How to win at life

GQ have put together a rather interesting book called: How to Win at Life - The Expert Guide to Excelling at Everything You Do. It’s a handbook for young people to give them advice, insight and skills to cope with the modern world – and it features some business tips from yours truly, so naturally I thought I would share an extract with you. Here are some of the tips I shared to help make sure your next business venture flourishes…

1: Frustrations are a great source of business ideas

“I hated flying on other people’s airlines,” says Branson. “The experience was a miserable one, there was no entertainment, the food was dreadful, the staff generally didn’t smile, they were old planes. So, out of sheer frustration, I thought, ‘Let’s get a secondhand 747 and give it a go’, and Virgin Atlantic was born. With Virgin Records, it was out of frustration at not being able to get a record deal for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. “I knew it was a great, beautiful sounding record, but nobody would sign it. So I said: ‘Screw that, let’s start our own record company.’”

2: Your product must be better than your competitors’

“We’ve had a number of things that haven’t worked out – obviously Virgin Cola was the biggest one. But we had a lot of fun doing it and it didn’t do us any harm: if you take on the big guys and fail, people respect you for it. The principal thing I learned from it was we weren’t different enough. We had a fun brand but we were just a can of cola. Ever since then we’ve never launched anything unless we feel that we are head and shoulders above the competition.”

3: Embrace flexible working

“You’ve got to get a fantastic team around you and, in my opinion, treat them like you would your family. In Virgin Group headquarters, people can take as much holiday as they want and it’s paid. If people want to work from home, they can work from home. I’ve always worked from either a houseboat or an island – I’ve never worked from an office, and I’m sitting here now in a hammock looking over the sea and running a small empire with 90,000 people. Working from a pleasant environment, you can get more done and have more time to think.”

4: Carry a notebook

“I’m a bit religious about it. If I’m on a Virgin plane, I will get out there, talk to the staff, talk to the customers, and it’s that feedback that ends up making a company exceptional. If you don’t write things down, you don’t get them sorted. If I’m in a meeting with people and they’re not taking notes, I may not show it but I get slightly frustrated. A lot of people feel that taking notes is beneath them, that it’s somehow not something that chief execs at companies do. But I think they’re mistaken.”

5: Delegate, delegate, delegate

Rather than getting bogged down in the day-to-day, you need to be free to look at the big picture (though be prepared to get involved when there’s a problem). “I’ve told a lot of

entrepreneurs: once you’ve got the company up and running, replace yourself in the office and move out of the office. Let that person run the company. And then, because you’re not there, you’re not going to offend anybody if someone turns up wanting to see you and take up your time. If you’re a real entrepreneur, you’ll be moving on to the next entrepreneurial excitement.”

The book also features interviews from experts from all walks of life – including my good friend Jamie Oliver, diver Tom Daley and artist Tracey Emin. You can pick up your copy on the shelves now. 

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