Would you, like George Clooney, trade places with Richard Branson?

“My wife loved George Clooney’s suggestion”, said Richard Branson and smiled.

Richard, as you know, is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. His Virgin Group today consist of 200 companies with 50,000 employees in more than 30 countries. Their combined revenue in 2008 was around 17 billion dollars. Not bad for a man who started out selling Six Pistols records at car boot sales in the 70s. Richard’s advice to future entrepreneurs is, point one excluded, different from the usual advice about how to succeed as in building up a company:

1) Take calculated risks.”You have to really believe in what you are doing because if you start a project believing that it may fail, nine times out of ten it will”. “Cautious people don’t live life to the full”, Richard says and adds that he always tries to figure out what could go wrong and try to balance that out.

2) Challenge the big players “Make jokes at the big established companies expense and use humour and sex in your marketing. Launch yourself as a Robin Hood in ways that make the big players look silly”. How many of you would actually dare to do so? It’s not enough that the idea appeals to you, would you actually have the guts to go ahead with what he advices?

3) Failure doesn’t exist Act swiftly when something goes wrong. “Our capacity to promptly adapt to changes have enabled us to overcome most mistakes”, Richard says. “You have to quickly take responsibility for a venture that’s not working, change direction or wind it up”.

4) Be casual and easy going. Have fun and make sure your colleagues have as much fun as you do. Develop equanimity.

5) Don’t regret – move on. “People spend to much time thinking about what mistakes they have made instead of using their time and energy to start new projects. Failures are useful tools that enable success”.

6) Don’t employ yes sayers. “Find people who dare to stick out and have a mind of their own. They are much more value for money”.

7) Be a live advertisement for your company. Be a bit of a clown, have fun or you will not succeed. That’s the advise Richard Branson was given when he started Virgin Airlines with no money to spend on marketing. Someone added that he should make sure his name was on the front page of newspapers and not in the adverts.

Psychologists claim Richard Branson has the F factor – fame, fortune and fun. Many people want to identify with him, not least since he’s regarded as down to earth, honest and simple. He is a person who does things his own way and not how “they teach you at Harvard business school”. Richard Branson is actually a high school drop out. His way of doing things goes against all the advice about how to become an entrepreneur you can find. So who’s right and who’s wrong? None of the people advising you how to succeed as an entrepreneur are as successful as Richard Branson is. Need I say more?

Have you got what it takes to go your own way as an entrepreneur, build up your company and succeed? Do you employ people you cannot control that have a mind of their own? Could you turn yourself into a live advertisement? What new and interesting fields have you found where you could become a new Richard Branson? Are you, after reading Richard Branson’s advice, ready to trade places with him? Or will you opt for a less challenging way of succeeding? 

Photo credit: D@LY3D / Foter / CC BY

81 thoughts on “Would you, like George Clooney, trade places with Richard Branson?

  1. If I'm going to listen to someone about building a business, there is nobody better than Richard Branson. Not only is he incredibly successful, but he seems to have an amazing quality life. He really appears to have found the perfect balance. So, I will take those words to heart. And I think it is funny what he said in response to George Clooney's comment. Too funny.

  2. During my illness, I've been lucky enough to be invited to a mentoring program by a highly-successful ghostwriter and creative consultant. She's really big on thinking less and acting more. I'm taking that to heart as I get ready to take on higher-caliber clients.

  3. I am not sure of all his recommendations, but on the other hand you cannot argue with Richard Branson's success.
    Being a risk taker and originator is important, if you do not do this, you are following the crowd. This means there are others ahead of you who already are receiving the gains you want to achieve.

  4. I like his attitude and obviously, it works as it got him to where he is today. I like learning about different people and how they reached their success in their own way. It is quite interesting that he is claimed to have the F factor.

  5. Richard Branson certainly is in a league of his own. His down to earth nature creates this idea that we "know" him and can easily relate to him. He bridges the gap between the "entrepreneurs" and the "people".

    Yes, I definitely see myself as an entrepreneur in the near future – lots of business ideas!

