Age-Old Business Lessons from a Superstar Among Entrepreneurs

R. Kirk Huntsman on business lessons for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship has transformed drastically over the past few decades. Entrepreneurs might be starting new ventures in order to be their own boss or to chase a dream, yet there are still tried and true lessons that can be applied to just about any endeavor, whether it’s an e-commerce website, a private medical practice, or a social enterprise.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Virgin founder Richard Branson offered “business lessons he’d earned [sic] over the years did he think were just as relevant and valuable to new entrepreneurs today.”

Be a Problem Solver

Consider it the difference between a must-have and a nice-to-have product. Branson has summarized the distinction this way: “From the day I took my first steps as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt that the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better.”

Don’t Limit Your Motivation to Money

Research suggests that pursuing intrinsic motivators are the key to long-lasting success. (Think: engagement, inherent satisfaction and pleasure, the inward positive reinforcement that occurs from doing something regardless of the external rewards.) According to the 2010 article, Money Is Not The Best Motivator, “most successful entrepreneurs say that their primary motivation has been to build something lasting, not to make a lot of money…Money is a byproduct, and usually a secondary one at that, for such achievers.”

Be Prepared to “Pivot”

This one is especially revealing as it is well-documented that Branson has had some Virgin companies that haven’t fared as well as others. But he doesn’t count those ventures as failures, telling Forbes:

“A good example is our first venture Student magazine. After a healthy print run and some early success it became clear that the magazine wouldn’t turn a profit, however the section in the back pages where we’d sell mail-order records was booming. We stopped printing the magazine and opened a record store, and Virgin Records was born.”

The concept of “the pivot” has become popular in the lexicon of entrepreneurship since the 2011  publication of Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. Ries defines a pivot as making “a structural course correction to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy and engine of growth.”

Of course, there is no silver bullet for entrepreneurial success. But Richard Branson’s well-founded principles are a good blueprint from which to start.

Click here to read the full interview with Branson and Forbes writer Alison Coleman.