Business: How to reach the heights with Branson
We all know Richard Branson: madcap adventurer, self-publicist, self-styled underdog. People are intrigued by him.
The Virgin brand has been glued to everything from aircraft to banks, records to gyms. And not forgetting suborbital spacecraft. In fact, there are now 400 Virgin brands operating in 34 countries.
Branson's Twitter account has a remarkable 2.8 million followers. He noted last week that it was the 45th anniversary of his first ever venture – 'Student' magazine.
He has always reached for the stars. He's made a massive amount of money getting there and those who follow in his footsteps as entrepreneurs are often eager to know just what makes him tick.
So the cheery Branson distilled his thoughts – and distilled being the word here – into a book that promises to teach you the "secrets they won't teach you at business school". And it probably doesn't teach an awful lot readers might learn at business school either.
Each short chapter resembles a sort of pep-talk, with liberal mentions along the way of Virgin Atlantic and how it took on British Airways. The topics range from whether you should allow office romances to blossom to choosing an investor.
This is 'business school lite', and while there are many interesting nuggets, the appeal will be greater to those who are really just branching out and may never have read a business book in their lives.
"The four Ps – people, product, price and promotion – are often cited as the keys to a successful business," Branson tells us early on in his book. "Yet this list omits a vital ingredient that has characterised Virgin companies throughout our 40 years: Fun, with a capital F!"
And so the tone, by and large, is set.
But this book is a casual insight into how Virgin and Branson do business – not necessarily a guide to building your own. The 'secrets' are largely common sense for customer-focused businesses – treat your customers well and they'll continue to give you their money. And despite all the brands Virgin has on the go, Branson insists there's a sound strategy.
"Contrary to appearances, Virgin is highly focused: our customers and investors relate to use more as an idea or philosophy than as a company," he says.
"It's all about the Virgin experience and the ongoing challenge is to make sure that this experience is consistent with its expectation levels across all sectors. It's all about the brand." And Branson is as much of one as Virgin.
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