Notes & Quotes: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

The following are my favorite quotes from Richard Branson's Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way.
  1. You've got one go in life, so make the most of it.
  2. My parents always encouraged us to have our own opinions and rarely gave us advice unless we asked for it.
  3. I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving; it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.
  4. While the others might happily sit around in the evening getting stoned, unconcerned about waking up late the next morning with a hangover, I was always aware of the need to keep a clear head.
  5. What's money for, anyway? It's to make things happen.
  6. It was a bold move but even then I knew that it is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside.
  7. In music as in so many other things the second choice means nothing.
  8. I once heard of a Japanese company that was working to a 200-year business plan! It reminds me of Deng Xiaoping's remark in the 1980s, when he was asked what he thought the implications of the 1789 French Revolution were. "Too early to tell" was his reply.
  9. Even at this amazing speed, it still takes an hour to fly 200 miles and we had 6,000 of them to fly. I tried not to be daunted by the length of the journey ahead, but concentrated on each fifteen-minute section.
  10. My parents had always drilled into me that the best motto to follow is "Nothing ventured; nothing gained."
  11. Throughout my business life I have always tried to keep on top of costs and protect the downside risk as much as possible. The Virgin Group has survived only because we have always kept tight control of our cash. But, likewise, I also know that sometimes it is essential to break these rules and spend lavishly. The chance of signing Janet Jackson was one of those moments: she could not be missed.
  12. ...At this point I could of course have retired and concentrated my energies on learning how to paint watercolors or how to beat my mum at golf. It wasn't, and still isn't, in my nature to do so. People ask me, "Why don't you have some fun now?" but they were missing the point. As far as I was concerned, this was fun. Fun is at the core of the way I like to do business and it has been key to everything I've done from the outset. More than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin's success.
  13. To be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running; and, if you have a good team around you are more than your fair share of luck, you might make something happen. But you certainly can't guarantee it just by following someone else's formula.
  14. The decision to launch Virgin Cola was founded on three key things: finding the right people, the positive use of the Virgin brand name, and protection of the downside.
  15. We never employed fund managers, some of the world's most highly paid people, since we discovered their best-kept secret: they could never consistently beat the stock-market index.
  16. If there's a good business plan. limited downside, good people and good product, we'll go for it.
  17. Convention dictates that a company should look after its shareholders first, its customers next, and last of all worry about its employees. Virgin does the opposite. For us, our employees matter most. It just seems common sense to me that, if you start off with a happy, well-motivated workforce, you're much more likely to have happy customers. And in due course the resulting profits will make your shareholders happy.
  18. The months that followed were sticky but we had called it right in the first week: by Christmas it was clear that Virgin Atlantic was through the worst and would survive. This was no mean feat given that our American competitors went cap in hand to their government, and received massive cash handouts from them. This may be what got them through, but all we saw was that it gave them leeway to behave more anti-competitively than they usually do.
  19. Once you have a great product, it is essential to protect it's reputation with vigilance.
  20. I found the whole episode to be deeply depressing and had a real foreboding about what I believe was an unjustified invasion. Apart from the obvious human cost of a conflict, I was skeptical about the weapons of mass destruction and could not fathom why the US government would possibly find Iraq so easy to democratize when so many others had failed before.
  21. The Pentagon suggested that the cost of the conflict in Iraq would be approximately $75 billion per year over ten years. In accepting the Niwano Peace Prize on 8 May 2003, Dr Priscilla Elworthy, of the Oxford Research Group, said, "We must compare this $75 billion to the costs of building international security in other ways."
    1. In the year 2000 world leaders estimated that it would require $25 billion to $35 billion annually to raise levels of health and welfare in Africa to Western standards.
    2. Unecso estimate that all the world's children could be educated if we were to spend $7 billion dollars per year for ten years.
    3. Clear water and sanitation could be provided for everyone in the world for $9 billion annually.
    4. HIV and AIDS now claim 5,500 lives a day around the world -- more than the Black Death -- and twelve million children in Africa have been orphaned by the disease. Kofi Annan has called for $10 billion annually to address the AIDS epidemic.
  22. While I had always been aware of the need to be socially responsible, perhaps I am growing older and wiser because, gradually, I feel I should do much more, on a far wider scale, to help people.
  23. Capitalism -- which in its purest form is entrepreneurism even among the poorest of the poor -- does work; but those who make money from it should put back into society, not just sit on it as if they are hatching eggs.
  24. I am lucky -- once I make up my mind, I can generally do something about it.
  25. There is a story, which I find appealing. It goes like this: a young girl is walking along a beach where the sea has washed up hundreds of starfish which are dying on the shore. As she walks, she stoops and picks up the starfish and throws them back into the sea. An old man is passing and says to her, "Why are you doing this? It's not going to make a difference because there are hundreds there." She looks back at him and says, "If I can make a difference in one of their lives then it's worth it."
  26. If you're a manufacturer and you've built trains which you then hand over to somebody, the incentive to build to the very best standards can never be as high as if you're going to have to maintain and be paid to maintain. Obviously, in the latter case, a manufacturer will want to make that maintenance as easy and as efficient as possible. This will also generally mean that you will also build much more safety into the regime.
  27. Helping people towards self-sufficiency where possible gives them more hope and confidence and can take them out of a cycle of poverty and despair.