Searching for success? Take 5 tips from Richard Branson

Written by Professional Academy Management & Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that I’ve read Richard Branson’s autobiography (Losing My Virginity) more than once. It’s a real motivational read. His broad professional portfolio and enthusiasm to rise to a challenge (and usually nail it) makes him one of the most unique and significant entrepreneurs of our time.

If you think the world of Richard Branson is too far removed from your own world – think again. I’ve extracted some of the best bits from his approach that you can use in your own life to help achieve your own version of success.

1) Carry a notebook

Branson’s secret weapon is carrying an old-fashioned notebook with him everywhere he goes. If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room. Branson prefers putting pen to paper rather than finger to keyboard because a sheet of paper doesn't have tempting distractions to divert his attention.

Writing things down acts as a prompt to drive change. When Branson took a Virgin America flight out of Las Vegas on a hot day he made a note of how both he and other customers had no desire to use the routine hot towel that they had been given on the flight. When he was back in the office he read his observations to his team and got the hot towels changed to cold ones. Simple.

2) Have fun

The driving factor behind all of Branson’s business pursuits has been his desire to enjoy himself. ‘A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts,’ he says. 

Branson believes that you won’t be truly successful unless you enjoy what you’re doing and allow time for fun. When he no longer enjoys a project, it’s time to move on from it.

So are you having fun at work right now? If the answer is no then it’s time to re-evaluate. Ask yourself where you can add some fun back in. Maybe it’s getting involved in a new project that gets your creative juices flowing. Or simply taking a new colleague out to lunch.

3) Persevere

Branson’s journey to success hasn’t always been a smooth one. In his autobiography (Losing My Virginity) he talks in detail about the legal case he brought against British Airways that threatened to put Virgin Atlantic out of business. He also talks about the early days, where he struggled to get his school magazine Student off the ground. He describes standing in a phone box ringing up hundreds of companies trying to persuade them to advertise in his magazine so that he could raise vital funds.

In these scenarios, instead of giving up, he persevered and chose to learn from his mistakes to guide him later in life. If he’d not been so determined would Virgin exist today?

4) Be visible

What good is a leader who is stuck behind a desk? You can’t lead from an office. Branson makes it his business to get out and visit his employees, as well as his customers.

His philosophy is to run large businesses in the same way as a small one – by being responsive and friendly. This is a successful philosophy to have, because both his staff and customers are left feeling appreciated and happy. Happy people equals loyalty, hard work and ultimately profit. This is impossible to achieve if your only contact with your employees is through the occasional company newsletter or the annual Christmas party.

5) Listen

Listening makes you smarter. It’s a simple statement, but one that is all too often overlooked. Nobody ever learned anything from listening to themselves speak. The only way we can grow is by learning new things from other people.

Listening does take some effort. You need to make sure the conditions are right. Branson is a big advocate of switching off all his devices, finding a comfortable spot and grabbing his notebook and a cup of tea.

Many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees.  This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes and increased sharing of information.

If you need further advice, contact me by my website or by Linkedin.

Professional Academy offer a range of Management & Leadership Training as both bespoke in-company training with the option of accredited CMI qualification pathways and management & leadership qualifications for individuals looking to progress in their management career. Why not contact us today to see if we can help you with your personal development as a manager and a leader?