Virgin Group founder Richard Branson embodies a life of risk-taking and success. He's been hungry for a life of adventure since he was a kid. Branson started his first business at age 16, and is now reportedly worth $5.1 billion. And owns an entire island.
Today, Virgin Group is 400 companies strong. How'd Branson grow such a successful empire? The name of his business offers a big clue.
Branson describes how Virgin got its name on his blog. He was sitting around brainstorming business names with friends. Someone threw out "virgin" because no one had any entrepreneurship experience. They were all business virgins. "It was true, and we all liked it, so it stuck," Branson says.
Rules are for suckers
And it's because of his business cluelessness -- his complete naïveté -- that gave Branson the freedom to pave the path for Virgin's success in the way he did. It allowed him to break the rules as he built Virgin. Mainly because he didn't know what those rules were supposed to be.
Branson writes that he thinks all entrepreneurs should fully embrace their inexperience. He deems it your greatest competitive advantage. Ignore what other people say is the proper or proven way to grow and scale your company, he says. That will steer you off course. The number one mistake Branson says entrepreneurs can make is to try to build your business the "right way." Because there is no right way.
"So many people embarking on entrepreneurship for the first time get weighed down in the perceived right way to do things," Branson writes. "They think of their naivety and inexperience as a weakness, but in reality it's a huge advantage."
Everybody's a virgin
"Everybody is a virgin in business when they start," Branson says. "And they are embarking on a wonderful learning process." He believes everything you glean from trial and error will shape your business' future success. You can't be taught those business lessons. You have to learn by doing.
His advice to everyone -- whether they are aspiring businesspeople or not -- is this: "Never get weighed down in the experience of others, go out and learn for yourself. You'll have a lot more fun if you do."