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Sir Richard Branson Defines Entrepreneurship

The Knight of Entrepreneurship

July 18th is the birthday of Richard Branson, a British businessman, billionaire, investor, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and knight. (Well, he was knighted at Buckingham Palace for his "services to entrepreneurship," but we're not totally confident we can actually call him a knight. Which might bode better for him, because chain mail seems awful for chafing.)

Defining Entrepreneurship As We Know It

Branson has dyslexia, and a history of poor academic performance. On his last day at school, his headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. Branson's parents were supportive of his endeavors early on.

He expressed his talent for entrepreneurship for a young age. At 16, he started his first venture: a magazine called Student. In 1970, Branson used the magazine to advertise popular albums, driving his record sales. He interviewed several prominent personalities of the late 1960s for the magazine including Mick Jagger and R. D. Laing.

His business sold records for considerably less than the "High Street" outlets. Branson once said, "There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration."Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London.

Earning enough money from his record store, Branson in 1972 launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell. The name "Virgin" was suggested by one of Branson's early employees because they were all new at business. Virgin took risks and signed controversial bands as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign. Virgin Records would go on to sign other artists including the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, XTC, Japan, UB40, Steve Winwood and Paula Abdul, and to become the world's largest independent record label. Branson's net worth was estimated at £5 million by 1979, and a year later, Virgin Records went international. He went on to start many more businesses, including Virgin Air and Virgin Galactica.

While you don't need to mess with Sex Pistols or send any machines to the moon, Richard does offer some practical advice for aspiring entrepreneurs at any stage and in any industry.

1. Make it Fun.

The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you consider great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

“An entrepreneur is an innovator, a job creator, a game-changer, a business leader, a disruptor, an adventurer.”

“The best advice I could give anyone is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life.”

"There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions - in a way that serves the world and you."

"As soon as something stops being fun, I think it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live."

“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”

“Entrepreneurial business favors the open mind. It favors people whose optimism drives them to prepare for many possible futures, pretty much purely for the joy of doing so.”

2. Make it Sustainable.

Entreprenuership is about taking control, reinventing the way you work, and forging your own path forward.

"Entrepreneurship is turning what excites you into capital so you can do more of it and move forward with it." -Richard Branson

“Entrepreneurship is a great leveler, The wonderful thing is that money is not the sole currency when it comes to starting a business; drive, determination, passion and hard work are all free and more valuable than a pot of cash.” 

“The lesson that I have learned and follow all my life is that we should try and try and try again – but never give up!.”

“Do good, have fun and the money will come.”

Happiness is the secret ingredient for successful businesses. If you have a happy company it will be invincible.” 

3. Make it Matter.

Entrepreneurship isn't just about making a dollar; it's about making a difference. It's about the impact you can make with the resources that you have created.

“Once a changemaker, always a changemaker but only a few swim against the tide.”

“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.”

"If you aren't making a difference in other people's lives, you shouldn't be in business - it's that simple.

“For a successful entrepreneur, it can mean extreme wealth. But with extreme wealth comes extreme responsibility. And the responsibility for me is to invest in creating new businesses, create jobs, employ people, and to put money aside to tackle issues where we can make a difference.” 

“Engage your emotions at work. Your instincts and emotions are there to help you.”

“The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

“My family brought me up to always look for the best in other people. I love people. Love spending time with people. I love learning from people.”

“Respect is how to treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.”

Richard has one more piece of advice for anyone still working to make their dreams happen: don't give up.

"There have been so many times in my career where my ideas were overlooked. Friends, family members, people I looked up to, and the banks – not everyone always saw the potential I saw. But that didn't deter me. Just because others don't believe in your ideas from the get-go doesn't mean that they are worthless. In my case, it drove me to want to succeed even more."

"Imagine where J.K. Rowling would be if she didn't keep persevering when others didn't recognize the greatness of her books," he said. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected 12 times and she was told not to quit her day job! Thomas Edison failed thousands of times to invent the lightbulb — if he'd given up, we'd all be in the dark."

"Nobody gets everything right first time, and it is how we learn from our mistakes that defines us. We all deserve a second chance."


Richard Branson. "At school I was dyslexic and a dunce.", The Times, London, 11 September 1998, pg. 19

Shavinina, Larisa V (December 2006). "Micro-social factors in the development of entrepreneurial giftedness: the case of Richard Branson". High Ability Studies. 17 (2).


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