Losing my virginity, Richard Branson - Book Summary

Losing My Virginity is the world's best-selling autobiography by businessman Richard Branson. He details his lucrative adventures, starting from dropping out of school, starting a record label, and crossing the Atlantic by speedboat. The book brilliantly portrays the role of intelligence, determination and risk-taking on the road to becoming one of the richest men in the world.

This book is especially for those interested in billionaire Richard Branson - the founder of one of the most influential and successful corporations of the twentieth century, who ran an airline and founded many businesses. world records for skydiving and sea crossing. If you do not know this talented businessman, you will still find the book extremely interesting as throughout is the story of how the eccentric CEO broke all the rules in business and still brilliantly created remarkable results. respect.

How to build a big business like billionaire Richard Branson?

How can one become the boss behind an airline, record store chain, record label, nightclub and railroad company and still have the energy and time to set a world record? world with hot air balloons?

Richard Branson is truly out of the ordinary: A fearless adventurer with a keen business acumen. This combination with imagination and determination is the recipe for success despite many failures and challenges throughout his life.

In Road To The Great Sea , Branson describes many of the events in his life that shaped his personality - his candor, risk-taking, and iron determination and helped him revolutionize the music industry. and aviation.

If you think of business as a bland endeavor, the following pages will change the way you think. By immersing yourself in the stories of Branson's turbulent and exciting life, you'll understand why choosing to play by the rules can provide you with a host of advantages in business – and in the real world. life.

You will know:

  • The challenges Branson's family gave him when he was a boy, which stimulated his imagination and helped him get used to taking risks;
  • How he flew to Baghdad to save the hostages from Saddam Hussein, just as war broke out;
  • How to buy an island;
  • How to fly across the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon, after losing half of the fuel on the first day!

“Honestly, I have never made a deal just to make money. If that is the only goal then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be engaging, interesting, and it has to challenge your creativity.”

Overcoming the limit

Branson was born in 1950 into a very independent minded family. From an early age, he was encouraged to push the limits of his abilities. As a result, Branson soon developed an appetite for adventure and showed an interest in the challenges his mother or life in general presented to him.

When Branson was just eleven years old, his mother told him to visit relatives who lived fifty miles away—by bicycle and with no directions. This teaches the boy stamina and orientation. And when he finally returned home the next day, instead of the hero's warm welcome, he was directed only to the vicar's house to cut some firewood.

But this isn't the first time the Bransons have given him a tough challenge. During a two-week family holiday in Devon, when Branson was only four years old, his aunt bet him 10 shillings (ancient British currency) that he wouldn't be able to learn to swim in two weeks. . Accepting the challenge, he spent many hours learning to swim in the sea. Unfortunately, on the last day of his vacation, he still couldn't find a way to swim above the waves.

But for him, this is not the end. When he saw a river on his way home, he took the opportunity and told his father to stop the car. Stepping out of the car, he took off his clothes and ran to the riverbank. As soon as he reached the water's edge, he jumped down.

Immediately he began to sink.

However, gradually, by pedaling slowly and steadily, he was able to rise above the water. When he reached the middle of the stream, he saw his family clapping in approval and his aunt waving a ten shilling note.

When Branson came out of the water, his father threw his arms around him and he was soaked too. Seeing his son duck his head into the water, he lost his temper and plunged into the water, diving close to the boy.

Struggling with schoolwork and putting energy into pop culture magazines

Having failed academically in college – partly because of his independent attitude, and partly because of his dyslexia - Branson began to find his passion in other professions.

He and his best friend Jonny Gems founded Student magazine . The magazine's initial purpose was only to voice discontent about the school, but it quickly became a wonderful intersection between student culture and hot topics.

But to build a magazine is not a simple matter when there are many problems. One of the biggest challenges Brason or Jonny faced was the financial resources to publish Student – ie finding an advertiser for a magazine that didn't even exist.

Although most of the companies Branson approached were hesitant, he quickly found an effective way to engage them:

To convince the National Bank of Westminster, he told them that Lloyds Bank had just placed an ad and asked if they wanted to advertise alongside Lloyds Bank. The strategy worked, and they soon got their first £250.

Student time quickly became more of a priority than school work, so Branson and Johnny left Stowe and moved to a basement in London. They edited and distributed the magazine, drawing more and more seniors into the tiny room to help with the work.

