Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Way Rick Rolls

Rick started his first successful business at the age of 16.

He had few other choices, since he was finished with formal schooling at the age of 15. His poor academic performance compounded by dyslexia.

But, Rick discovered he could connect with others.

And while that skill set was of little use as far as test results and exams were concerned, his ability to connect has had a dramatic impact on other metrics such as revenues and profits.

With zero financial backing, he started by publishing his own magazine and selling records out of his car to London retailers, before entering the mail order business in 1970. Eventually, Rick opened his own shop and launched a record label, featuring a diverse mix of artists including Mike Oldfield, Culture Club and the Sex Pistols.

These turned out to be chart-toppers other "established" companies had been reluctant to sign.

It would not be the first time Rick would dare do things the "establishment" would frown upon.

He has since grown successful businesses that range from mobile phones, to transportation, travel, financial services, soft drinks, music, publishing and retailing. All told, there are more than 200 branded companies in his global organization, employing approximately 50,000 people, in 29 countries with revenues exceeding $20 billion dollars. Ironically, his goal was never to be the biggest or the most profitable. Rick likes being a disruptor; taking on industries that charge too much (music) or hold consumers hostage (cellular) or treat them badly and bore them to tears (airlines).

Along the way, he makes money.

In 2008, Forbes Magazine named Rick as the 236th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of approximately $2.4 billion American greenbacks.

He was knighted in 1999. He’s married with two grown children. Besides being an indisputable great businessman, he’s made several world record-breaking attempts. He has managed to set a few world records which include crossing the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada, 6,700 miles (10,800 km), in a balloon of 2,600,000 cubic feet (74,000 m3). This broke the record, with a speed of 245 miles per hour (394 km/h).

Richard once stated, "I want Virgin to be as well-known around the world as Coca-Cola."

It would appear his vision is coming to fruition.

Research has shown Virgin is the most admired brand in the U.K. Two thousand were surveyed and asked ‘which brands or companies can you think of that you really admire?” - Virgin received more votes than any other brand with 23% of votes. Sony came second with 21%. And Richard does what he can to keep Virgin on top with his "Business Stripped Bare" website and blog located at http://entrepreneur.virgin.com/

Branson also freely admits that he has smoked cannabis with his 21-year old son, Sam, while the two were on a surfing holiday in Australia. The way Richard sees it, "I don't think smoking the occasional spliff is all that wrong. I'd rather my son did it in front of me than behind closed doors." Branson adds Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards was the "first person to teach me to roll a joint".

Branson has no shortage of critics, who question his way of doing business and raising kids.

But who is a critic if not someone who claims to know the way but can't drive the car?

When was the last time they erected a statue or made a movie to honor a critic?

How many critics become masters of their own universe, create their own Camelot with a multi-billion dollar empire built from scratch as a teenager?

Do you know any second-guessing, know-it-all critics who are rolling like Rick?

"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were..."


1 comment:

Ian Varty said...

Branson is the ultimate in cool. He seems to have a found a wonderful balance in his life. I admire him for that, not the money.