like_a_virginI was recently nominated and sponsored by my company to attend a leadership program to empower me with tools I might need on my new journey. On the introduction day of the course we were all handed a “pack”; in this pack was the first days material for the course, and this book of Richard Branson, Like A Virgin: Secrets they wont teach you at Business School.

We went through the different aspects of the course, and what was expected of us. For the last part, we all had to read this book, and write a review! It was very exciting, and I immediately decided, I’m not going to let this stand over until last day, and I am going to read this, make notes & write the review. Do it properly, like the rest of the “educated” people of this world would expect you to do. Well, that theory did not hold up for long. As I got deeper into the book, and progressed on this course, I actually noticed my shift in opinions and my “conventional” approach to matters in the business world.

I had an idea of who Richard Branson was at the time, and what he does. I have always liked the Virgin funkiness, and the vibe you get from their stores and outlets across the globe; outside the norm, opposite to what you would expect from your traditional health club or cell phone store, but yet professional and efficient at the same time. Almost like they got the formula exactly right for having fun at work.

The man himself

Born in London on the 18th of July, 1950, the British entrepreneur released the first issue of The Student on January 26, 1966, at the age of just 16. This magazine was Branson’s first successful business venture. Diagnosed with dyslexia, it was difficult for him to perform in the conventional education system as a student, but soon discovered his ability to connect with others.

24 Oxford Street, London, 1971 with Richard behind the till, he sold his first record in his Virgin Record Shop. Only one year later Virgin Records was launched, and signed contracts with artists like Roy Orbison, Devo, Genesis, Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson and The Smashing Pumpkins. It was later sold in 1992 as EMI.

In 1984 he reached for the skies, and started Virgin Atlantic Airways. It started of with a single route from Gatwick to Newark, by 2010 the airline carried 5.3 million passengers, which made it the eighth largest UK airline at the time. The Virgin Group just kept on growing in all sorts of directions, and consists today of more than 400 companies.

Richard’s passion for life and his hunger for adventure drove him to several world record-breaking attempts. He first tried in 1985 the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing, which failed, but managed to beat the record the following year with the “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II” by 2 hours. In 1987 he crossed the Atlantic with the “Virgin Atlantic Flyer” his hot air balloon. He has made several attempts to date breaking records in all sorts of ways. In March 2004 he set the record for crossing the English Channel, from Dover to Calais in 1 hour 40 minutes and 6 seconds in his amphibious vehicle called Gibbs Aquada.

Like A Virgin

Richard Branson is not your typical corporate business figure. He has a very unusual take on business and that is very evident throughout this book. People and a positive attitude is a constant in the short chapters. By maintaining a healthy and transparent relationship with all the staff in your company, the Virgin group has a framework that cultivates customer satisfaction and employee curiosity that inspires both employee and customer loyalty. A mutual investment. He believes in investing in his people, and they will invest in the company. Empowering your people and showing appreciation is a way of life at Virgin that encourages people and growth -sometimes the difference between success and failure.

It also becomes abundantly clear that without taking risks, you will not progress. One has to make mistakes, and not dwell on them -but learn and move on. “The brave may not live forever – but the cautious do not live at all” one of Richard’s own quotes. Taking risks, and learning from your mistakes is part of any entrepreneurs course of life; how you recover, adapt and change your direction is what sets you apart from the rest.

One has to stay focused and not lose site of your targets if you want to succeed in this world. Richard shares his experience of the past 40 years on starting up ventures in all sorts of areas in the business world. No fear for taking on the Goliath’s he shares the advantages small businesses and entrepreneurs has over the big sluggish giant corporates out there. Money is not the only thing that matters, you need to love what you do and do what you love!

Whether you are looking for investors, partnering with friends or wondering about office romances, Richard shares it all in this secret guide (things “they” don’t teach you at business school). At the core of all the Virgin businesses, there is a very fresh and attractive element of fun that triggers curiosity amongst customers and keeps employees motivated. How were these foundations built? Is the customer always right? Is first impressions really as important as second impressions? How did the the risky name Virgin survive the 60’s? These are some of the questions Richard covers in his book, as well as questions from journalists, entrepreneurs, students and business owners from all over the world.

Throughout his career, Richard had the support of his family, friends and equally important mentors. In the busy life of a successful entrepreneur one has to seek out and find the balance between life and success to be able to flourish. In this entrepreneurs guide to the galaxy, you will find the answers to many mysteries not taught at business school, and where to find this balance.