The Virgin Group founder gives his view on entrepreneurial education and why college or university is, in his opinion, probably not the smartest option...
"We live in an age in which too much emphasis is placed on colleges and universities. This is unfortunate. The harsh truth is that more and more students are racking up debt every year to get a certificate that doesn’t guarantee a career," explains Richard Branson in a recent blog post.
"I’m proof that entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need higher-education degrees. I didn’t even finish school, let alone go to a university. Suffering from dyslexia, I couldn’t keep up in class, and I didn’t fit in. So my parents agreed to let me leave school on one condition: that I would do everything I could to turn my ideas into reality. In the end, focusing on what I was passionate about (rather than forcing things that weren’t right for me) opened my eyes and my world."
While Richard argues that he himself is living proof that entrepreneurs don’t need an expensive education to succeed, he’s also quick to point out that he’s far from alone. With some of the world’s most successful business leaders treading a similar path.
"Iconic change-makers like Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell didn’t earn business degrees. And you don’t need one, either. What do you need instead? Personality, passion and purpose.
"The first thing I look for when hiring CEOs at our Virgin businesses is personality. Most people get hung up on qualifications, but I only look at those after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and nothing but the best grades, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she or he is the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad experience and a winning character."
So if you haven’t got a wealth of academic knowledge to fall back on when starting out in business, what shoul fledgling entrepreneurs be focusing on? Richard argues that at this stage, passion is key.
"When starting out, people won’t immediately expect you to be a commanding leader. But convey a sense of passion for what you’re doing, and they’ll be hooked. Unlike a university degree, passion is contagious. It rubs off on everyone and pulls enthusiastic people into your orbit. Let your passion speak for itself and let it influence your actions.
"We all have the ability to start something simple and grow it into something great if there is a clear purpose behind our actions. It’s always been my objective to create businesses with a defined purpose beyond just making money.
"Don’t let outdated beliefs stop you from achieving your dreams. The entrepreneurs who build great companies are often those who are willing to be scared; but not scared off."