Richard Branson’s Guide to Finding a Mentor – Richard Branson

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No matter how smart you are, or how brilliant or disruptive your business concept might be, every entrepreneur needs a good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you are experiencing right now, and he has come out the other side armed with invaluable insights.

In fact, the difference between a budding entrepreneur who merely shows promise and one who is already enjoying some success often comes down to mentoring. Good advice can be just as crucial as funding in the early stages of an enterprise.

The need for a mentor is obvious, yet seeking one out can be quite difficult and daunting. How do you find the right person?

There are many different routes, some which I have described in previous columns. Often, you have to do some research. Try going to industry events like lunches, seminars, talks and conferences. Join community groups — your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start. Chambers of commerce often host networking events and meetings that bring beginning entrepreneurs and successful businesspeople together. Talk to people, listen to their stories and pursue further meetings with those whom you can learn from.

Another great place to find a potential mentor’s name is online. Look for sector– or industry-specific events and groups on Facebook; subscribe to useful newsletters; follow interesting or relevant individuals from your region on Twitter or LinkedIn; then get in touch and ask questions — just like you can with me.

Be sure that you choose someone who has experience and connections within your area and level of business. If you’re a budding entrepreneur in, say, the building and home repair industry, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to court a senior executive at a multinational engineering company. Focus on finding someone who has started a venture that’s similar to yours, and who understands the trials and tribulations of building a business in that area.

Keep in mind that an adviser who offers his time in return for compensation is not the same thing as a mentor. While advisers and consultants can be very helpful, true mentors are effective partly because they are only interested in helping others succeed.

If you don’t yet have someone in mind who might fit the bill, make a list of successful people in your community. Is there someone on that list whom you admire and respect? Ask her to lunch, to coffee, or simply ask for 30 minutes of her time to chat.

When you do decide to approach someone, make sure that you don’t go in blind – know what you want to ask. Explain what excites you about your service or product, be honest about your fears, and ask for feedback.

It is rarely a good idea to make a hard and formal request for mentoring upfront, like “Will you be my mentor?” Such relationships blossom on their own. A mentor-mentee relationship takes time to grow, so start by asking for simple advice on one project or problem, and move on from there.

When you do locate a good mentor, he will serve as an example, a sounding board and, ultimately, a friend. Done well, mentorship is rewarding for both of you. It’s important to nurture the relationship, so find fun ways to meet regularly, even without a business agenda.

Mentoring has had such a profound impact on my life and Virgin’s success that I feel it’s paramount to any promising businessperson’s journey. As I have written before, I attribute much of the success of Virgin Atlantic to my relationship with my own mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the airline industry without Freddie’s down-to-earth wisdom. He was actually the one who told me to make myself the face of the company – a piece of advice that has influenced my entire approach to business.

If you are in a position to share the skills you have learned, you should give back by becoming a mentor yourself. Finding success is hard work, and entrepreneurs could use a little help along the way.

As the American businessman Zig Ziglar once said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” So get out there and find the right mentor to help you along the path to success.

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Richard Branson’s story of Necker Island – Richard Branson

Richard Branson first heard about Necker Island when he was 27 years old and fell in love with it.

Necker Island has always been a place where wonderful interesting people can visit, debate issues and have a great time although the plan wasn’t always that. Take a look at Richard’s story and find out more about the incredible history of Necker Island

Richard Branson to Entrepreneurs: Shoot for the Moon (But Be Prepared to Crash) by Oscar Raymundo

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It’s the age of the aspiring American entrepreneur. MBAs make up the largest percentage of master’s degrees earned today, with 50 percent of MBA grads looking to start their own company.

But are these young people prepared for the risks that come with choosing the rollercoaster life of an entrepreneur?

“They certainly should not be discouraged,” Richard Branson told Inc.’s President and Editor-in Chief Eric Schurenberg. “If they find that entrepreneurship isn’t for them they’re going to have a much easier time getting a more conventional job at a big company as a result of everything they’ve learned in their attempt to become an entrepreneur.”

Branson’s notion that ex-entrepreneurs will be able to make a smooth transition to a corporate job may allay some fears around launching a startup, but is it accurate? In the U.K., Branson’s home turf, researchers found that salaried employees were 60 percent more likely than former entrepreneurs to get a call back after submitting a job application.

Still, Branson is an advocate for taking a chance, but being fully aware of the risks of starting your own company.

“You have to realize that 8 out of ten people who do give it a go do not succeed,” the Virgin founder continued. “Go into it with your eyes open, work really hard to make your idea succeed, and if it doesn’t, bow out gracefully. Either try again or put it down as a wonderful learning experience.”

To hear more from Branson about minimizing startup failure, watch the video below.

“The most important thing is not to be put off by failure.

Richard Branson’s 5 Steps for Startup Success

No matter where you start, or what products and services you provide, Virgin Group founder and CEO Richard Branson has five basic rules for any successful entrepreneur:

Be financially savvy. As you raise capital, think about what you really need. While a swank office can be nice, the money could be better spent on new hires or technology.
Choose a dynamic name. Convey what you’re selling and help customers keep you at the top of their minds.
Sell memorable merchandise. Be a source for products that are unique and that won’t be replicated elsewhere. Put your stamp on everything you do.
Make waves. Learn your industry inside-out and find ways to set yourself apart from the competition.
Follow through. Keep in touch with you customers and build lasting relationships with them through attentive, personalized service.

