Richard Branson’s biggest mistake

2013-10-06 10:00

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If you don’t make mistakes, you will never achieve anything in life, flamboyant British businessman Sir Richard Branson told youngsters in Sandton, Joburg, yesterday.

Branson, the founder and owner of the Virgin Group, was answering questions put to him by delegates at the One Young World Summit.

“There is no question that if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t achieve anything. And that’s one of the reasons I generally suggest to people that they should get out and try things. I mean, you can try little businesses, but just try. I’ve made numerous mistakes.”

One of his biggest, he said, was the ill-fated decision to take on multinational giant Coca-Cola.

“I thought I could knock Coca-Cola into the number-two position in the world and we launched Virgin Cola. For about two years we were outselling Coke and Pepsi in the UK and we actually started dreaming big?... but Coke was a lot bigger than us and suddenly Virgin Cola disappeared from everywhere.

“The lesson I learnt from that was that if you are going to take on a company that is much bigger than you are, you have got to be much better. I mean, two cans of cola – there is not much of a difference there,” he said.

Branson, who left school at age 15, told delegates: “You don’t need to be a mathematician to get ahead in life, common sense is what you need.”

Delegates laughed as he explained that he still struggled to tell the difference between gross and net.

They wanted to know how to get funding for start-ups and how to become a socially responsible businessperson.

“I think today is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. It’s much easier to become a businessman now than when I started.

“You guys have the internet, which is an incredible and powerful tool. You also have social media.”

He warned that funding was the most difficult part of starting a business, so people should find alternative sources like venture capital, family and friends.

“Banks are not the best of people,” he said.

The summit, which ended last night, brought together more than 1?000 young people from across the world in Joburg this week.

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