On Richard Branson The Autobiography

I recently finished reading Losing My Virginity: Richard Branson – The Autobiography.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “There was a great sense of teamwork within our family. Whenever we were within Mum’s orbit we had to be busy. If we tried to escape by saying that we had something else to do, we were firmly told we were selfish. As a result we grew up with a clear priority of putting other people first.”

2- “Later, it became apparent to me that business could be a creative enterprise in itself. If you publish a magazine, you’re trying to create something that is original, that stands out from the crowd, that will last and, hopefully, serve some useful purpose. Above all, you want to create something you are proud of. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving; it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

3- “In the many different business worlds I have inhabited since that night in prison, there have been times when I could have succumbed to some form of bribe, or could have had my way by offering one. But ever since that night in Dover prison I have never been tempted to break my vow. My parents had always drummed into me that all you have in life is your reputation: you may be very rich, but if you lose your good name you’ll never be happy. Th( The thought will always lurk at the back of your mind that people don’t trust you. I had never really focused on what a good name truly meant before, but that night in prison made me understand.”

4- “It is always difficult to admit to a failure, but the one positive thing about the Event episode was that I realized how important it was to separate the various Virgin companies so that, if one failed, it would not threaten the rest of the Virgin Group. Event was a disaster, but it was a contained disaster. Every successful businessman has failed at some ventures. and most entrepreneurs who run their own companies have been declared bankrupt at least once. Rather than defaulting on our debts, we paid them up and shut down the magazine.”

5- “It was one of our early acquisitions, and it gave us first-hand experience of all the pain that comes with laying off staff in order to turn a company round. It also demonstrated the benefits of growing a company from scratch, when you employ exactly those people you want, and really f establish the kind of atmosphere you want.”

6- “In the same way that I tend to make up my mind about people within thirty seconds of meeting them, I also make up my mind about whether a business proposal excites me within about thirty seconds of looking at it. I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics. This might be because, due to my dyslexia, I distrust numbers, which I feel can be twisted to prove anything.”

7- “As well as the constrictions of having to report to nonexecutive directors and shareholders, one of my main i frustrations with being a public company quoted on the stock market was the short-term view which investors took. We were under pressure to produce instant results, and unless we paid out a large dividend our share price would suffer. Japanese investors do) not invest with the dividend payment in mind; they look almost exclusively for capital growth. And, given that it can take a long time for investments to pay off. Japanese share prices are very high in comparison i with the company’s earnings.”

8- “It sometimes seems to me that I have spent all my life trying to persuade bankers to extend their loans. Given that Virgin’s policy has always been to reinvest our surplus cash back into the business, our profit and loss accounts understate the underlying value of the businesses. This policy has worked over the long term. but whenever there is a crisis it disguises the real picture and means that the banks worry about our short-term profits and ability to pay our immediate interest.”

9- “Obstinate as I am, I recognized that there is a time to back down. ‘Live for the present -‘ I heard my parents’ old maxim in the back of my head ‘- and the future will look after itself.'”

10- “You just need to look at where Virgin is now to see that business is a fluid, changing substance. As far as I’m concerned, the company will never stand still. It has always been a mutating, indefinable thing and the past few years have demonstrated that.”

11- “My vision for Virgin has never been rigid and changes constantly, like the company itself. I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and it is that sequence of calls which propels me forward.”

12- “In some ways it all boils down to convention. As you might have noticed, I do not set much store by such so-called wisdom. Conventionally, you concentrate on what you are doing and never stray beyond fairly narrow boundaries when running a company. Not only lo I find that restrictive, I also think that it’s dangerous. If you only run record shops and refuse to embrace change, when something new like the Internet is launched you will lose your sales to the person who makes use of the new medium. It’s far better to set up your own Internet operation to which your record shops lose business than lose it to somebody else’s Internet operation.”


Omar Halabieh

Richard Branson


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