Against the Grain: A Startup Lesson from Sir Richard Branson

As the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the past 40 years. His company, which began as a small mail-order record business, has expanded into music production, airlines, trains, cellular phones, and space travel. With a net worth of over $4 billion, Branson is another of the leaders we should attempt to learn from. With his rock-star-like persona and utterly enthusiastic demeanor, Branson is anything but ordinary. Today, we’ll learn why this leader considers that trait imperative to his success.

Branson believes that the “status quo” form of doing business is a waste. To do what everyone else does will get you less than everyone else who is doing it has got. It doesn’t create competition or a desire for the customer to utilize your product or service. If a new company uses the old standard, it will fade out as quickly as it began. While some things remain surefire, like honesty and quality service, most of what remains are old business practices that haven’t changed because nobody has forced them to.

Branson believes that the existing ways of doing things should be challenged with the perspective of the customer in mind. Accepted wisdom should not only be re-invented by the leaders, however. Your staff at all levels should be encouraged to challenge the things that they feel can be done better. Their challenges should never go untested, either. Find out if their plans and ideas re worth implementing. A little A/B testing could stop you from overlooking valuable insight from your best people.

At Virgin Money, the lobby and waiting areas look and feel a lot more like living rooms than banks. There is free WiFi access, comfortable seating, and newspapers available to read. Virgin America Planes have a broad food selection, a 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. They’ve changed the comfort level of flight for the better. Both are examples of the way Sir Richard believes in shaking things up.

That’s it for this week’s Learn from the Leaders! Share your thoughts, opinions, questions, and stories about shaking up the status quo in the comments below. Have an awesome Tuesday!

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.