Although Branson suffered from dyslexia – the root cause of his academic difficulty and the reason his grades were consistently the bottom of his class – he devoted much time and effort to editing and writing articles. journal than any other class assignment.

Overly ambitious, he and Johnny wanted to write about international events, like the wars in Biafra and Vietnam. So they asked the Daily Mirror if they were interested in a reporter's story going to Vietnam. Indeed they did: The Mirror agreed to buy the story and Student had enough money to send one of his staff to Biafra and do a similar report.

Despite his interest in politics, Student 's core is music – like exclusive interviews with Keith Richards, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or articles about club events and meetings Shows.

“To be successful, you have to go out and do things with full energy.”

Established Virgin Mail Order

As he entered the music business, Branson realized that many people were excited about records, and realized that distribution through record stores was unmatched. Simply because there are no other options, there are people who would never spend 40 shillings on a meal but would happily pay the same amount for a new Beatles record at a major record store.

But Branson had another option in mind. He found that the mail-order system would be popular with people his age, who would prefer to order discs by mail at a lower price than at retail stores. as big as WH Smiths.

He discussed his idea with Student employees, and they decided that the new project would have a name. It should be a name that attracts the masses, goes beyond the student body and is eye-catching.

After looking at several names, one of the employees suggested “Virgin”, because they are all completely “virgins” in the business. And so the Virgin Mail Order was born.

In the final issue of Student magazine , Branson placed an ad for e-mail ordering and it brought in more offers and cash than they had ever seen.

But the sweetest part of this venture is that the company gets the pre-order money, which means they have the capital to buy the discs. Therefore, they can balance their finances instead of waiting for the money to flow in.

Branson brought his childhood friend and collaborator Nik up as accountants, and together they decided how they would buy the discs from scratch and ship them to customers. They decided that, by making arrangements with local record stores to import records directly from the record companies, the Virgin group could sell the records at a cheaper price.

During the 70s, Virgin Mail Order was a huge success. But then a potential danger occurred. In January 1971, the post office went on strike, and that meant that Virgin customers could neither send money nor receive discs.

Virgin record stores became very popular

In 1971, the major retail stores were dominated by a lighthearted trend and no one seemed to have any interest in rock music.

When the postal strike hit, Virgin was forced to build their own record store. They wanted to expand on what they had built with Student : a place where customers were not only encouraged to buy a plate and leave, but where they were welcomed and could exchange views on relationships. his mind.

Realizing that the shoe store on Oxford Street had a staircase leading to an empty floor, Virgin contracted the owner to place their store there. However, they could not pay the rent of the store. With exceptional wits and a keen business mind, Branson persuaded the store owner to let them use it for free, emphasizing the potential customer base. The ability to visit Virgin can also pass through his store.

Virgin's first store was a huge success — so much so that Branson and company decided to shift their focus to opening more stores. Meanwhile, they kept their mail orders intact, ready to resume work as soon as the strike ended.

By Christmas 1972, Virgin had expanded to fourteen record stores across England. Their style is so successful that it is impossible to keep the atmosphere they want and at the same time make a profit. In other words, their stores were crowded, but no one was actually buying anything: Their space was so comfortable that the Virgin stores became a place for dates.

To change the situation, they installed brighter lights and moved the cashier counter by the window to emphasize to people that they were entering a store, not a club. The strategy worked: After just two months, sales rebounded.

Virgin raised the bar in the music industry by opening a studio and founding a record label.

Not long after, Branson discovered that it would be more profitable to open a studio and record label. He also realized that most studios do business in a very serious way. They work to strictly assigned schedules, in rooms that are overbooked with very few instruments. That discipline is the limit to the intensity and intensity of rock and pop music – dating back to the 1960s.

So, in 1971, at the age of 21, Branson set out to buy a country house that he could turn into a recording studio with the vision that it would become the most productive and engaging environment for bands. music.

After searching for weeks, he finally found a beautiful seventeenth-century manor house, full of iron gates, and set in quaint countryside. However, the problem started when asking for a price. The house sold for £30,000 - almost half a million pounds in today's money - far more than he had. Sure, his investments are going well, but Virgin isn't making that much profit.

After investigating the sales of Virgin Mail Order and Virgin Music Store, the Bank of England agreed to provide a £20,000 mortgage. His aunt also mortgaged her house to lend him £7,500, and he was able to send money to the estate office to keep the house.

