What small business owners can learn from Richard Branson

Listen up, entrepreneurs to this tip from Richard Branson himself: The only way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to do things differently. Make it uniquely you.

For the second consecutive year, I’ve had the great pleasure of spending six days in the tranquil and beauty of Necker Island – Sir Richard Branson’s home – and a true retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. What made this escape rather a unique experience though, was I spent a lot of time with Richard Branson, one of the world’s leading and most admired businessmen. It was six days of exchanging ideas, building relations and lessons learned.

Here are some of the key lessons I took home with me that all business owners should know:

1) Ask for advice but trust your gut

The backbone of any successful business is the decisions being made on behalf of the operation, and it’s important to trust your own ideas and to know when you should step outside the box. Branson wouldn’t be the success story that he is today if he simply did what he was told. Your business is an extension of you. Make it appear that way. Use those around you to become well informed, but remember – you make the final call. You’ll need to trust that it would be right and if it’s not, that’s where lesson two comes in.

2) Understand that failure is a good thing

You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you’re afraid of failing, then you’ll never step outside the norm. And if you don’t step outside the norm, then what differentiates your brand or business from every other competitor on the market? The most important part of falling over is getting back up again and dusting yourself off. But it’s imperative that you look at why you took a tumble in the first place and learn from your previous ways. It’s okay to fail – it’s a key part of any successful entrepreneur – but remember to learn from it and don’t make the same mistake twice.

3) You’re more likely to succeed if you’re doing something that helps others

Branson’s philosophy on servicing others and in turn helping your business is still very much applicable. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, a business can only survive with a customer base, which only exists if your brand or product fits a desire. A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better. Don’t forget about these people when making decisions, along with greater job satisfaction, you’ll most likely find decision making easier with a clearer over-arching goal.

4) Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo

The only way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to do things differently. Make it uniquely you. Branson mentioned time and again how many times he’s been told not to do something, but he trusted his gut and did it anyway. Don’t be afraid of the big players in your industry, they were in your position once too, and didn’t get to where they are now by not daring to be different. Branson continually took alternative action to advice he was given and ran against the tide of the status quo. And in many ways, it’s what has propelled him to where he is today. Never be afraid to challenge and take on bigger competitors.

Chris Dutton, Co-Founder and CEO, The CEO Magazine

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