I finally had a chance to finish reading Richard Branson’s biography: Losing my virginity. After Jack Welsh, Branson was on my top 10 business leaders list and after reading his 600+ pages bio, he’s probably not far from the top. What an amazing read ! To my surprise, it really reads as a novel and has a very particular personal touch I appreciate. The most surprising of all for me is the fact that Branson was not necessarily promised to such success: Poor academic records, dyslexia, not a lot family backup (from a financial perspective) etc.
He started his “empire” selling “cut-out” records out of the trunk of his car and end up with a $2.4 billion net worth as chairman of the Virgin Group ! The early years are quite something, getting arrested and charged for selling record that has been declared export stock (a big no-no !), starting Virgin Records and signing his first artist Mike Oldfield with his multi platinum record Tubular Bells, signing the Sex Pistols when nobody dared getting them on board … Then off he goes with an airline (the legal fight he won against British Airway is a classic !), train, space tourism, TV, Mobile, financial services and the list goes on and on …
There are 3 or 4 chapters about his world record attempts, whether with boat or balloon. These chapters are real page turners as Branson is really able to tell an exciting story and shares true emotions ! He makes you feel part of the adventure ! I actually laughed quite a bit during these stories as some of them are quite surreal.
There are also some chapters about his humanitarian initiatives, from the time he went with his plane to pick up hostages during the first gulf war to the building of The Elders (Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter etc.) funded by Peter Gabriel as well.
If you’re looking for insights, tips or advice you might be disappointed. Branson is simply telling his story, his success and failures, what drives him and how he approaches business decision (quite simply actually with a lot of instinct). It’s up to you to discover what to make of his story. I might read his other book “screw it, let’s do it !” which summarizes quite nicely his life and the decision he had to make.