Not only that, Branson also founded the record label Virgin Records. Having a brand associated with the Virgin group allows them to find artists themselves, giving them a place to record (and charge); promote and sell discs through the chain stores (and get a retail profit balance, too).

The first artist to sign the contract was Mike Oldfield. Oldfield recorded Tubular Bells at Virgin Manor during 1972 and 1973, a record that sold more than thirteen million copies, making Branson's company an unexpected success.

Virgin sued for promoting Sex Pistols album album

The Sex Pistols were a popular rock band in the late 70's. In the UK, the Sex Pistols were considered a threat to the "norm" of society and were banned from performing. In the US, they do not exert the same influence, but it is hard to deny that countless other bands in both countries are more or less inspired by them, from their musical power, from their independence. full of personality.

In 1976, Virgin had a big problem: Other than Mike Oldfield, all the other big name operations were losing money. But the '70s were the age of punk (rock music with offensive content and expressing social hatred), and it was time for Virgin to sign a contract with one of the bands. new.

Finally, in May 1977, Malcolm Mclaren, the manager of the Sex Pistols band, signed with Virgin in the hope of quickly getting rid of the record label at the time for rude behavior, as they did. have done with EMI and A&M before.

Virgin signed the deal just in time to release the song "God Save The Queen" for Queen Elizabeth's 25th anniversary. At that time the Sex Pistols band performed in front of the British House of Commons, creating a public explosion and causing McLaren to be arrested.

However, as Virgin did not have any shareholders to oppose their actions, McLaren's hopes of ending the contract were dashed.

In 1977, Sex Pistol's album, "Nevermind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols," was released and widely promoted in Virgin stores around the world. England. A Nottingham store manager has been arrested for his overt use of the word "bollocks" (which also means testicles). Moreover, the police also threatened to ban the circulation of this album.

Branson needs to act. He brought linguist James Kinsley to trial, who explained that "bollocks" did not refer to "testicles" but was a nickname for monks. Kinsley went on to argue that even the monks certainly wouldn't be offended by the headline "Don't mind the monks, this is the Sex Pistols."

The prosecutor then asked him how he could be sure that the church would not be offended by such a name. Kinsley simply flipped the collar of his polo shirt open, revealing the pastor inside.

Branson was really lucky: he found a linguist and a bishop. And so the case was dropped.

With skillful negotiation skills, Branson bought a beautiful tropical island for 180,000 pounds

In 1978, Branson lived in New York, because he wanted to be with Joan, his future wife - in the process of divorcing her ex-husband there. After completing the process, Branson was asked if he would name the company after the Virgin Island. Despite the fact that this is not the case, the island is definitely a perfect spot for a couple to enjoy.

He had heard that if a person was really interested in buying an island, the real estate offices would house the person in a villa and provide a helicopter to fly around the island. So Branson contacted a real estate agent and told him he was looking for a place for Virgin Music artists to relax and record.

Joan and Branson flew to the island, where they were greeted and greeted by the office on one of the most secluded and beautiful islands - Necker Island.

Although he had no intention of buying it at first, he asked for the price of the island. It's about three million pounds. With nothing to lose, he bid £150,000 and the couple were kicked out of the villa.

Returning to London, he learned that the owner of Necker Island, an English gentleman, needed to close the sale of the island quickly in order to buy another building for £200,000. So Branson raised the price to £175,000 and the deal ended at the unbelievable price of £180,000. From pocketing a free vacation, Branson bought an entire island for a fraction of the price offered.

But the purchase wasn't the only fruit of the trip; The Virgin Islands is where Branson built his next empire: Virgin Airlines. When his flight back to Puerto Rico was cancelled, he rented a plane for $2,000 and wrote on a blackboard the words "Virgin Airways: $39 a flight to Puerto Rico."

The emergence of CDs and the signing of unknown but potential artists made Virgin Records a huge success.

Despite having the Sex Pistols and several New Wave bands to break into the music market, Virgin couldn't make a huge profit. In 1980, Virgin Music lost £900,000.

Branson remains determined to stick with signing new artists, such as Simple Minds, The Human League and Phil Collins, much to the chagrin of the CFO when he realizes Virgin is spending money it doesn't have on paid to unknown artists.

The CFO left and sold a 40% stake to Branson, making him the 100% owner of a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy.

