Answering entrepreneurs’ business questions

I love checking in on Virgin.com and learning more about what’s going on in the worlds of Virgin, entrepreneurship and Virgin Unite. One article that recently caught my attention was a piece titled: What would you ask Richard Branson?

I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful entrepreneurs in the video above and discovering more about their fantastic innovations, which we have helped to fund through Virgin StartUp. To give them a little extra leg up, I have answered their questions below. Have a read – there’s some advice in there for all entrepreneurs looking build a business. 

What’s your advice for giving your Kickstarter campaign a last push to get across the line?

I’ve always been a fan of a good PR campaign to get your product or service in front of people. So my advice is to do something out of the box: film it, take photos of it, and make sure you put yourself front and centre, then talk about it on social media. Passion is contagious – it rubs off on everyone around you and attracts enthusiastic people into your orbit. A piece of content that captures your passion will help give you that final push you need to turn your idea into a reality.

We have six children between us, and are currently looking to expand into the US… Would you take this risk?

So long as you’ve done your market research and have a strategy in place, then absolutely! When you get an opportunity, you've got to go for it wholeheartedly, not wait in the wings for some imaginary perfect time to materialise. There’s no time like the present, no better day than today, or no righter time than right now. Go on and seize the moment – opportunity favours the bold.

Should entrepreneurs looking to do good start straight away, or wait till they are more established?

Social responsibility should be embedded in businesses right from the very beginning. Having a strong purpose will not only keep your head in the game, it will also make your brand stronger and attract socially-conscious consumers. Customers relate to brands and the values they stands for more than the tangible aspects of a product. Start off doing what you can, and as your business grows so too can your impact. The whole world benefits when businesses put purpose on par with profit.

Richard Branson high five children in South Africa with Virgin Unite

How can you translate PR into actual sales?

It is extremely difficult to measure the impact of positive PR accurately, but the success of brands with the best PR should be all the proof you need that getting your message out there in the right way to the right people works. All I know is that over 50 years we have put PR at the heart of our business strategy – and we’ve fared quite well. I’ve done some weird and wonderful things in the name of a good campaign, and something must have worked, because we wouldn’t have been where we are today if it didn’t. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, no one will ever hear about it or use it if you don’t promote it. And in today’s internet age, you don’t even need to do something grand to catch people’s attentions – just something different.

How does a business based around people scale up?

Investing in the people you’re working with and trusting them with responsibility is a key ingredient to building a successful business with scale. I learnt this from a very young age. There is little point recruiting great people if you don’t then give them the autonomy to take their role and run with it. It also frees you up as the founder to focus less on the day-to-day activities and more on the over-arching objectives laid out in your 10 year roadmap. Over my 40 years in business I have assembled a fantastic team to run the Virgin Group’s day-to-day activities and this has freed me up to look at the bigger picture and towards where we should take the brand next. 

Virgin StartUp ambassadors and Richard Branson

I’m going to start answering more of your questions for my regular NYT Syndicate column. If you could ask me one business-related question, what would it be? Send in your questions to social.media@virgin.com with the subject line Ask Richard.

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