ground up, and makes extensive efforts towards philanthropy as well as education. Albeit these feats have come with a large number of failures. (ever heard of Virgin Cola?)So with this in mind, what can we as LundaEkonomer learn from the head of The Virgin Group? Branson starting his first ventures at 15 showcases the fact that age really does not matter in business. What matters is that there is a solid plan and idea, as well as a flaming passion paired with it to propel the entrepreneur forwards, even though a few failures might be required before take-off. The future entrepreneur must be careful not to take themselves too seriously, Branson has stated that the most important part of running a business is to have fun; as you’re starting out, don’t forget to enjoy the ride. On a final note: If you, the reader, is in possession of an idea you feel is worth trying out, do not underestimate yourself – channeled focus is a remarkable tool. If you feel ready to take the next leap of faith, I say go ahead, the sky’s the limit – and in the paraphrased words of Sir Richard Branson himself “Screw it, just do it!”.