Richard Branson is one of these people you think you know a lot about, but after listening to the audio of his book ‘Losing My Virginity’, I realised I actually knew very little.
I found this book fascinating.
It’s always intriguing to hear how successful business people made their start into business, and got their foot on the ladder – starting a school magazine in Richard’s case. More so, how they kick on to make their mark on the industry.
The main theme I took from Richard’s story is to not give up on your ideas, and to keep going.
“It is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside.”
The number of times when Virgin, in it’s various guises, came close to going under, shows the fine line between success and failure.
The occasions they were past the overdraft limit with banks breathing down their necks. Or when hit by external crisis like post strikes threatening their mail order record business, and stock market crashes.
“how slim the line is between genius and insanity and between determination and stubbornness.”
The book doesn’t just cover business. Richard tells of his first marriage, and subsequent separation. How he met his now wife Joan, and the tragic loss of their first child, as well as his pride of his two children, Holly and Sam.
Richard also tells of the support he has received from his family, at all stages of his business career. His Aunt Joyce remortgaging her house to lend him £7,5000 to help him purchase what would become the The Manor recording studio.
Well known for his challenges in both air and sea, the book covers the disappointment of failed attempts, with an amusing account of being picked up by a passing ship when 60 miles short of England, after their ship sank.
A passenger on the ship passing him a copy of the morning’s newspaper so he could see a picture of his newborn son, who had been born the day before whilst he was still at sea.
Richard also tells of the scary moment when the balloon they were travelling in began a rapid descent and the crew trying all manner of ways to lighten the load.
The part of the book I found most fascinating was Richard’s explanation of how British Airways attempted to put Virgin Atlantic out of business.
It’s hard to believe the lengths they went to, setting up a task force inside BA to bring Virgin down. Applying for flight routes they didn’t want or need, purely to prevent VA from gaining them. Ringing customers booked on Virgin flights to tell them their flight was overbooked, and that they could fly with British Airways instead.
Hinting to journalists that there were credit issues, drug issues, all trying to smear the Virgin name with the sole purpose of stopping Virgin Atlantic becoming a significant competitor.
Through all this Richard’s handling of the situation, eventually taking British Airways to court, was full of class and decency. And this is the sense you get throughout the book, of the way he goes about business and his life.
“My Parents always drummed into me that all you have life is your reputation: you may be very rich, but if you lose your good name you’ll never be happy.”
I think it’s a great book for anyone to read, whether interested in business or not. Not just as an example of living your life with a great attitude, succeeding whilst remaining true to yourself and your core values, and fighting for what you believe in.