Sir Richard Branson is one of the self-made billionaires and entrepreneurs you cannot afford to not listen to. He has started over 100 businesses in his 40 years as an entrepreneur and currently has a net worth of $5 billion. He is known mostly for his interests in the banking, airline, and music production sectors which consist of some of his prominent companies like Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Records. Well, I’ve collected some of his most important tips below for startups and entrepreneurs.
1. Develop a good name
Sir Richard Branson’s advice for startups is that before you begin marketing your product, make sure that the name is right. It should be easier for your customers to remember and easily find on search engines. The ideal name for your startup should be short and precise. It should also leave a mark. To this end, you should display it prominently on receipts, products, and anything else that you produce.
2. Look for the treasure
The money is in being different. We see this in all of Sir Richard Branson’s investments. The Virgin Money bank has exquisite seats well placed around the banking lobbies, eliminating the need for teller counters. This creates the feeling of a living room rather than a banking hall. When he started Virgin Records, his selling point was to stock albums that were hard to find, live recordings of concerts, and several foreign imports. His airline, Virgin Atlantic, was born out of the need to create better services for customers. He didn’t like the services he was getting on the other airlines so he created an airline with state-of-the-art customer-centered services like a broad food selection, touch-screen in-flight entertainment unit, selectable in-flight movies, and a seat-to-seat delivery and chat systems that allow you to interact with other passengers on board. The idea is to look for the treasure. What will make you stand out? Sell a unique product in your startup that will keep people coming back because they couldn’t find that product anywhere else.
3. Keep in touch with your customers
Once you have your very first sales for your product, keep the customers coming back by sending them emails and messages about the latest offers and new products you have developed. Let them be informed about their areas of interest. That shows that you care about your customers and you want them to come back. They will also keep you in mind easily because they keep getting your messages every so often so it gets easier to even recommend you to their friends.
4. What would you tell an investor about your startup if you had only 1 minute?
Keep it simple, short and to the point. According to Sir Richard Branson, the shorter the pitch about your product, the clearer it will be. Forget about the statistics – nobody cares about that yet. That’s the next step, not the first step. If you met an investor in an elevator and they asked about your startup, you only have around 30 seconds to pitch your startup’s idea and what you do. Sir Richard advises startups to shorten the pitch to 140 characters, like a tweet. Then figure out what important information you left out, then add that info to the 140 characters to make a total of 500 characters maximum and you have your final pitch.
5. Be real about the cost factor
It is astounding to ask for $160 million to start a company when others are failing. In fact, it is so absurd nobody would fund you. Oh, scratch that. I meant nobody except the few who believe in your idea. There are no two ways about it, for the startup to be successful you need $160 million. Even if you tried to underestimate that cost it still stays the same. Sir Richard Branson frequently reminds us of the JetBlue story in his interviews. He says in the 90s when David Neeleman came to him to ask for $160 million to start JetBlue, it was the largest amount of money a startup had ever asked to launch their product. But again, he says, David was only being realistic about the costs. Despite the difficulty in raising the money, JetBlue became one of the most successful airline launches in the world and made a profit within the first six months. Don’t undervalue your spending costs, and don’t overestimate. Being realistic about the dollars can get you going really far. Undervaluing means you will fall short and probably go out of business, and overvaluing means you will be out-rightly disrespectful and dishonest about your costs which could bring difficulties on board when you are looking for more funding in the future.
6. Hire the people you need and not the ones you like
To hire someone in the company because they are your friend could prove to be very detrimental. Unless they are bringing something to the table that you need, they are of no use to you and you will not be able to get rid of them. At least not peacefully. Hire the people that you need to help your company achieve its goals. These could be your friends, but for the most part it is never your friends or the people you like.
7. Believe in your vision for the company
Don’t let an investor or a venture capitalist control your company or control you. Believe in your vision because sometimes it’s only you who sees it. If you believe in it the world will too. You are in the driver’s seat and just because someone offered you an investment or paycheck doesn’t change it.
8. Invest in what will scale your business
Put the money you receive into good use. Invest in ventures that scale the business to newer markets and expand the customer base. Do not hire people just for the sake of hiring. Hiring means bills and bills need to go into scaling the business when you are first starting out. It could be engineering, infrastructure or marketing that you need to move your business to the next stage and that is the most important way to spend your money.
9. Think international
Don’t create a product that cannot scale across continents. Instead, create something that provides a business opportunity abroad and at home. Some companies have started businesses while in the States and made it into Asia, Africa, South America and beyond. Build a global product, and you will increase your chances of succeeding.
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