Richard Branson: How to juggle multiple businesses

Richard Branson in front of a Virgin Atlantic plane in the 1990s
Image from Virgin Atlantic
Alice Nash playing a black and white piano that says play me
by Alice Nash
24 July 2014

In a blog Richard Branson spoke about the challenges of building a business empire. With more than 40 companies under the Virgin brand, it’s suffice to say that the Group’s Founder knows a thing or two about what to consider when juggling a number of businesses. Here are some of his top tips. 

Start off with just one business

Going into business can be a daunting and demanding experience, so it’s important not to overload yourself with extra stress.

“When you launch your first enterprise, you have to learn so much on the job, and so quickly, that concentrating on one project with a clearly defined purpose is almost invariably the best approach.”

Focus your time and energy on one business, learn the ropes, then expand – you’ll thank yourself later.  

Pick your projects

“You need to learn when to go forward and when to say no, which can be difficult -- especially if you prefer to say yes, like I do!”

The Virgin Founder reminisced about how the now defunct Virgin Films almost derailed the Virgin Group. Launched the same year as Virgin Atlantic the project proved too risky to dedicate time and money to when the Group was trying to get Virgin Atlantic off the ground. In the words Kenny Rogers: "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away…”

Richard Branson signing artwork used for Virgin Records
Image by Virgin.com

Be forward thinking

Had Richard Branson not been looking ahead, Virgin would never have happened.

While running his first venture, Student magazine, he saw a gap in the market for mail order records. This developed into Virgin Records – an innovative product that disrupted the music industry – kicked off the Virgin brand to become what it is today. 

“It’s important for entrepreneurs to always consider their options and look to the future.” 

Hire talented people

Richard Branson is very vocal in his belief that when it comes to success in business it’s all about people.

“When you’re getting ready to juggle multiple businesses, you should be sure that you have enough hands to catch every ball.”

Surround yourself with talented people that support your vision; and at the same time keep your ears and eyes open to their opinions, particularly when entering into foreign markets.  

Choose your partnerships 

Once a business grows and a brand gains reputability the offers start to come in from all directions.

But just because they are there and enticing, doesn’t always make them a good fit for your brand. “If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s best to say no, whatever the financial implications -- both your reputation and bank balance will benefit in the long run.”

Know your vision and brand, and choose who you associate with wisely.