Billionaire Richard Branson’s Philosophy on Starting a New Venture: ‘Screw It, Just Do It’
According to 65-year-old billionaire businessman Richard Branson, if you have an idea for a startup, one of the best decisions you can make it just to give it a try,
“I’m a great believer in just getting out there and trying,” he told Fortune last week at Coupa Inspire, a conference held in San Francisco. “Sometimes you fall flat on your face, sometimes you succeed.”
Many of Branson’s own endeavors were born out of frustrations he had with business as usual. A good example is Virgin Airlines. The idea came after American Airlines canceled an undersold flight and rebooked him and other passengers on a flight the next day. Rather than wait, Branson, who had already found success with Virgin Records, rented a plane, put out a sign at the airport that said “Virgin Air, $39 single flight” and ultimately filled his first plane.
“I have a philosophy: Screw it, just do it,” he says. “If you have an idea that can make a difference in other people’s lives, just get on and do it. I’ve been at it for 50 years. It’s a long, hard, grinding process in the early days and then hopefully they’ll come a time when you’ve climbed over the wall, your company is secure, and you can start being bolder and bolder, and end up realizing the sky’s not the limit and maybe go to space or do some out of the world things. Throw yourself into it, and have a lot of fun along the way.” Space is of course on Branson’s agenda. His company Virgin Galactic is currently working to make consumer space travel a reality.
Branson says there’s no way he could have built his empire alone, saying his success is owed to being a good delegator and surrounding himself with great people. When hiring, he looks for leaders who look for the best in others rather than those who look to second-guess them. He also looks for those who listen well, have some personality, don’t take themselves too seriously and genuinely care for others.
“I want leaders that will have as much respect for the person cleaning the carpet as for a fellow director and treat them in the same way,” he says.
Branson feels that by creating a business that cares about the world around it, it’s also helping to make its own success.
“The very fact of you being a business, you’re giving back. You wouldn’t be succeeding unless you were improving other people’s lives. So you’ve already started,” he says.