Richard Branson: How to delegate when launching a business

As an entrepreneur, one of the key things you have to learn to do is delegate. If you struggle with this, check out Richard Branson’s advice…

In a recent blog, the Virgin Founder says that his secret to success is people, like Virgin’s first accountant Jack Clayden, “because they had skills that I did not. In some areas they knew better than I did how to make my vision a reality.”

“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate,” Richard says. “When my friends and I started up Virgin, I knew that I was lacking vital knowledge on some subjects, and so I started learning this skill very early on in my career.”

When launching a business, most entrepreneurs will find that they face a similar problem: working out how to juggle their commitments and still have time to think about the bigger picture. This is common for founders as the early days really are about survival.

“After launch, so much of your energy goes to keeping the business afloat as you resolve the unexpected issues connected to developing your product or service,” Richard says. “But you must be able to move on from that role, or the business will not grow and thrive in the long run.”

When you are ready to move on from that role, he has some great advice about what to look for in the first people you hire…

When you are ready to make your first hires look for people: who understand your passion; want to add to your ideas; and can envision ways to make improvements. Keep in mind that you do not want yes-men or clones: you want people on board who have strong views on how to scale up the business over the long term, along with the skills and presence of mind to push the company forward in the short term and the ability to manage crucial day-to-day tasks.

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Delegating to these people will free you to plan for the future and find new ways to develop your company – but delegating is not an easy skill to master. Five decades after Virgin’s launch, I’m still learning. In fact, when I get really enthusiastic about one of our new products or companies, our Virgin CEOs probably wish I was a little less hands-on sometimes!

The key is to find the right balance. While you absolutely must delegate, if you become too disconnected from your business, it can quickly spiral in a direction you never wanted. But if you hire incredible people to lead your companies, your departments and your teams, you can have the best of both worlds.


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