From a Virgin airline to a Virgin record company, Richard Branson has created over 200 companies worldwide. More about the man behind the Virgin name
Being valued at nearly $3 billion must feel a little odd, but then, Richard Branson never was the most conventional businessman.
His Virgin empire grew from the humble beginnings of the Virgin Record company, itself a sideline opportunity Richard Branson hit upon whilst publishing Student Magazine - himself a 17 year old student at the time.
In 1970 the British Government removed the Retail Price Maintenance agreement. But the arrogant High Street traders saw no reason to narrow their healthy profit margins by reducing prices. So Richard Branson placed a trial advert in Student Magazine offering discount records by mail order. It brought in a flood of orders - and so the embryonic Virgin Record company began to take form.
Where Does the Virgin Name Come From?
There were a number of candidates, with 'Slipped Disc' proving a popular contender. But one of the girls sat in Student Magazines church crypt 'offices' suggested:
"What about Virgin? We're complete virgins at business."
"And there aren't many virgins left around here..." laughed one of the other girls, "it would be nice to have one here in name if nothing else."
"Great" said Branson on the spot, "It's Virgin".
In hindsight, perhaps Virgin Airline does appeal somewhat more than Slipped Disc Airlines.
The Virgin Airline - Virgin Atlantic - is a Richard Branson personal pride and joy. He was forced to sell the Virgin Record business to Thorn EMI during the 90's recession to secure the survival of the Virgin Airline.
"I had to sell a company I loved" said Branson, insisting he'll never put himself at the mercy of blinkered bank lenders again.
Other Peoples Money
Instead a strategy Richard Branson calls 'branded venture capital' puts forward the Virgin name (3rd most recognised brand in Britain) and minimal capital. Wealthy partners provide the bulk of cash, while the Virgin brand is exchanged for a controlling interest in the new enterprise.
Dubbed the 'Barnum of British Business', Richard Branson is well known for his publicity stunts. Notable moments include donning a wedding dress to help launch Virgin Brides, and driving a World War II tank up to, and firing at, the Coca Cola sign in Time Square to launch the challenge of Virgin Cola!
Full Of Hot Air
It's easy to forget for a moment, that this enigmatic yet quirky businessman has enjoyed nearly killing himself on a number of occasions. Since 1985, Richard has involved himself in numerous record breaking attempts.
Successfully breaking the Atlantic crossing record he claimed the coveted Blue Riband with Virgin Atlantic Challenger II. Then with Virgin Atlantic Flyer - the first ever hot air balloon to cross the Atlantic. Branson recognises the danger he puts himself in, and on surviving his latest challenge always promises both himself and his wife and two children no more foolhardiness.
But his ambition and drive for adventure and new experience soon seem to dull the sheer terror of narrowly escaping death.
Just Making Things Better
The Virgin ethos is simple, take on the big boys and do it better.
Richard Branson delights in upsetting the apple cart, and putting noses out of joint in stale boardrooms around the globe.
"We look for opportunities where we can offer something better, fresher and more valuable, and we seize them. We often move into areas where the customer has traditionally received a poor deal, and where the competition is complacent."
Losing My What..!
In his superbly titled autobiography (get 'Losing My Virginity' here from Amazon), Richard tells a tale of rollercoaster proportions that is the first 43 years of his life.
Insightful, inspiring, touching and a warts-and-all honest account of a truly fascinating man. "He grabs you on page one and never lets go...."
Kept You Waiting
Richard kept the world waiting for Volume 2 of behind the scenes of his life.
And in 'Screw It Let's Do It' he revealed more about his ethos and approach to business. It wasn't so much Volume 2, as Volume 1 revisited. But still a great read (get 'Screw It Let's Do It' here from Amazon).
Feeling a Bit Branson?
If there's a bit of the Branson in you, the internet will always provide an amazing opportunity for the 'little man' to innovate and beat the 'big boys' -- as is the Branson way.
All you need is a guiding guru, the tools to do it - plus the willingness to take just a small step outside of your comfort zone. Read Richard's books for inspiration. Get an awesome marketing mentor on board (you can't get much better than Adam Nolan), and just give it a shot.
Oh, and don't let anyone try and fool you into thinking it's all 'complicated and technical'. Normal everyday people repeatedly succeed online - so long as they have proven mentors to show them the way.
I like to think we all have at least a little bit of the Branson potential inside us. Good luck you budding 'Branson' you!
A Brief History of Virgin
Virgin Mail Order
1st Virgin Record shop
1st Virgin Recording Studio, The Manor
Virgin Record Label
Sex Pistols signed
1st Virgin Nightclub, The Venue
Phil Collins signed
Culture Club signed
Virgin Atlantic Airways
The Music Channel
Virgin Group (music, retail, property, communications) floated
Virgin Records America
Music Channel interests sold
45% Stake In Mastertronic
Virgin Airship & Balloon Company
Olympic Recording Studios
Virgin Classics record label
Virgin Record shops (non-Megastore) sold to WH Smiths
Virgin Broadcasting Virgin Group buyout announced
BSB holding sold
Voyager Travel Holdings sells 10% stake
Virgin Vision sold
Joint Megastore venture in Japan with Marui
Virgin Atlantic wins rights to operate from Heathrow
Mastertronic sold, Virgin Games expanded
Joint Megastore venture in UK with WH Smith
Virgin Music Group sold to Thorn EMI
Radio license granted
Virgin retail expands
Virgin Megastores joint venture with Blockbuster
100% Shareholding of Euromagnetic Products
Virgin Atlantic wins libel settlement from British Airways
Virgin Games renamed Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Megastores Hong Kong
Virgin Retail acquires Our Price
Virgin Cola Company
Virgin Direct Personal Finance
MGM Cinemas acquired
Euro Belgian Airlines acquired, renamed Virgin Express
Virgin Rail Group
Branson acquires 55% in London Broncos rugby league team
Virgin Radio sold to Ginger Productions
Virgin Vie cosmetics
Virgin Sun holidays
Virgin Entertainment buys out WH Smiths 75% in Our Price
Virgin Group announces telecomms plans
Virgin Net goes free
Train ticket booking goes online