Richard Branson: take risks, don’t avoid them

For today’s weekly instalment of entrepreneurial advice Richard Branson explains his philosophy towards taking risks. Fear of failure, he argues, isn’t something that entrepreneurs should let get the better of them...

"Don’t let the fear of failure become an obstacle. Entrepreneurship in its very essence is all about taking risks. You can create your own luck by opening the door to change, progression and success. If every entrepreneur - including myself - feared failure, then few companies would ever have seen progress or success," writes the Virgin Group founder. "No one ever reached the stars from the comfort of their couch!"

Risk has been a constant throughout the history of the Virgin Group, from selling Virgin Records to ensure Virgin Atlantic was finically secure during some tough times, to the decision to found Virgin Galactic - fear of failure hasn’t meant that big decisions have been shied away from.

"In a world that’s faced with so many challenges, the easiest and most satisfying way to do well is to do good. Build the best product you can, and make sure it has long-term value to people and the planet," explains Branson.

"This way of thinking has been a recipe for success for us at Virgin for five decades. One of our latest ventures, in fact, takes our passion for purpose sky high. We recently invested in OneWeb with the aim to create the world’s largest constellation of satellites in order to bring connectivity and communications to billions of people who don't have access to the web. We have no doubt that such a purposeful goal can eventually lead to profit.

"Once your purpose is established, make sure that your idea is connected to the issues you’re most passionate about. This is what keeps entrepreneurs awake during the long hours, positive during the chaotic moments and determined throughout the challenges. What’s more, it is one of the strongest predictors of whether your idea will lead to success."

When it comes to committing to what might be viewed as a risky decision, some entrepreneurs will always try and find a reason not to do it. However according to Branson, factors such as securing funding – which may have once been viewed as a hurdle that’s difficult to overcome – are now less of a consideration for even fledgling entrepreneurs.

"Another major predictor of success is the character and quality of the idea itself. It doesn’t matter how new or unusual your idea is, if it does not fill a gap in the market and improve lives, then it is unlikely to be well received. Passion and purpose will do great things to keep these uncertainties at bay and help you focus on the job at hand.

"Lack of funds need not be a barrier, either. This is the age of entrepreneurship, and there are many options available. A number of start-up loan programs and crowdfunding platforms have sprouted up in countries and cities across the globe – there may be a number of people and organisations out there willing to support your business.

"And don’t just throw money at challenges. Identify exactly what you need to grow your company. Is it technology, engineering, infrastructure? Also, when the time comes, don’t just hire people for the sake of growing. Know your priorities, do your research, start small and think big."


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