When the world thinks of successful businessmen, often the same names come to mind: Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson. While the common assumption may be that most of these men were born with silver spoons in their mouths, very few of them actually were. Richard Branson’s story seems to really stand out in that pack though. Facing many adversities and disbelievers who were convinced he would never amount to much, Branson never gave up, even when the odds were heavily stacked against him. Today we see the man he has become but it is important to look back and understand the hurdles he overcame.
Richard Branson’s Resume
For those not in the know, Richard Branson runs Virgin, which is a billion dollar business conglomerate with over 400 other companies under its name. From being an inexpensive alternative to the smart phone market, to a rocket that can take you to space, Virgin never slights on delivering hugely ambitious ideas to the entire world. Yet Richard Branson didn’t always have it so easy. While his desire was in place very young, Branson figured out early that he needed to overcome some hardships before making any of this happen. The first hardship was one many people still face to this day: Dyslexia.
Overcoming Dyslexia in Business
Dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to read and comprehend. Put in more simple terms, dyslexics often see words as jumbled, with letters out of place, making reading and learning an incredibly arduous undertaking. It is a fact of life that those who have it need to learn to live with it, which is just what Richard Branson did.
Even in taking control and learning to manage dyslexia, Branson could have been dealt a potentially crippling setback in the world of business. This is where trades are made and large sums and money changes hands regularly. You get a number wrong, or switch a one with a zero by mistake, and you are talking about a mistake that could potentially cost billions. To think it didn’t affect Branson would be silly. Because of his reading difficulties, Branson dropped out of school at age sixteen. On his last day of school, his headmaster walked up to him and said, “You will either wind up in jail, or you will become a millionaire.” Those words ended up resonating deeply within young Branson as he walked away that day, and both predictions would prove to come true sooner than later.
Branson’s Early Career
The first thing Branson did when he left school was focus on making income. He realized that he thought differently from everyone around him, and was trying to utilize that way of thinking to best benefit him. He did this by slowly turning the student magazine (ironically called The Student) he had been working on at school, into a national magazine. He then furthered its popularity by selling music within the magazine – and selling that music cheaper than his counterparts. This got him an audience quickly and The Student took off dramatically enough to make other music makers and distributors in England take serious notice.
Richard Branson quickly branded the company Virgin on the suggestion from a friend because he knew so little about actual business. They were virgins to the business world, and they thought that name would sum that up perfectly, as well as evoke the ideas of innocence and sexuality, which would bring Virgin some attention from the press as well. He decided to make Virgin a brand that would eventually do everything, but he focused first on music.
The music thing was going well for him, so he opened a London based record shop. Although the shop did well financially, it quickly caught heat for distributing what was considered “export stock” and not paying the domestic taxes. Branson was arrested for this and spent a night in jail. This led to a lawsuit that was paid by Branson’s mother (having to mortgage her home). Though upsetting, this did not derail Richard Branson from his path; it had quite the opposite effect. It showed Branson that others were taking notice of him and Virgin, and that was the boost he needed to aim even higher. Being arrested clearly did not scare Branson. Failure scared him but sine failure was never an option, no matter how difficult the road, he ventured into uncharted territory.
Becoming an Industry Idol
Take a look at Virgin Bank. The way he does business for the bank speaks for itself. Branson refuses to use bank and industry jargon and just speaks in a language all can easily understand. Virgin bank functions on a level simple enough that anyone can appreciate it, without having to wade through unintelligible bank-speak that most people do not understand. On top of that, he is a major driver of innovation in industry right now. From Virgin Fuels to Virgin Galactic, there is nothing the man hasn’t tackled, and tackled with passion and vigor. Even his approach to the smart phone market was a game changer- he got rid of the contracts, got rid of the hidden monthly fees, and has one, low rate that almost anyone can afford.
Branson thinks so far outside of the box that he’s emulated by many who wish to have even a fraction of his success. What other tycoon is willing to fly you into space for the right price? The truth is, it is very hard touch Virgin Galactic, and most people know that.
Branson’s Secret to Success
Overcoming the hurdle of dyslexia is still a challenge he faces every day and he factors this disability into his entire decision making process. He makes sure all the company mottos are read aloud to him, and easily understood by all. This simple procedure insures that Virgin is delivering an excellent quality product to customers. Virgin’s operating philosophy is: Do not talk down to customers, speak in a language all can understand, and provide a service people would not be able to get elsewhere for a fair price. The reality is, Virgin Enterprises succeeds because the man who runs it built it from the ground up and truly believes in letting no obstacle stand in his way.