What no one expected, however, was the popularity of Compact Disc (abbreviated as CD). Because of its success, people started buying CD-recorded albums. Virgin was able to sell their catalogs on CDs, and Mike Oldfield's first record, which sold very well with CDs, helped Virgin regain financial balance.

Plus, Branson's faith in talent spotter and music mentor Simon Draper eventually paid off, as virtually all of the bands he brought in turned out to be hugely profitable.

For example, The Human League's third album - titled Dare - reached number one in the UK charts, having sold one million copies in the UK and three million worldwide. Plus, the list of young artists Virgin has brought into the music industry – brand new artists – seems endless: Phil Collins, Boy George, Culture Club, Simple Minds, XTC or Heaven 17, All of them were really successful.

Virgin became an unrivalled freelance brand, making more money than they ever expected: with £50m in sales, total profits of £2m in 1982 and skyrocketing to £11m. in 1983.

Investing in the airline business nearly bankrupted Virgin, but Branson brought Virgin Airways up

With a joke that used to have the same name Virgin Airways in the late '70s, Branson was excited about the idea of ​​​​founding an airline. So in 1984, when an American lawyer called Randolph Fields to ask Branson if he was interested in running a transatlantic airline, he was ready for a new challenge.

The manager opposed the idea. Still, Branson was adamant, arguing that if they could lease just one plane for a year, they could limit how much they could lose, and possibly pull out of the project if it failed.

After two months of careful negotiations, Boeing finally agreed to let Branson lease a Jumbo for a year. However, they lacked flight permits, time slots to squeeze in, and advertising to install a ticketing system.

In order to obtain a permit, a proficiency test needs to be held with the officer at the airport. It was during that inspection that the plane - uninsured due to lack of permits - crashed into a flock of birds. As a result, one of the engines exploded and the test aborted.

And Branson was in trouble again. The first commercial flight is due in two days and he still needs a license and an engine - a total cost of around £600,000.

After installing new engines, obtaining a license and flying on Virgin's flight, Branson realized that £600,000 had exceeded Virgin's $3 million quota, and that the bank would not be willing to increase it.

Virgin is on the verge of bankruptcy.

To get out of this situation, Branson collected money from his stores around the world. The money was enough to keep Virgin Airways afloat, and the airline became legitimate and successful, under the leadership of Branson, who had just turned 33.

Despite facing many life events, Branson successfully sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in record time.

In 1984, Ted Toleman was looking for an investor to finance the cost of a boat he was building to cross the Atlantic Ocean at record speed to surpass the British Blue Riband Trophy. Branson was excited to sponsor. He realized that taking part in a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean and hitting a record would attract the attention of his airline.

With an experienced sailor – Chay Blyth – on their team, Toleman and Branson set out for New York and set out for England to beat the then record (3 days, 10 days) hours and 40 minutes).

But after three days at sea and only 60 miles to go, they encountered a storm, which tore open the hull and caused the Virgin Challenger to sink.

The crew members had to use lifebuoys and were eventually rescued by a tourist boat. Surprisingly, on this very ship Branson also saw his newborn son for the first time – one of the passengers had a copy of the Evening Standard (a free British daily magazine), on The cover has a picture of Branson's baby.

Still determined to win the Blue Riband, Chay and Branson decided they should build a single-hull boat rather than two-hull. The boat was called the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, and it sailed to New York in 1986 in a second attempt to win the prize.

However, another accident occurred when the filter of the fuel pump became clogged, causing the engine to clog. Furthermore, they need to be replaced every two hours. Because of this obstacle, they have no chance of reaching the UK in time to beat the current record.

Cleverly, Branson went to Downing Street and spoke to the right person: an RAF plane had been authorized to take the new filters and drop them on the boat. With those new filters, they were able to keep the engine running, finishing the trip in 3 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes – setting a new world record for a 3,000-mile journey.

Humanity in person Branson

During the war in Kuwait, Branson brought aid to Jordan, and later rescued British hostages in Baghdad.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait (Saddam was a leader who left many conflicting views. Western media depicts him as a ruthless dictator, while many Arabs and other countries of the world. The third world considers him a soldier who dared to oppose the great power of the US and the West). This event turned the world upside down and caused the price of aviation oil to double, from 75 cents to $1.50 a gallon.

When Branson was about to drop his son off at school, his phone rang. It was a call from Queen Noor of Jordan, whom he had met and befriended on a previous expedition. Over 150,000 refugees flew from Iraq to Jordan without blankets or water to drink. And although the Red Cross went to distribute water, the Jordanian government still requested about 100,000 blankets to prevent a disaster.

