In this week’s instalment of entrepreneurial advice from Richard Branson, we hear why risk can be a positive force in business...
"Most people spend more time working than on any other activity. If you don’t enjoy your work, that’s a lot of hours of your life that you’re wasting away," writes the Virgin Group founder in a recent column.
"And if the world is to continue to improve, then it needs more workers who love their jobs. These would be happy, healthy people, engaged in the work and ideas that matter to them most."
A question that’s often put to Branson is whether it’s smart of irresponsible for someone to quit their day job in order to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. For him, there’s one clear answer – providing you do things the right way.
Richard Branson Business is an Adventure Boston
"Just imagine, for a moment, a world full of people doing work that they love. It would be so different - and continue to be absolutely transformative. Loving your work tends to lead to more success, which, in turn, leads to more job creation. When you build a business, you’re creating something that has the room to grow, thrive and innovate. It’s no coincidence that entrepreneurship is such a positive force in the world, since entrepreneurs are people working for themselves, doing what they love.
"So, if you consider whether starting your own business is a responsible decision, I think you know my answer: You should pursue your dreams. You must be sure to protect the downside, as I’ve often advised. Consider the difficulties and costs, and address them one by one. Create a simple list: each difficulty, paired with a specific strategy to overcome it. Once you’ve done this, the various factors and their individual components will seem more manageable.
"Then make another list of all the growth opportunities for your quinoa business, and be sure to spend as much time on this positive, future-facing task as you did on the risk-management list you just completed. After all, this is supposed to be fun!"
Drawing on his own experiences, Branson is able to demonstrate how this attitude towards business can reap rewards, as he gives the example of how Virgin Mobile Chile came to pass.
"When we first thought about the opportunity to create a mobile business, we had all sorts of difficulties to overcome. The main obstacle was infrastructure: We certainly couldn’t compete with the industry giants who already had networks in place. And they were more likely to see us as a threat to their market share rather than as a partner they could work with to create something fresh and new. What’s more, we had little expertise in the sector, and our team was juggling lots of other businesses already.
"But rather than worry about the negatives, I focused on the upside. The mobile market was one of the fastest-growing on the planet, yet customers were being well and truly ripped off. The industry was ripe for disruption, and I believed that Virgin was the brand that could do it. We could see opportunities to partner with another company to create a new business model. And I knew I could find people better than myself, with relevant experience and a hunger to create something new, who could run the day-to-day business.
"We were rejected by every potential network provider until One 2 One said yes. We launched a pay-as-you-go service, creating the world’s first mobile virtual network operator. It was a truly unique mobile company, and our model is still being used around the world."
As an entrepreneur you need to be able to embrace risk and seek out the positives from situations where others might only see negative. For Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, this has been the key to success.
"While we see opportunities where others might see insurmountable obstacles, we don’t discount the risks; we embrace them and face difficulties head-on. Put simply, we reach for the stars, but keep our feet on the ground," concludes Branson.