Definitely worth a read, I felt very hyped as I was reading this book. I much prefer to a read a book written by someone with tonnes of experience rather than reading a multitude of theoretical mumbo jumbo. Richard Branson also has the benefit of multi-sector experience. Personally, the fondness with which he speaks of Africa is endearing, however, some of the awful scenes he described were experienced in a rich African country. I wonder what he would make of the really poor countries like my own dear Malawi. It would be totally radical if he visited. I was encouraged that he didn’t portray his business experiences as plain sailing and explicitly talked about the hard times. Personally, I am not all that interested in space travel so I skimmed over those pages rather rapidly and although I am pro-environment, that section got a little technical and I skipped a little.
Here are some of my favourite quotes. I won’t write every single one because that would pretty much have me typing the whole morning and that’s just not practical:
“Never mind Dragons’ Den: if you want to meet entrepreneurs, come to Africa.” True dat!
“business has to give people, rewarding lives, or it’s simply not worth doing”
“I’ve sat drinking with people who have abused their gifts – and others who have made absolutely the most of some pretty dubious talent.”
“I’d advise every owner of a company to keep a notebook and jot down the things that need doing.” I do this for every interesting thought that I have, if I don’t have notebook to hand I email myself a one liner and put the thought into my notebook later!
“Success one day does not give you a free lunch every day thereafter.”
“You can spot negative people and stultifying institutions a mile off. Have the courage of your convictions, and ignore them.”
“If I was a happening band on the cusp of success today, I wouldn’t go through a conventional record company. I’d...release it myself.” I would say the same of books. Publishers and record companies eat most of your profit AND you lose control over the final product – they probably mean well but there’s a lot to be said for autonomy in artistic output.
“One business mantra remains embedded in my brain – protect the downside.” So many ignore this one rule. When the London riots happened a couple of weeks ago in August 2011, so many shopkeepers were revealed to be uninsured. Insurance isn’t all that expensive. This also applies to hedging liabilities with simple derivatives like interest rate caps and swaps. People often forget that choosing not to hedge is a hedging decision in itself. Think about it.
“You’ll need stamina and patience to deliver well – especially when everybody is out to kill you.”
There was plenty of good stuff about keeping on the right side of the law which is something my dad always tells me. I also laughed at the business idea that Virgin received of three-legged women’s tights, one that you tuck away and use when you get a ladder. Virgin turned that idea away but you know what – I would buy those!!
His definition of success is the best I have seen yet and it will totally help me to explain a little venture I am working on. He said for him money and celebrity are a poor guide to success. "Success for me is whether you have created something you can be proud of" he surmised - this is the perfect definition, some friends have questioned the point of the project I am working on because they can't see how I will make money from it and I haven't been able to answer their queries to my satisfaction. I say it's not about the money, because it isn't, however, I would be happy if I did make some money doing it because that would be one gauge of success. That said, ultimately it is something I will be proud to have done and that's what matters. Importantly, I cannot expect someone else to visualize my visions. It's best to just execute.
Finally, he reminded me that “in business, as in life, you can’t afford to be afraid of doing the wrong thing.” If you’ve got an idea, go for it.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
Time allowing, I love to read. If I read anything interesting, I will blog about it here.