Success comes in many forms. For Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, the path to success was not the conventional one. He went on to build eight separate billion-dollar companies in eight different industries, but business school was difficult–especially because he suffered from an acute combination of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
He says, “Had I pursued my education long enough to learn all the conventional dos and don’ts of starting a business, I often wonder how different my life and career might have been.”
The success that Branson has experienced comes from the way he thinks and what he believes. Let’s look at some of his secrets, taken from his book Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School:
1. “You never know with these things when you’re trying something new what can happen. This is all experimental.” The first time for anything is always an enormous challenge, and there are no guarantees for success. But Branson has made a career of taking risks and daring to enter uncharted seas. He sets his goals and does not rest until he has left his mark.
2. “When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.” Branson believes if he had said, “Oh, I am a businessman,” he would never have gone into the airline business. His interest in life comes from setting challenges and rising to meet them.
3. “As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation.” Branson believes in bestowing trust. You don’t have to give up complete control, but you should allow people to feel that you trust them with the responsibility you have given them.
4. “Do not be embarrassed by your failures–learn from them and start again.”Branson believes that we learn more from our failures than our successes, and that only in understanding where you have failed can you have success in the future. Understanding where things have gone wrong is a sure-fire way to succeed the next time.
5. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Branson believes in ownership, and he understands that people will take much greater ownership of their jobs when they have more room to either succeed or fail.
6. “The best way to learn about anything is by doing.” Branson believes in investing in people so they learn how to do things well. Once you invest in them, they will most often repay that investment many times over with their hard work, loyalty, and admiration.
7. “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” Branson believes that his employees should never feel that they are just hired help collecting a paycheck. He wants people to come to work to contribute and to contribute passionately, and he knows it’s always important to have fun.
8. “Good people are not just crucial to a business. They are the business!” Branson believes that the real engine behind every business is its people. He looks at businesses as nothing more than a group of people, and he considers people far and away the biggest assets of any business.
No one can argue with Richard Branson’s great success–maybe the real secret is to create something that stands out and have fun doing it, to do something that will leave your mark, whatever it may be. It sounds like the most important things we need to learn don’t come from business school after all.