Richard Branson

Richard Branson

For one of the richest men in the country, Richard Branson is about as normal a bloke as you could ever wish to meet.

The chairman of the Virgin Group may have built up a personal fortune of $1.4billion over four decades - in doing so making him one of the most recognisable figures in the UK. But speaking to the 61-year-old is not how you would imagine conversing with one of the world’s most famous businessmen.

"I believe in living life to the full, making the most of every single day," Branson says in his unfailingly positive tone. "I just live for the moment, which is a cliché but it is true. I have a great life. I would be a bit sad if I didn’t make the most of it, wouldn’t I?"

Branson is not wrong when he says he has a great life - you just have to look at his 74-acre Necker Island home that he shares with wife Joan to recognise that this is a man who goes by the maxim ‘work hard/play hard’.

"It is my favourite place in the entire world. It was love at first sight as soon as I saw it all those years ago.

"It’s like being on holiday when I’m there because it is such a wonderful setting and there are always parties going on. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else."

Of course, the luxury has been hard-earned - the rewards of positive thinking and decisive decision-making; both outstanding trademarks of Branson’s extraordinary career.

From humble beginnings - Branson left school at 15 with no qualifications - he has built up a worldwide conglomerate that now has over 400 companies.

Having enjoyed huge successes with products ranging from airlines to trainlines, mobile phones to the internet, Branson is considered the oracle on all things business.

And happily for budding entrepreneurs, he has revealed his secrets in a new book Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach you at Business School.

"I get sent so many questions from people, via text, via email, via tweet, that it is impossible for me to get back to everyone, so I thought I would answer everybody’s questions in one go by writing the book. And I’ve enjoyed it."

So what are Branson’s key pieces of advice?

"I always think that for something to be successful, it has to be an obvious labour of love for those involved. I am passionate about all my projects because if I’m not passionate about something, why should anyone else be?

"But the idea must be a great one. If you have a great idea that will improve people’s lives, then you can’t go wrong. You have to have products that people can see will make their lives better."

But it isn’t just his inspirational ideas that have marked Branson out as a visionary, it is the quality of service too, and his message is simple - go the extra mile.

"You will only be a success if you are offering your customer the best they can find," he says with certainty. "It is absolutely vital. If it’s an airline, it has to be the best.

"If it’s a trainline, it has to be the best. If it’s the internet, it has to be the best. And if you’re offering the best, you will earn people’s trust."

Such an incredibly diverse business roadmap may seem unlikely nowadays for the next generation of entrepreneur to follow, but Branson says that business school and qualifications are not the be all and end all for aspiring businessmen.

"I learned to survive by doing it, making mistakes as I went along, and that can happen today. Anybody can make themselves a success - you just need the idea. And perseverance.

"I have had my share of failures but I’ve never let any of them put me off trying something else. You can succeed even if you’ve failed."

So what of the future? As you might expect, Branson isn’t ready for the pipe and slippers just yet.

"I want to carry on, definitely," he says merrily."I feel fit and healthy and there is no reason for me to stop. There is still so much to achieve. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?"

Sir Richard Branson’s new book, ‘Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Tell you at Business School’, published by Virgin Books, is out now.

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