20 January 2016 - 11:53 am

Like a Virgin

I don’t know what you were thinking when you were reading the title, but, hopefully, the first image that came to your mind was Richard Branson’s book: “Like a Virgin – Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School”.

like a virginI have recently read it and I am still under the mesmerising effect of the book. It is one of those books with paragraphs that you can underline ceaselessly, one of those books that has memorable quotes you want to print and put all over your walls in your bedroom, one of those books that makes you realize how powerful it is to have a pen and a notepad throughout your journey – to write ideas, to write pieces of advice, to write criticism and feedback, to collect information, and to create.

This book is not an autobiography. This book is not a 7-steps-to-success-all-you-need-to-know-to-open-a-startup-read-me-and-wake-up-a-millionaire book. It’s not even a case study on Virgin’s success. This book is a values statement through a collection of articles, emails and essays written by Richard Branson, all of which state and re-state the importance of values for Virgin, and subliminally, allude to the idea that this is the key to success: You do not start a company to make money, you start it because of the things you care for, and the things you care for, be it your family, or changing the world, are your values. But I don’t like to continuously brag about a book without giving examples, so let’s see why Like a Virgin is the model people should aim for. Here are some examples of things I have learnt whilst reading it:

1. Define your business in terms of your values

For me, building a business is all about doing something to be proud of, bringing talented people together and creating something that’s going to make a real difference to other people’s lives.
2.  Build your company culture around people
People are your key asset. On the front lines of business, they can make or break a company. As I constantly remind our managers and other budding entrepreneurs, a true sense of pride in the business makes all the difference.
3. Positive is the way
If the companies or individuals you deal with do not respond to a positive approach, ask yourself if they are the companies you should work with.
4. Take risks
Richard Branson’s mantra is: “Screw it, let’s do it.” And he also came up with this marvelous quote: “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”
5. Small companies have big potential
For most of my business career, I’ve played the role of David – and loved every minute of it. You see, I’ve always believed that small is beautiful. Young, energetic businesses have surprising advantages when taking on large, cumbersome competitors. All they have to do is figure out what the giant’s weaknesses are and how to best leverage them.
6. “Fun, with a capital F.”
No extended quote needed. This point, as expressed by Branson, encapsulates it all.
7. Customer’s always right… or maybe not?
In truth, the customer is only right most of the time – after all, they’re only human. I once wrote: ‘Since your employees are your brand ambassadors, their needs come before your customers’.
8. CEO – Chief “Enabling” Officer?
Branson’s belief is that a CEO is only successful in his job if (s)he can build an environment that breeds intrapreneurs (‘an employee who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services and systems, who does not have to follow the company’s usual routines or protocols’).
While it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it under way, healthy, innovative growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development.
9. Don’t be a lonely Superman, create a Justice League
People tend to think of entrepreneurs as go-it-alone heroes, but this isn’t how it works in real life. Many live up to their reputation as risk-takers and some remain outsiders, but despite this outlier status, entrepreneurs need support to be successful. In fact, we’re a lot like Formula 1 drivers: the person in the cockpit gets all the glory while fans tend to forget about the pit crews and all the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to keep the engines running and car and driver on track.
Ok, I admit it, Richard Branson’s comparison with Formula 1 drivers is better than mine with Justice League, but hey, he’s the one with 40-years-plus experience as a entrepreneur, and I am the intern, in my twenties, writing a blog about an amazing book that you should read. And I think the quotes above are at the same time enough to give you a taster, but also not enough to encompass all that Richard Branson wants to get across with his book. ‘Like a Virgin’ is not about being an entrepreneur, it’s about having an enterprising mind-set. It’s not about how to succeed in a business, but how to succeed in life, in any environment, when working with people, when coming up with ideas, when trying to transform them into reality. It’s a book that depicts the charm of the obvious and, believe me, that obvious might not seem so obvious until you read it so give it a try! You might, after all, find it interesting to act Like a Virgin 😉

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  • About the author

    Ana-Gabriela Popa

    Ana-Gabriela Popa

    MSc Leadership and Management student at The University of Sheffield. Enterprise Intern. Global Citizen. Feminist. Avid reader. Series binge-watcher. Formerly International Students' Officer at Sheffield Students' Union, Chair of International Students' Committee, Vice-President Marketing at AIESEC Sheffield, Widening Participation Intern at USE. BA International Relations and Politics graduate.