Richard Branson Book Summary, by JR MacGregor

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Virgin Secrets

Richard Branson is a great entrepreneur who has created many successful businesses. His success can be attributed to 10 secrets that he follows, which are:

One: Pick on a Big Guy

Don’t be afraid to enter a market where there are big, powerful well-capitalized and deeply entrenched competitors. Richard Branson is good at this because he’s creative and nimble enough to outsmart them. His approach is simple: * Be a crusader — Offer the consumer more for the money.

  • Be rebellious — Don’t respect authority and make sure people know you don’t.

  • People are more likely to support the underdog. So, be one and fight for what you believe in. It can be a challenge, but it’s also very motivating. You need to know your opponent and understand how much effort will be required to win this battle. Once you’ve made up your mind about fighting, go all out and hit them hard where it hurts most.

Two: Be a Nonconformist

Richard Branson was a child of the flower power movement. He has been a part of many movements and is excellent at adapting to new situations and people. His key principles seem to be:

  • Money is not everything. In fact, it’s probably not the most important thing. So pay your employees with something other than money. Also, don’t make a big deal about how much you have or what you’re going to do with it.

  • When everyone else is formal, be casual. Stand out from the crowd and show confidence by being willing to flout the dress code.

  • People are important. Virgin’s people are Branson’s first priority. He treats his staff as though the company were a family, dividing money equally among employees when they won a libel case and making every effort to avoid layoffs. Make work fun by looking at things and asking how you can improve them, which is what Branson does in his business endeavors.

Three: Negotiate Everything, Every Way

Richard Branson is a good guy and a friend of the author, but he’s also a tricky negotiator. He gets every penny possible out of deals that he makes with people. The reason for this is because Richard Branson doesn’t leave any money on the table and takes most of his partners’ profits as well. His secrets:

  • Be charming — It makes people feel comfortable and then you can persuade them. *

Break the code — When someone says no, it means they’re still thinking about it.

  • When you’re negotiating, be gentle but threaten to hit hard. Also, hire the best professionals and unleash them when needed. Don’t just protect your downside; make it bigger so that there’s more upside for everyone involved.

Four: Have Fun and Make Sure Others Do — It Pays

A corollary of the negotiating principle that says to be charming and put people at ease is the employment principle of making the workplace fun. Branson doesn’t have to pay his employees as much because they like working for him and having a good time in their jobs. He didn’t make his fortune with technology or by inventing something new; he thrived in areas where big companies already had a hold on things, but he made it work anyway by inspiring people to do better than they thought possible. How did he accomplish this?

  • To make work fun, use humor. Be mischievous and push important people into swimming pools.

  • If you want to empower your people, give them more authority and trust them. If they have a chance to do their best work, they’ll be better than any other boss for the company. They’ll demand less pay because they’re happy doing what they love instead of being miserable in an unsatisfying job. Also, keep your business small so that it can grow from within with motivated employees who want to advance in the organization.

  • The author suggests that business leaders should build enthusiasm and create a sense of freshness and innovation.

Five: Baby your Brand

Virgin is a brand that has transcended its original meaning of an airline to include many other products and services. Richard Branson says Virgin’s integrity means its brand can be used for any product or service imaginable. Among the lessons he shares are:

  • If you have a brand, it’s easier to enter new markets.

  • Brands are not products. They’re more like a family of products, and they have to be managed that way. Branson learned this from the Japanese, who use keiretsu organizations to manage their brands by putting them together with many different types of products under one brand name. Yamaha is an example of this because it makes pianos and motorcycles under the same brand name.

  • Reputation is the most important thing to a brand. A company’s reputation must be maintained with every product or service, and one incident can destroy it all. The essence of the Virgin brand promise includes excellent quality, innovation, value, challenging the status quo and fun.

  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules if you have a good idea. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and just do your own thing.

  • Keep your brand fun and light.

Six: There No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Richard Branson has taken every opportunity to promote his brand. He is the face of it and represents what Virgin stands for. Every time he appears in a newspaper or on TV, he promotes Virgin. This strategy is very effective but also risky because if something bad happens that involves him personally, it would damage the brand’s image. So far, that hasn’t happened because Branson’s sense of humor and fun have helped him avoid any scandals that might’ve damaged his reputation as an unconventional person with unique values who isn’t afraid to lose control sometimes and make mistakes along the way.

Richard Branson learned early that he could not afford a large advertising budget, so he had to rely on other ways of promoting his business. To get press coverage, instead of spending money on expensive New York advertising rates, Richard Branson would do things like making headlines by attempting to make the world’s fastest flight around the globe in a hot air balloon. It was said that Richard Branson decided to attempt this when it became clear Virgin Atlantic Airways couldn’t afford those expensive rates. But with Richard Branson doing publicity for them, they got plenty of great press coverage anyway.

  • Know what the media needs and then give it to them. If you provide news or entertainment, they will cover you. Make yourself a great story by being interesting and exciting.

  • If you think visually, it will make for a better photo. This is true because Richard Branson wears costumes that are eye-catching and gets more attention as a result.

  • If you want to get attention, make a dramatic entrance.

  • Being a philanthropist is important. It’s good to support causes and make sure you’re getting the most out of it in terms of publicity. You should know when and how to drop out of sight if you want to be successful, like Richard Branson who owns his own island. Having friends in the media will also help your cause.

Seven: Challenge Your People

Sir Richard Branson is a unique leader. He has created an empowering work environment that brings out the best in his employees. He gives them challenges, but not ones they can’t handle. However, most big companies prefer to let their strong-willed employees go because of this trait. But he doesn’t fire people; instead, he empowers them to be themselves and do what they need to do for the company—and it works! His secrets:

  • Richard Branson is a great leader because he knows how to delegate. He gives his people the freedom and opportunity to do their best work, and doesn’t micromanage them. He also creates an environment where visionaries can come up with ideas that are innovative and help him grow his business.

  • Don’t be a perfectionist. Creativity is sometimes messy, so don’t obsess over it. Appropriate others’ ideas and make them your own.

Eight: Make Speedy Decisions

Virgin is a company that doesn’t have much bureaucracy. This means the decision chains are short, which allows people to make decisions quickly and efficiently. The Virgin organization also makes mistakes sometimes because of this. Branson accepts mistakes as a part of life and believes you shouldn’t dwell on them for too long when making decisions.

Nine: Size Matters — Small is Better

Virgin has no bureaucracy and avoids hierarchy. However, big organizations need authority and hierarchy to function properly. Therefore, Virgin does not have the status of a big organization; instead it is David fighting against Goliath-like companies in every industry it enters. Branson’s philosophy: * He doesn’t buy companies; he grows them internally

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  • Startups should be run like startups. Keep things simple and don’t get bogged down with unnecessary bureaucracy.

  • Break your business into the smallest possible functional units. Have a small headquarters and encourage communication between departments.

Ten: Keep your Ear to the Ground

Richard Branson is a flamboyant man, but he’s also very approachable. He mingles with people from all walks of life and has the ability to connect with them. To be like him, you should:

  • Need Diversity in Your Relationships
Richard Branson Book Summary, by JR MacGregor
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