Richard Branson on Knowing When to Quit Your Day Job by Richard Branson

Q: I am very successful at my day job, and I also run a small business. With more time, effort and investment, I think my business could be hugely successful, but this would require that I quit my job. How do you know when it’s the right time to take an entrepreneurial leap of faith? — Nhuri Bashir

Almost everyone has some entrepreneurial spirit, and with it, the potential to run their own businesses. But an entrepreneur’s life isn’t for everyone. Many people decide instead to put their talents to work at somebody else’s company, innovating as intrapreneurs. For others, working for someone else is never an option, and so they start launching their own ventures early on.

Nhuri is one of those people who has to choose between intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship: Without knowing more, I can point out that it’s clear you have great confidence in your business, so sooner or later you’ll have to give it a go full-time. If you don’t, you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been.

It’s true that entrepreneurs have to take a leap of faith at some point. While it may seem daunting, the key is to make sure you’ve got a parachute.

The first step in preparing for the day you quit your job is to plan out the launch of your business (or, in Nhuri’s case, its expansion), thinking through everything from the type of location you want for your office to how you want your product to look on store shelves. You need to work out as many of the bugs in your plan as you can ahead of time — while keeping an eye on the clock. If you take too long, the circumstances might change, altering markets so that you could miss your opening.

To make sure the broad outlines of your plan work well and to sort through the details, you need to connect with some strong mentors. Having a sounding board for your ideas will be invaluable, and will help you make the transition from part-time businessman to full-time entrepreneur more smoothly.

Nhuri’s situation reminds me of the day that Brett Godfrey, a member of the financial team at Virgin Express, our European short-haul operation, approached me with an idea to launch a Virgin airline in Australia. Brett outlined his plan, I offered my thoughts, and together we hashed out the details on the back of a beer mat. Soon we were on the way to creating the next Virgin business, with Brett at the helm as the CEO of Virgin Blue, Virgin as one of his investors, and myself as his co-founder and mentor.

Though Blue only had a couple of planes when it started operating in 2000, Brett grew the airline (now known as Virgin Australia) into a thriving business. Brett and I are firm friends – we own Makepeace Island on Australia’s Sunshine Coast together – and his entrepreneurial career has gone from strength to strength.

Your mentors will also be the people you will turn to for advice and assistance when things don’t go according to plan. And you can be certain that things won’t go as planned, though that’s half the fun. Decision-making can be more difficult when the wrong call can make the difference between your being able to pay your bills (and your employees) or not. With a strong support network of people who have experience and know-how, you’re more likely to make better choices.

Before your business becomes your sole source of income, you need to be sure that you’ve protected the downside. You may need to secure financial help from investors, or perhaps your business requires that you take on partners who have the clout to give it the best possible start. Whatever type of business you are hoping to launch, you should think about the consequences if it is slow to take off or even fails, and do what you can to minimize that possibility. If you are able to put together a contingency plan, that will help you to proceed with confidence.

While you plan and network and find financing, remember that the window of opportunity is closing – at some point, you will simply have to go for it. Then all that’s left to do is give up your day job and become your own boss.

Be brave: After all that planning, it’s now time to have confidence in your idea and believe in yourself and your team. Good luck!

Richard Branson’s 5 Fashion Startup Secrets They Don’t Teach You in Business School

The right time for you to get started is right now. I was your age when I launched my first business, Student magazine. By that time I was old enough to think for myself, and young enough not to be daunted by a career that involves risk.

You seem to have found your passion, so you’re already a step ahead. Admittedly, it’s difficult to make an impact in the fashion industry: I learned this firsthand, having launched ventures like Virgin Brides, Virgin Clothing and Virginware, all of which failed. Fortunately, I had some success when Virgin helped to launch a modeling startup called Storm Model Management. One of the first models the founder, Sarah Doukas, signed up was Kate Moss, and the rest is history.

Start your research by writing down all of your ideas, whether they’re serious or trivial. Don’t second-guess yourself, even if the idea is a moonshot. Then look over your list: Are any of the items in an area that’s ripe for disruption? Have you spotted a gap in a sector? Customers are always searching for a better alternative, so look closely at ideas that would be of practical use, yet stand out from competitors’ offerings.

You reached out to me, so I know you’ve got the confidence to get in contact with the founders of businesses you admire — especially local ones. Ask questions, particularly about what’s going on in fashion in the Philippines: While fashion is an international phenomenon, the Philippines is likely where you are going to be making the majority of your sales for the first few years.

Once you’ve settled on an idea, you need to test it. The “Mum Test” is a method I’ve always relied on: Try telling a loved one about your idea — your mother, if possible — and ask for her honest thoughts on your plan. This person doesn’t have to be business-savvy, she just has to have your best interests at heart. If she gets excited, you could be onto a winner.

Next make samples of your product or service, and start showing them to potential customers. Pay attention to their feedback and respond — remember, innovation is the name of the game in fashion.

It may well be that you and your friends are not great students, but you can make up for that with your can-do attitude and drive to succeed. I wasn’t the best student either, and left school at 16 to start my career. It’s a path lots of business leaders have taken, but then many other successful entrepreneurs have university degrees.

In the meantime, don’t let your age or inexperience hold you back. Keep your eyes open. Talk to people and ask questions. Write down your ideas when they come to you. When you’re evaluating them, look for gaps in the market and make sure that your offering is something that people actually need. And don’t forget to dream big.

If you follow these steps you’ll have many adventures and a lot of fun. I’ll look for your designs on the red carpet!