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Published on January 2nd, 2015 | by admin

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Secrets To Starting A Successful Business

Richard Branson opened a small record shop called Virgin Records in 1970. He had dropped out of high school a few years prior, and his only other business experience was running his own magazine.

Today, Branson is worth $5.1 billion and is chairman of the Virgin Group, which consists of more than 400 companies around the world.

Eight of those companies bring in over a billion dollars in revenue annually.

Over the past 40 years, Branson has learned the ins and outs of business through trial and error, and has figured out how to continue building an empire of innovative companies.

In his 2012 book “Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School,” Branson shares his five secrets for starting a business:

1. “If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.”

“When I started Virgin from a basement in west London, there was no great plan or strategy. I didn’t set out to build a business empire. I simply wanted to create something people would enjoy using, have fun doing it and at the end of the day prayed that it would make enough to pay the bills,” Branson writes.

2. “Be innovative — create something different.”

From the moment he decided to give his company a risqué name back in 1970, Branson has always been about standing out in the world. He writes that he founded Virgin Atlantic in 1984 as an airline that actually had great customer service — which he says was unfortunately a breakthrough idea at the time. Today he’s readying Virgin Galactic to be the first company to offer civilians trips to space.

3. “Pride of association works wonders.”

“For me there is nothing sadder than hearing someone being apologetic about the place where they are working,” he writes. Successful business owners recognize that their employees are their most valuable asset, and make them feel appreciated. Proud employees not only work harder, but save businesses money on hiring through higher retention rates.

4. “Lead by listening.”

Great managers recognize that they don’t have all the answers and build teams that can help grow the company. “Sure, you need to know your own mind, but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate and a degree of consensus,” Branson says.

He also says that the best leaders are quick to praise good work, which compels employees to contribute their best ideas.

5. “Be visible.”

Founders of companies do not shut themselves off from their employees, whether they’re running a startup or a multibillion-dollar corporate empire. They find ways to keep lines of communication open with the managers below them, as well as low-level employees.

Branson says he keeps a small notebook with him whenever he’s interacting with Virgin employees of any level, and when he’s flying Virgin, he says he likes asking passengers about their experience with the airline.

Running A Successful Business When You Cannot Predict Sales – Forbes

Can you run a business successfully if you cannot predict sales? The answer has to be Yes, because nobody can predict sales really well. Some have smaller margins of error than others, but no business predicts perfectly. And yet, some businesses succeed.

It’s getting worse, too, as the economy becomes harder and harder to forecast (and believe me, I speak from experience). Technology changes in unpredictable directions, your customers’ attitudes change, the government does big, bold moves that are not easy to predict, and your competitors are continually devising clever ways to eat your lunch. So what do you do if you can’t forecast sales, but you have to make decisions about the future?

Some good insights come from an article by my fellow Forbes.com contributor Steve Banker, Procter & Gamble Speaks At The Chief Supply Chain Officer Forum. Steve’s article comes from his perspective as an expert in logistics and supply chain management; I’ll take his content and filter it for more general business leaders.

Julio Nemeth, P&G’s head of product supply, made some interesting points at a recent conference.

Demand Forecasting. The company is using increasingly sophisticated demand data, but still have a margin of error at the SKU level of plus or minus 20 percent. You small business owners shouldn’t feel so bad about your own forecast errors, if this is how good the big, sophisticated companies are.

Planning Cycles: P&G is updating its sales and operations planning weekly, with twice-daily adjustments in their fastest moving areas. When forecasting is more difficult, then make more frequent adjustments as new data come in. This seems like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to implement. In fact, a comprehensive plan to speed up everything in business, from sales calls to deposits, can help a company deal with uncertainty.

Smaller Facilities: P&G used to build a few very large facilities. As transportation costs rose relative to manufacturing costs, it makes sense to have more facilities, but smaller ones, scattered more widely. (I assume that this applies mainly to factories, but could include distribution centers.) This is presented in Steve’s article as a reaction to changing relative costs, and it’s fine on that basis. Moreover, it also helps with uncertainty, as there is no huge commitment to one location. If an area develops rapidly, other facilities can help serve that region until the local one can be expanded. If future demand is uncertain, this arrangement can last a while. When the company gains confidence that the demand growth will continue, it can expand the existing location.

The idea that forecasting is imprecise is critical. In my workshops I’ve learned that experienced executives are pretty good at figuring out what to do once they accept their own inability to predict the future. Getting humble is the hard part; after that, it’s just thinking through the proble


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