Richard Branson, alongside Elon Musk, Henry Ford and Howard Hughes, is one of the entrepreneurs I admire. When I saw his latest book, Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School, in a bookstore I knew I wouldn’t leave the store without it.
Branson never had a formal education in marketing, management or business. He has learnt everything he knows about running a company on his own, from his own efforts and mistakes. Like a Virgin is a collection of the thoughts and experiences he has gained from leading the hundreds of companies around the world that make up the Virgin Group.
The book consists of over 50 newspaper and magazine articles written by Branson, as well as his answers to questions posed by readers. He covers a wide variety of topics — from ideas on starting a business to thoughts on management, motivation and marketing, ending with words on space travel, drug wars and global warming. Each topic is explored through a story either from Richard’s life or from his company.
The book is very easy to read. If you want to, you can finish it in one evening.
When you reach the end, you’ll likely find some of the Richard’s core values have stuck in your head. He describes how he, step-by-step, came to understand Virgin is all about. He proves that despite the variety of services provided by companies from Virgin Groups, each company has an identical mission: to provide the best possible customer experience, one that will be remembered.
You might also learn how Branson tackles the management problem. To him, employees are of the utmost importance to the success of a company, then come the customers, and after the customers — the investors. In Richard’s philosophy, employees are a company’s most valuable assets. He states that, to him, Virgin is not 50 000 employees, but 50 000 brand ambassadors. Looking at management through the lens of Virgin might change how you manage people. You must trust your employees to do what’s good for the company.
Besides — have fun!
If you want to launch a startup, you might find Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School a source of useful advice. If you’re already running a business, the book might change how you look at your company, and find areas to improve. You can read any chapter in no particular order in your free time. It might even be good for you. You can feel some of Richard’s energy captured in the pages motivating you to challenge the world.