Why you should never be afraid of being copied in business

It’s become a running joke in the office that we think Sir Richard Branson is copying us. It’s really odd. His blog posts and social media activities are often word for word identical to what we say and do in business.

While we build our social investment venture and save our village shop from an uncertain future, he shares his thoughts on business and purpose that appear to reflect our thinking and conversations. He gives the same advice we’ve been giving to start-up ventures and way too often he reveals vital parts of our business strategy!

It provides us with a fair amount of amusement that a billionaire known for his brilliant and bold ideas is getting his source of inspiration from a couple of social entrepreneurs in Cornwall. 

Of course this is just a figment of our extremely fertile imaginations combined with our silly sense of humour and the bucket loads of serendipity that shapes our work. It’s just a complete coincidence, and although it might appear that he is spying on us, his shared entrepreneurial insights often give us all the proof we need that we are on the right track - especially if we’re doubting ourselves in business.

My business partner and I aren’t the studious types. We are more the practical doers who act on our ideas and rely on our common sense and intuition to make things happen. Rather than spending time gaining qualifications, we tend to just do things and learn along the way.  

When we get a little stuck and need some inspiration we find it really helpful to ask fellow business people for their advice or listen to motivating people talk about their experience. It’s often all we’ve ever needed to solve our problems and make progress.

Read: What do your Future Visions look like?

It’s why we’ve given thousands of hours of our spare time to help local budding micro entrepreneurs get started - regardless of their age or qualifications. If they have a good idea and the drive to do it, we happily share our experience in free coaching sessions to help them get there faster.

Some of those people directly copied our ideas becoming our competitors, others have taken the knowledge and contacts we gave them and built very successful businesses. We often don’t hear from people for weeks at a time, unless you count them driving past in their company van, too busy to stop on the way to see a client.

To most business people this probably sounds like a fairly pointless way to spend our valuable time in the short term, especially as we have our own entrepreneurial ventures to run. You are probably asking yourself why do we do it then? At times we have wondered the same and all we ever went on was that it just felt like the right thing to do.

But something remarkable has happened. We are now surrounded by a growing tribe of enterprising people who have taken a leap forward knowing we are there to ask advice or if they need a confidence boost. Over time these people have repeatedly referred back to our methods and it’s inspired them to not let a lack of money, time, skills or knowledge hold them back from trying their best to achieve their ambitions. And many are now sharing their experience to help others too.

Our little village shop is a very special venture and unbelievably successful. It has tripled it’s turnover in nine months, achieved local and national publicity and has a lot of supporters across the world. Why? Because we’ve helped so many local people, been open and transparent with our business plans and turned adversity into success.

The people we coached for free have become great friends, lent us money (from their now profitable businesses) and helped us solve big problems by sharing their expertise and contacts. They also make fantastic products to sell in the shop! This genuine collaboration between entrepreneurial people and the community has become a tangible catalyst for change, providing solutions to social issues and adding to the vibrancy of the village.      

We’ve always found it difficult to explain what we have created here in Tywardreath. That’s why we are now hosting show and tell days for business people to learn from our experience and openly share the secrets of our success in the hope that it inspires more companies to value their community’s needs first.

We’re up for collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs and we don’t mind if anyone copies us because we know how effective our methods are and they have the potential to help more communities by bringing back life to the high streets all over the country - we’re already expanding our village shop and reopening another shop next door to meet the demand from our customers.

So, Sir Richard we’ve both read about each other’s entrepreneurial challenges with interest. If you want to share your experience with us, we would love to have a chat about how we can collaborate and create more opportunities.

Of course, if you really are spying on us... you’ll already know this!

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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