Jack of all trades, adventurer, and thrill seeker Richard Branson was born in London on July 18th 1950. At the age of 16, Branson was diagnosed with dyslexia, and his academic performance was not very high. The entrepreneur’s headmaster once told him that he’d either end up in prison or become a millionaire. Interestingly enough, today, Branson is actually worth 5 billion dollars. Having the ability to vacation with the former President of the United States is certainly an opportunity that most would love to have!
In 1968, 17 year old Richard Branson launched his own magazine called, “Student.” Though he was a high school drop out, Branson strongly believed in himself, his vision and pursued his dreams. In the 1960s, he interviewed celebrities such as Mick Jagger for his magazine. He never made a dime from the magazine, which at first was very discouraging. This, however, did not hold him back. He began to sell records through the mail at discounted prices. But with success, comes setbacks and when he was losing money, he found himself resorting to making poor decisions. He was found guilty of not paying the British sales tax. He eventually settled his issues, learned from his mistakes and began running his business in a more orderly fashion. After he advertised popular records, his magazine became an instant success. Being that he and his partners were new at business, they dubbed the store Virgin, and by 1971, the first Virgin record store was opened.
As the years passed, the business magnate continued to take calculated risks and build his empire. Branson has expanded his business ventures from the airline industry to retail, where he owns a bridal shop. By 1977, the business really took off after he signed the Sex Pistols amongst many other musicians, and became the largest independent record label. Making money is something the entrepreneur is no stranger to. Though he has acquired much in his lifetime, he says it is not about the money; he wanted to do business better than others are doing it.
The success story of the business magnate is a journey that can be looked at as one filled with motivation, persistence and faith. Branson doesn’t have much regrets, but like most of us, there’s some things that we wish we could see differently because of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Here is a letter Branson wrote to his 25 year old self:
Congratulations on launching Virgin. I know you’re still trying to find your feet and work out the ins and outs of business, but stick with it. I can guarantee the best is yet to come. While I don’t want to spoil the mystery and fantasy of the unknown, I can tell you there will so many wonderfully rewarding moments and the most incredible people in your future. And, yes, many of your wildest dreams will come true. But there’s a clause: you will have to work hard to make them happen.
The road ahead is pock-marked with many bumps, chasms and forks. There will be times where you want to give up and throw everything in. Don’t. By turning challenges into opportunities, you will find success you never realized you were capable of achieving. But you won’t always succeed. In fact, you will fail time and time again. That’s ok though, because failure is an inevitable part of every personal and entrepreneurial journey. It’s important to pick yourself up, retrace your steps, look at what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.
‘Entrepreneur’: now there’s a word that you might not be overly familiar with yet. But you will be. It’s a word that will become synonymous with your name and your approach to business. It’s also a word synonymous with risk. You took a risk when you left school to start Student magazine, and again when you moved from Student magazine to Virgin Records – and both paid off. Continue to take chances. In the future how ‘lucky’ you are in business will be determined by how willing you are to take calculated risks.
Let your dreams guide your path. Keep the people you love and respect close to you.
Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility. Don’t let the naysayers deter you. Screw business as usual and do things your own way. The Virgin brand will take you places other than music. Your ability to take calculated risks and your incurable optimism will lead to great heights – both in business and in life. Like one of your favorite author’s, Dr Seuss wrote, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Reach for the moon – it’s yours for the taking, if you go out there and grab for it with both hands.
Author: Leeann Tannah
A graduate of the University of Guelph Humber with a degree in Media Communications, Leeann Tanaah is a writer, who has had extensive experience writing for radio & broadcast and interviewing prominent figures such as Mayor John Tory and Doug Ford. Tanaah has had two published articles, and is an on-air news journalist at Vibe 105.5 TO. Connect with her on Linkedin at Leeann Taaah and follow her blog at littlebitofleeway.tumblr.com.