As the founder of the Virgin Group – an organisation with a large collection of diverse businesses, covering everything from healthcare to telecommunications, and hotels to space travel – people often ask me how I manage to stay across so many areas. My answer is simple: I surround myself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where I might not be so well versed.
Spanx's CEO, Sara Blakely, once said to me: "The smartest thing I ever did in the early days was to hire my weaknesses." I couldn’t agree more. While it’s tempting for entrepreneurs to want to know it all and do it all, it’s not realistic. No one is good at everything. In order for a business to grow, there needs to be a healthy level of collaboration and delegation.
When my friends and I started Virgin, none of us were any good with numbers. Rather than try to act as accountants and do the job badly, we found Jack Clayton. Jack shared our passion, and had a knack for numbers that helped us become successful and grow. Whenever I meet up-and-coming entrepreneurs I always advise them to look for someone like Jack – people with shared passion but different skillsets. I also encourage start-ups to seek specialist support.
With this in mind, Virgin Media Business is currently working with LinkedIn to find Professionals Advisers across six disciplines – sales, marketing and communications, operations, legal, finance, and entrepreneurism – to mentor and guide this year’s VOOM candidates. As the competition’s finalists prepare to pitch to yours truly, they will need all the help they can get, so that they can be in with the chance of winning a share of £1 million and money-can’t-buy support from our staff and partners.
We’re looking for 12 Professional Advisers, who are experts in their fields and can work with the next generation of entrepreneurs to best showcase the full potential of their business ideas. Many people think that an entrepreneur is someone who operates alone, overcoming challenges and bringing their idea to market through sheer force of personality. This is completely inaccurate. Few entrepreneurs – scratch that, almost no one – has ever achieved anything worthwhile without help. To be successful in business, you need to connect, collaborate and delegate.
I’ve learned this across 50 years in business, and it’s an idea that we hold dear atVirgin StartUp – our not-for-profit company, which offers support to young entrepreneurs across the UK. At Virgin StartUp we recognise that in the early stages of business, mentoring can be even more important than funding; therefore every entrepreneur we support with funding also gets a dedicated mentor for 12 months. Our mentors volunteer their time to help for many reasons, chiefly because they were also helped along their business journey and know how valuable this kind of support can be.
I have experienced the benefits of mentoring first-hand. If it wasn’t for Sir Freddie Laker it’s unlikely that Virgin Atlantic would have stood of the test of time. And having been mentored, I like to give back as a mentor to others too. The mentor-mentee relationship is a two way street – there’s so much that a professional can learn from someone just starting out with fresh ideas and unbridled enthusiasm. Being a mentor has been so helpful to me; particularly as we’ve moved into an age of technological advancement.
Credit:. Richard Branson's Linkedin Page. (Founder Virgin Group)