Branson and his staff managed to locate and fly to Jordan with 100,000 warm blankets. Contacting the Red Cross, foreign offices and overseas development offices, they collected 30,000 warm blankets and a few more from UNICEF. In addition, Sainsbury (British supermarket chain) agreed to donate several tons of rice.

To get these supplies to Jordan, Branson and the crew decided to remove all the seats from a Boeing 747 and load it with more than 40,000 warm blankets, aid medicine and tons of rice. On the way back to the UK, they also picked up people stranded in Jordan.  

But there are still a number of Britons who are still being held in Baghdad and held hostage. Branson telephoned the king of Jordan to negotiate a deal with Saddam Hussein: In exchange for medical aid, Hussein should release all children, women, and the sick.

On October 23, Branson and a Virgin volunteer landed in Baghdad, entering the most dangerous airspace in the world in a commercial jet. They arrived safely and were allowed to take most of the hostages with them. However, they were forced to leave the men at the airport. Only a few weeks later it stopped.

“The best motto to follow is: 'If you don't take risks, you won't get anything'.”

Crashed while crossing the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon.

Crossing the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon was a fascinating challenge for Branson. He had intended to do this with Per Lindstrand in 1989, but their hot air balloon tore off shortly before taking off. In January 1990, they met in Japan for a second attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean by ballooning into the narrow 200 MPH atmosphere. Their goal is to reach California in two days to win the world record for fastest speed, and become the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon.

Seven hours passed, and it was time for them to drop the empty oil tanks to reduce weight and increase flight speed. However, due to a technical error, they not only dropped the empty tanks but also dropped two more fuel tanks. Now they only have half the fuel left to go 6,000 miles.

That's still not the worst! They lost contact with the control center again soon after hearing the terrifying sound of the storm coming. They cannot connect with the outside world. Fortunately, Branson and his friends were flying in the narrow atmosphere and thanks to the wind they were able to travel 170 miles per hour. However, a small amount of propane leaked, causing the balloon's shell to catch on fire. Quickly, Lindstrand and Branson lifted the balloon to an altitude of 40,000 feet (1 ft = 0.3048000m), where there was not enough oxygen and the fire was extinguished.

After the fire goes out, the radio works again, establishing communication with the control center. However, they heard another bad news: The narrow air current had turned and would blow them back to Japan if they were unable to descend to 18,000 ft, where another wind was blowing northward, heading north. about the North Pole.

After nearly 48 hours, they finally landed in Canada – 3,000 miles from their original destination – a hot air balloon flight with a greater average distance and speed than anyone has ever reached. Okay.

British Airways used dirty tricks to compete with Virgin Airways, but in the end they had to accept an apology

In the 1990s, Branson was enjoying the peak of his career, but his success in aviation was not appreciated by British Airways - the traditional British transport channel. The firm began campaigns to kick him out of the industry. They even assembled a group with the sole purpose of sabotaging Branson and his company.

BA not only contacted Virgin customers, offered them cheaper flights and claimed that Virgin flights were canceled or sold out, but also hacked into Virgin's data systems to get booking information of this airline. In addition, they contracted several private detectives and publicists to investigate Branson, his family and his company to ruin the businessman's image.

The proof is that after seeing a TV documentary about the hostile relationship between BA and Virgin, a Virgin customer contacted Branson's office and reported that she received numerous calls by people claiming to be an employee of Virgin. They called to inform her that she had to cancel her flight and asked if she would like to book a Concorde flight the next day. BA has denied any involvement.

Even with this information and some former BA employees willing to verify, the offices responsible for the rivalry that exists between the two airlines refuse to acknowledge the campaign with such dirty actions.

Just when Branson and his team found a hard drive containing all of the conversations between BA executives - revealed that the manager made the decision to take down Virgin - Branson and his lawyers he was confident enough to take BA to court.

With such clear evidence in hand, BA immediately changed tactics, from outright denial to conciliation. It was perhaps the largest ever fine as BA had to pay £500,000 to Branson and £110,000 to Virgin Atlantic as compensation for individual and corporate defamation. More than that, they have to apologize and admit their mistakes in public.


Main message:

You can still have fun in business, if you are brave enough to face any challenge and bold enough to overcome any obstacle in your way.