  6. What a fun post, Catarina. I have always admired Richard Branson's approach to many things. I think he's spot on regarding taking risks. If we're not willing to risk making mistakes it says we aren't willing the learn and improve. 🙂

  7. I remember when I first ventured out on my own (I'm a solo-preneur vs entrepreneur) one of my clients told me, "there's no one self-promoting as well as you." I consider that a compliment to this day. So Branson's advice #7 resonates with me.

    Branson is unquestionably, one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet!

  8. I'd love to meet Richard Branson! I love his business philosophy. I think I have turned myself into a living billboard for chocolate travel. I hope so, as it has taken me eight years to get this far.

    1. Yes you are personifying what you do, Doreen. Don't know Richard very well have just met him several times because we have friends in common. He's really nice and charming.

  9. Richard Branson's is a poster boy for l self- actualization, fulfilling your potential and being everything you can be. NOthing he says is really new, but he LIVES IT. It takes strength of character and knowing what your core beliefs and values are to , " take risks, not accept failure, be causal and easy going and not live with regrets". I read something interesting about the "F" factor individuals, that they 're willing to do something on their way to success ( work the extra hours, live below their means, take the jobs that no one else will do) that most people refuse to do.

    1. RB and I have friends in common so I have met him and know more about him than I should, Pamela. He really personifies the F factor. When he started out he did exactly what you specify. And it worked. By the way he has the qualities that determine if we succeed or not i.e. determination and perseverance. The world is full of academics and really smart and intelligent that never amount to much because they lack those two qualities.

  10. I enjoyed reading your post Catarina. I admire Richard Branson attitude. I agree with what he said from taking risks and all. Spot on! He is an inspiration to everyone. Thank you for such an uplifting post this Thursday morning. Thanks for sharing

  11. I’m pretty sure I’m the opposite of this type of personality. I don’t love taking risks, and can’t imagine putting myself out in front of lots of people to sell my product. I bet I’d be a lot more successful if I could become a little more like him. Hats off to the Richard Bransons of the world!

  12. Lots of business owners can learn a thing it two from Branson. He plays by his own rules. And that works for him. It has led him to much success. but what works for one person, may not have quite the same outcome for someone else. We each need to find our own path to success, I believe.

  13. It really is interesting to learn how those who’ve achieved great success think. There are lessons to be learned from those who are talking from real life experience. You can study all you want, but it is what you actually practice that will determine your success. Richard Branson is a great person to use as inspiration as an entrepreneur.

    1. Glad you agree, Erica. Business owners can learn a thing or two from Richard Branson. To do things in different ways often works. Just look at how popular Trump is with US voters.

  14. Enjoyed reading this. Love Branson’s attitude. Suspect a lot of this is easier said than done and most people are probably too cautious and too concerned about small successes and failures to really act like he does.

  15. Like some of the others have already commented, I like the “F factor” description. Richard Branson’s tips are good. He has been successful largely because he’s followed his own path, been himself, and had the courage to do so. His style would not work for everybody, but the message about doing it your own way and being yourself is strong.

  16. Oh yes, I've been an admirerer of his for a lot of years. I love his spunk and super confident attitude. I'm past the time where I'm throwing caution to the winds but I've been there. Great article and fun too.

  17. I like number 2, “Challenge the big players. Make jokes at the big established companies expense and use humour and sex in your marketing.” Controversy can certainly boost sales because it attracts attention, although I don’t know if I would actually have the guts to poke fun at my competitors or use sex in my marketing. In fact, with my second book, I seem to go out of my way to avoid using any of its sexual content in my marketing.

  18. Richard Branson is quite the encourager!

    I agree with much of what RB said (except using sex to sell) regarding being successful. The two points that stick out for me;
    1. Take calculated risks
    2. Do not employ 'yes' people

    I recall reading about RB'S humble beginnings, selling from the back of his car. He advised that we must keep the customer happy, even when it costs us. I will never forget this.

  19. Love this post Catarina. I went back to read it again after I read, "Psychologists claim Richard Branson has the F factor – fame, fortune and fun."

    He certainly didn't start out with the triple F factor so to me, Richard Branson is giving us a chance to trade places with where WE are if we want. His ideas are getting my mind spinning. Thanks for this one!
    My recent post #RomanceAwareness Month: Are Introverts Hard To Love?

