There is definitely an attraction to that ‘rogue’ figure in the world of business: the guy who didn’t go to business school or who dropped out of college, the woman who had an epiphany while on the clock at her factory job, or the person least-expected to exhibit entrepreneurial tendencies. The very idea of the entrepreneur suggests this rogue-like quality. Whatever the reason for their unique stories, these folks are always more interesting than the (graduates of business school: I apologize in advance) often ‘run-of-the-mill’ products of the academic systems. That is, of course, a broad generalization and again I’m sorry to make it, but I do it for the sake of the title in question here. Like a Virgin is a collection of musings from Richard Branson, a ‘businessman’ who has continued to captivate fellow and aspiring entrepreneurs alike with his many stories of success. There are not many homegrown entrepreneurs who can lay claim to the diverse and complex kind of empire that Branson has created.
Like a Virgin: Secrets they Won’t Teach You In Business School reads like an encyclopedia for curious or inexperienced would-be entrepreneurs. There are some outliers (lookin’ at you, “To Win the War on Drugs”), but the book stays pretty close to the topics associated with starting and running a business. Generally in a matter of a few pages each, the author tackles over 70 topics: pitching an idea, handling mistakes, first impressions, customer service, rebranding, and quite a few more. And as you’d expect from a fellow like Richard Branson, the advice is offered in a down-to-earth, casual manner.
One of my personal favorites, and I think a timely topic, is “Screw You, Goliath!”. Here, Branson talks about surviving amidst the corporate giants:
Young, energetic businesses have surprising advantages when taking on large, cumbersome competitors. All they have to do is figure out what the giant’s weaknesses are and how best to leverage them. [...] [Virgin Atlantic Airways'] inexpensive arsenal was loaded with some pretty surprising and highly unconventional weapons. Perhaps the most effective of these was our agility, which was integral to our corporate culture, in large part because of our small size.
This one is a great book to have on your bedside or at the breakfast table. Read a chapter or two in a matter of minutes and move on with your day. Cherrypick advice as needed. Even if you’re already part of a successful business, you might glean some nuggets from this rogue’s playbook.