Sunday, 12 March 2017

Being Original means Going it Alone

   
                      By Bayo Ogunmupe
       When you are trying to  be original by creating something original, that stands out from the crowd, that will last forever, you must go it alone. Above all, creating innovation should always be your philosophy of business. You might be an entrepreneur setting up companies for profit, dreaming up new products must be your ideal goal not money. Don't ever be afraid to be different. Everyone knows Richard Branson as a famous entrepreneur, the philanthropist knighted by the Queen of England.
     What most of us know of Branson comes from snippets on newspapers. But there is a reality behind the image that only good autobiography reveals. There are hundreds of "how I did it' stories by many millionaires, but Losing my virginity, is one of the greatest autobiographies of all time. This is owing to rich materials Branson has to draw from. As an inveterate diarist whose over 25 year scribblings enabled the book to be written. Losing My Virginity is a book which an aspiring entrepreneur must read. As his philosophy of life, Branson will either go to prison or become a millionaire. That was because when he left high school, his headmaster said to him, "You will either go to prison or become a millionaire."
     Branson's first success was as a publisher of a National magazine for students. There, he added interviews of great champions including the British musical legend, John Lennon. He said he did not go into the venture to make money; it was more of a fun enterprise. In fact the magazine was kept going by advertising. His clique were obsessed with music; making them to sell records by mail order. Selling records blossomed but a postal strike forced him into retail trading.
     Branson's first Virgin record store became a hangout for young people, the first to take care of the youth market exclusively. Many more stores followed around Britain. Branson never obeyed the business rule not to work with your friends that you cannot send to jail. Most of his Virgin inner circle for the first fifteen years were people who had grown up with him. Apart from drug indulgence, Branson preferred to have a great time  and keeping his wits about him. Behind his barefooted, long haired hippy style was a businessman who wanted to make a difference.
     In spite of his chain of record stores, Branson was losing money. As a solution, he accidentally solved his problem by selling records in Belgium and thus escaping hefty U.K sales duties. When discovered by Customs, he had to pay three times his duties (60,000 pounds sterling) in 1971 to evade imprisonment. The experience burned him to never do illegal business again in his life. Then, Branson fulfilled his dream of big time Music whose acts could be promoted through the Virgin stores. He bought an old manor house i Oxfordshire which he converted into a recording studio.
     The first act Virgin signed was the musician Mike Oldfield. This bizarre choice for a rock music label paid off. Tubular Bells was one of the biggest selling albums of the 1970s; it bankrolled Virgin's early years in the business. The label later attracted the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, Phil Collins, Human League and other stars to its fold. By the early 1980s the label had become the greatest in Europe. Branson had achieved his wish for an integrated music company where Virgin stores and Virgin Megastores could promote the bands that Virgin Music had signed.
     His business success propelled a proposal to establish a transatlantic airline to compete with British Airways. He could not resist the offer. Against the advice of his counsellors, he negotiated to lease a 747 for a year from Boeing in Settle, USA; Virgin Atlantic airline was born. But the fuel price hike brought on by the first Gulf War was a major obstacle as was the sudden loss of air passengers after the events of September 11, 2001. Virgin also had to contend with a dirty tricks assault from the British Airways which soaked up more debt than was expected.
     Then, Branson came to the realisation to either sell Virgin Music and keep Virgin Atlantic flying or lose the airline. Again despite good advice from family and friends Branson sold Virgin Music. The sale brought in $1billion. His share of the sale gave him money beyond his wildest dreams. From experience Branson notes that there is no recipe for business success; but there are styles of business management. Thinking big, taking calculated risks and simply believing in your 'can do spirit', these are the unfailing styles of running businesses.

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