  20. Catarina, I don’t think Richard Branson wants to be a role model for others as much as to encourage people to have a plan, believe in it and do it. What works for him – putting himself out front, using sex in advertising, being bigger than life – just wouldn’t work for everyone. I know it wouldn’t work for me. I would be acting in a way that’s not me and that always shows.
    I do like his response to George Clooney – “my wife would like that”.

    1. OK, so you wouldn't do what Richard Branson is doing, Lenie. By the way, I have met Richard Branson but never George Clooney. But I do think what the latter meant when he said he would trade places with Richard Branson is that Branson has fun and earns a fortune at the same time. Could it be better?:-)

  21. Had to laugh at the sex in marketing. Though I am not opposed in the least, I do think it needs to be product specific. In other words, I'm not sure that sex and diapers, or baby food or really anything with sex and children mix at all:) But it's hard NOT to love a cowboy. And Richard Branson is the original cowboy in my book. Love him:) But I also think people should be aware before they think that his methods can work for them, that not everyone is blessed with raw intelligence. He is one smart cookie.

    1. Met Richard in London through mutual friends and he's one of a kind, Jacqueline. How many dyslexic people with hardly any schooling is able to succeed the way he has done? Exactly, he's the only one.

  22. Catarina,

    What an uplifting post. I have to admit I couldn't bear to look at your post on political scandals. Love the idea of having fun as part of business – here is an approach that sounds so much healthier than the stiff business model I have in my head.
    My recent post Build a Blog with WordPress

  23. Catarina, Branson is a definite success story and one that many business owners can learn something from. He is one who really does play by his rules. I think so many entrepreneurs have advice on what works for them but each person needs to find their recipe for success. 🙂
    My recent post Chicken Liver Pate: Recipe

    1. Yes Susan, Richard Branson is really a fantastic entrepreneur. And he succeeded despite being dyslexic and a high school drop out. Most of us have a lot to learn from him.

  24. Catarina, I met Richard Branson several years ago when I was in Majorica, Spain. At the time I had no idea who he was. We were having breakfast outside and I mentioned to my husband that this is barefooted and really looks like a slob. My husband said he can be anything he wants he is Richard Branson. So I went up to him and started talking, not acting like a silly school girl. What I noticed is that he is not pretentious at all. He had no idea who was and didn't talk down to me. As it turned out we had the room next to him so we actually spent some time with him. What you see is what you get. Right or wrong it works for him.
    My recent post Juggling and Balancing Business Productivity

    1. Exactly, Arleen. Have also met him several times because we have friends in common. One British female friend of mine turned him down when she was in her teens since felt he didn't come from a good enough family. She has mentioned that perhaps she made a mistake:-)

  25. Hi Catarina,

    I would listen to anything that Richard Branson has to say. He is an inspiration to us all. A high school dropout who is now one of the richest men in the world.

    I especially like #6 " Don't employ yes Sayers (or kiss asses)" This is so true. If you are always being told that you are right, well you tend to start to believe it. No matter how humble you may be. We all need to be challenged from time to time, to keep ourselves honest.

    Everyone should take Richards advice to heart.

    Thank you for sharing this Catarina and have a great day!
    My recent post Blokube Review

  26. Catarina,

    Very Interesting post and Richard Branson is a great personality. I love the F factor – fame, fortune and fun. Thanks for sharing this awesome post, catarina.

    My recent post Why Blogging is Good for Business

  27. Thank you Jennifer. Did some international work for New York Post and New York Daily News a long time ago. But mainly for seriousl quality newspapers.

    Like your comment to this particlular article. By the way, I have just been swimming (laps) and had a sauna. Did get my feet wet:-))

  28. Catarina, you have such a wonderful writing style. I LOVE Richard Branson. He is such an inspiration and in my opinion has it nailed! He certainly does know how to combine fun and fortune.

    He's right, we have to take risks, have fun and not get hung up. Get out there and shine. It's something we can probably all improve on. I totally believe you don't need Harvard to succeed. We all have the power and can make it by walking to the beat of our own drum if done properly in a way we get noticed.

    Thanks for the wonderful and uplifting post!


