I thought it would be helpful to answer five questions I am asked most during my travels. Do let me know if you have any other questions
1. WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER GOT?
Three gems come to mind. First, an enduring one from my mother, Eve, who always taught me to never look back in regret, but to move on to the next things. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project always amazes me. I never see a setback as a bad experience, just as a learning curve. She also told me not to openly criticize people. If I spoke ill of someone, she would make me stand in front of mirror for five minutes and stare at myself. Her reasoning? All my critical talk was a poor reflection on my own character.
In the 1980s, Freddie Laker, the British airline executive, gave me great advice on setting up my own airline. He said, ‘’you’ll never have the advertising power to outsell British Airways. Get out there and make a fool of yourself. Otherwise, you won’t survive. And make sure you appear on the front page, not the back page.” I’ve followed that advice ever since. I’ve been very visible and made a fool of myself on more than one occasion.
Advice comes in many forms. I believe in asking many people for their opinions, as this give you man angles that you can weigh. And as you aren’t considering one person’s opinion, no advice is ever truly bad.
3. AND TIPS FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS?
Remember that it’s impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not be the company it is today if we had not taken a risk along the way. You really have to believe in what you’re doing a 100 percent. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of 10, it will. Above all, have fun with it; that keeps you and your colleagues enthusiastic and motivated. One of my favorite saying is: “The brave may not live forever –but the cautious do not live at all!”
4. WHAT HAVE YOUR FAILURES TAUGHT YOU?
As an entrepreneur, you have to learn that there’s no such thing as failure. You must be quick to accept that something isn’t going well and either change tack or close the business. I believe in taking risks, but I also believe in “protecting the downside.” This means working out in advance all the things that could go wrong and making sure you have all those eventualities covered.
There are probably a lot of business decisions I regret-but I try not to dwell on them. I move on to more positive things. For example, we once had a chance to run the U.K.’s national lottery. Our proposal was to run a non-profit game, with much of the money going to good causes, but we were beaten by the eventual winner. We moved on and set up Virgin Unite, our foundation, to act as a catalyst for helping others and galvanizing our companies into action. It helps us establish the Elders and the Carbon War Room, initiatives aimed at solving conflict and helping combat climate changes.
Source: Intelligent Entrepreneur, Jan 2011, Network 18.
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