15 Secrets for Success From Virgin Founder Richard Branson

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William Murphy / Flickr.com

Richard Branson is one of the most recognizable and accomplished entrepreneurs in the world. The Virgin Group founder has managed multiple companies and built a fortune of $5 billion, according to Forbes. What’s even more remarkable is that the 66-year-old magnate was a high school dropout.

Although there is no one secret to business success, following the strategies of the world’s most successful people can help you get ahead. Here are 15 of the best Richard Branson tips to build a great business and life.

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1. Dare to Be Brave

In his book, “Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School,” Richard Branson wrote, “The brave may not live forever — But the cautious do not live at all.”

It takes bravery to reach for your dreams, as doing so involves a certain degree of risk. However, Branson reminds entrepreneurs that a bumpy journey is worthwhile if you’re headed to a desirable destination. He suggests that aspiring business professionals demonstrate courage in pursuit of their goals.

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2. Be an Individual

The Virgin Group founder wrote on his blog, “No two successful entrepreneurs are the same. In fact, it’s their individuality and different ways of thinking that make them successful.”

Study the habits of billionaires like Branson, and you’ll quickly see that these successful people approach business and problem solving in numerous ways — never afraid to go against the grain. Still, you can learn from the traits of those who came before.

Branson says that successful entrepreneurs take deliberate risks, learn from their missteps, see the big picture, know when to delegate and communicate well with those around them.

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3. Be Punctual

If you’ve seen the occasional photo of Branson jumping out of a car or running to get to his next appointment, it’s probably because the billionaire hates being late. He think it’s rude and disrespectful, no matter your station in life.

As Branson wrote on his blog, “Whether it is a meeting, a flight, an appointment or a date, it’s important to ensure you are there when you say you will be there. This may feel like an old-fashioned tip to give, but it has served me well for five decades in business. All you have in business is your reputation — so it’s very important that you keep your word.”

Show up to meetings on time and show your co-workers and clients they can trust you with matters both small and large.

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4. Be a Hustler

Top business leaders know that few things in life come free. Whether you want to start your own company or take your business to the next level, it’s important not to rely on handouts. Instead of sitting idly by waiting for their big breaks, savvy entrepreneurs are proactive and seize opportunities.

In his book “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way,” Branson said, “To be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running.”

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5. Don’t Try to Be Something You’re Not

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your beliefs and lose who you are to achieve success in life.

Said Branson, “To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”

After all, it doesn’t matter how successful you are in business if you don’t have the life that you want. By focusing on your goals and staying true to your core beliefs, you can accomplish what you desire without losing yourself along the way.

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6. Don’t Fall Victim to ‘Necessary Evils’

As an aspiring entrepreneur, you might assume that succeeding in business means doing things you’re not proud of on occasion. However, Branson doesn’t believe in necessary evils.

“Most ‘necessary evils’ are far more evil than necessary,” said Branson in his book, “Losing My Virginity.”

While an action might seem to benefit your business in the short term, in the long run it could affect your company’s reputation and your relationships with peers and customers. For best results, think long term and avoid doing something today that you’ll be ashamed of tomorrow.

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7. Dream Big

Achieving greatness means focusing on change and innovation. To that end, Branson encourages entrepreneurs to follow their dreams, no matter how crazy they might seem to others.

Branson wrote in his blog, “Don’t be self-conscious about dreaming, or about people thinking you’re too idealistic and not serious enough. Don’t allow your self talk to be judgmental. Look at the world with wide-eyed enthusiasm, believe you are more powerful than the problems that confront you and dream big.”

Naysayers might criticize you for dreaming large, but you’ll be the one laughing when your dreams become realities.

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8. Give Back

It can be difficult to sustain success if your sole concern is cash.

Said Branson in a Virgin.com article, “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit.”

Think about how you and your company can make a difference in the lives of customers and co-workers. You don’t have to be worth billions to give back, either. A simple act of kindness can boost your reputation while bringing rewards beyond the financial.

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9. Be a Good Listener

You can’t be a good problem solver without being a good listener.

Said Branson, “To launch a business means successfully solving problems. Solving problems means listening.”

A recent Harvard Business Review study confirms that listening well means being active in the conversation. In fact, the best listeners are those who ask follow-up questions that offer insight or promote discovery. Be curious and open-minded, and you might just find your next adventure.

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10. Be Willing to Fall

Learn from your failures, and you’ll gain the aptitude to succeed.

As Branson wrote in his book, “Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur,” “You learn by doing and by falling over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over.”

Branson and his colleagues were newcomers to the business world when they created Virgin — hence the name. They did things their way rather than following a rulebook. And like any new business, there were a few stumbles along the way. According to Branson, those mistakes helped the company grow into what it is today.

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11. Share the Spotlight

In the business world, achieving success often means finding individuals who are just as passionate as you about achieving your goals.

“I’ve never been the best person at doing every job,” Branson said in a blog post. “Finding the spotlight isn’t about standing in it. There’s so much to be gained from working with people who support each other to achieve great things.”

Don’t be afraid to share your vision with others or ask for help when you need it. The right people can help you achieve more than you would have alone.

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12. Learn to Say Yes

Branson’s staff gave him the nickname “Dr. Yes” for his openness to new ideas.

In his book, “Screw It, Let’s Do It,” he wrote, “If something is a good idea, my way is to say ‘Yes, I’ll consider it’ — and then to work out how to make it happen. Of course, I don’t say yes to everything. But what is worse: making the occasional mistake or having a closed mind and missing opportunities?”

Be an opportunist rather than a naysayer and boost your odds of bringing great ideas to fruition.

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13. Be Happy

Success means different things to different people. While some entrepreneurs focus only on building their fortunes, Branson recommends focusing on happiness as well.

“It’s a common misconception that money is every entrepreneur’s metric for success,” he wrote on his LinkedIn blog. “It’s not, and nor should it be.”

The real key to success is happiness. Rather than his monetary success bringing him happiness in life, Branson says that his happiness has enabled him to achieve great success and wealth.

Stop and ask yourself if you’re happy. If not, find that happiness.

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14. Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself could save you from career burnout, says Branson.

The Virgin Group entrepreneur wrote on his LinkedIn blog, “When I’m asked: ‘What’s the key to success in business?’ my answer can differ depending on the subject at hand — delegation, people, learning from failure, etc. — but when it comes down to it, the key is you. The simple fact is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of business.”

Branson exercises every day, no matter where he is or what he’s doing.

“A healthy body equals a healthy mind, and a healthy mind takes care of business,” he said.

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15. Find What Excites You

Business leaders often stress the need to achieve a positive work-life balance. However, for Branson, work and play don’t have to be at odds with each other.

He wrote on his LinkedIn blog, “If a new business opportunity or project doesn’t excite me, and if it’s not something with which I can have a lot of seriously creative fun, then I’d rather pass on it and move right along. Life’s too short to waste your time doing things that don’t light your fire.”

If you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, consider directing your attention and energy elsewhere.

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