In an informative book called The Medici Effect about entrepreneurialism and innovation, there is a section with an anecdote about how Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines that shows the serial entrepreneur’s views of risk taking and research in business.
In 1984, Branson was already a successful record company executive. But upon being presented with the idea to start an airline, he jumped at it. His research consisted of calling a possible competitor, a discount airline called People Express. When he tried calling to make a reservation, he was put on hold and couldn’t get through to a company representative for several days. This led Branson to conclude that the company didn’t provide something that Virgin Records, Branson’s first company, did extremely well–good customer service.
This was the “in” he was looking for, his competitive edge. A few calls later, he signed a year-long lease for a Boeing jumbo jet. Six months later, Virgin Atlantic’s first flight departed from London.
As the author of the book points out, Branson hadn’t done “extensive research” into the airline business. He had taken a huge leap into a business that many people knew way more about than he did. The point of this anecdote, which is probably rather simplified, is that taking action without all the research and the “experience” you think you need may be a good way to get started.
You may be thinking, “well, someone who has the entrepreneurial instincts and past success of a guy like Richard Branson has a better shot at making a new venture succeed.” And you might be right. But going form the music business to trying to compete with huge airlines was not an example of “straight line” thinking. And his research wasn’t what you would call extensive either.
Obviously, a big part of his success relies on the fact that he takes risks and goes balls out where others might play it safe.
It is easy to get bogged down in research and self-doubt. Sometimes taking the leap is a great way to learn how to do something and figure out how to succeed from inside the business as opposed to getting stuck looking at it from the outside. In the online business world, where you can start a website or blog in minutes and for little or no money, it has never been easier to take a leap of faith in a new direction and see what happens.
- Digg Interview with Sir. Richard Branson
- Richard Branson’s TED Talk
- Finding an Affordable Web Host for Your Blog or Website
- Starting an Online Business in 2009