  29. Love the "F Factor" summary… Actually, more than being a high-school drop-out, Richard Branson is dyslexic, so really battled with (and, apparently, still does) reading and writing.

    It just goes to show that with enough determination one can overcome even serious obstacles! This is well illustrated when looking at just how many of the world's top businessmen started off in tough circumstances – perhaps the deprivations of their childhood gave them an even stronger determination to succeed…

    1. Agree with you Guy. Richard Branson however, didn't have a deprived childhood. We have friends in common. An establishment woman who is a friend of mine turned him down in her teens since he was only from middle middle class background. Now she thinks that probably was a mistake.

  30. Really like the article Catarina and your headline with George Clooney was a great idea. Number 5 is important as you of course need to learn from your mistakes but you also need to move on.

    Every business or person has the "if only I had" moment however, it is what you do next that can make a difference to the ultimate outcome and not dwell on the past.

  31. I challenge the statement "Failure doesn't exist." When an engine fails because a mechanic left a wrench behind to gum up the works, that's a failure of proper maintenance. Yes, it is important to swiftly correct the mistake. But companies need to take more responsibility for their "failures," which they can cover over by downgrading them to "mistakes." Say, "Hey, we failed to service the customer and we're going to improve." Not, "We made a simple mistake and we're correcting it."

    1. Jeannette, did you know that Richard Branson ever since the days when he sold records out of a car boot has given customers fantastic service? In those days he certainly couldn't afford it but did it anyway since his opinion is that if you upset one customer you lose ten.

  32. The "F factor – fame, fortune and fun”! I love that. I’ve never heard that expression before but I will remember it. You asked if I could turn myself into a live advertisement. I’m trying. I’ve got a new strategy to put myself out in front of small groups of people and teach some of what I blog about. Thanks for such an uplifting and motivating post. I agree with Julia – great title!

  33. I think part of the underlying message Richard gives here is, don't be intimidated. We look at all the successes, try to follow in their paths, understand how they got where they are, and become enthralled by their success. We start becoming a bit overwhelmed and thinking no one could do it, there must be some secret, they must have had a lot of help etc etc.

    It pays to look at where folks came from rather than where they are.

    1. Yes partly Paul. Have only met him a couple of times but don't really know him. My impression is that more than anything he has a lot of courage, strength and passion for what he does. And, not to forget, he really is a born entrepreneur which makes a huge difference.

  34. Catarina what a wonderful summary of advice from this undisputed successful entrepreneur. Saying from the 1970's to now puts things in perspective that it isn't overnight success, if anyone was thinking that.

    I'm glad you added that Richard Branson does things his own way. To piggyback on what Tim was saying, so much advice for people makes them feel uncomfortable in acting on it. For example, the sex in marketing. I'm more like Julia in that I would have to think about HOW or HOW much I could use it. I think possibly more Americans, which I am, get a bit queasy bringing up sex in marketing and so avoid it.

    But my point is, if you do what's uncomfortable you may not get the results you want mainly because your vibe isn't in alignment with your action.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post as well as the summary of ideas.

  35. Many entrepreneurs quit after their first failure. You have to be willing to fail often and learn from each one of your failures.

    I am not sure I have the guts to make fun of the big companies. I have never considered using sex in my marketing. Catarina you did a great job of using sex appeal in your title. Who wouldn't click on your post just to see what George Clooney is up to. I will have to give that some thought in upcoming posts.

  36. Catarina, it is clear that Branson is a role model for entrepreneurs, however his message is not the only one that gets out there and I think that is a shame. Too much advice is available for entrepreneurs and not enough support!

    One of the worst elements of being or trying to be entrepreneurial is that everyone has advice and possibly the best advice is do it your own way – fail or succeed. If you succeed then you will have learned what it takes, if you fail then you will learn how to avoid the pitfalls next time around.

    Branson is a role model, of how to do things without having a role model!

    1. Glad we agree Tim.

      Probably the most important aspect of an entrepreneur (which is different from carrying out entrepreneurial activity) is courage, strength and passion for what you are doing. Catch is most people don't and hence follow advice from people who are neither entrepreneurs nor successful. Or even worse, pay for such advice.

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