Book review: Richard Branson - Losing my virginity

Richard Branson Autobiography

I recently finished reading Sir Richard Branson's autobiography entitled Losing my Virginity. For those of you reading who don't know who Richard Branson is then I ask you: where have you been and are you really interested in business at all?!
Branson is the British creator and founder of the famous Virgin brand name. Nowadays this is the name attached to products such as Virgin Media, Virgin Athletic, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Galactic and in the past Virgin Megastores, Virgin Records, and Virgin Cola among many other concepts.

The autobiography is written from Branson's point of view and gives an insight into his business mind. The book tracks Branson's life from his early years growing up to living out on his private Island (Necker Island) in the British Virgin Islands.

It is clear from the outset that Branson has lived an interesting and fulfilled life. He appears to have started out as a hippy who loves business, living on basement floors and on barges whilst trying to launch a business off the ground.

Inspiring stuff from Virgin

The beginnings of Virgin Records is fascinating given his launch of the Love Film type concept of ordering records via post. His early years appear to have been mixed in terms of successes as he lurched from one disaster to the next. What really struck me as Branson's key to success is that he isn't afraid to take really big gambles when the pressure is on him. One that has stayed in my mind is during his early years. Branson's mail order record 'shop' is working reasonably well when a postal strike all but destroys his entire business strategy. Most people who have held up their hands and said "what a shame, I'll give up then" or "I'll wait out this strike and then start up the mail order business again". Not Richard Branson. Instead he knows that the only way to keep trading is to end his reliance on the post office and have customers come to him. He takes on a bit of debt and opens up the first Virgin Megastores. It's this sort of big gamble attitude that sees him through all of his troubles. He was certainly not afraid to take on big loans from demanding banks.

Highs and lows of Branson's life

Other than the business information and experiences one of the suprisingly good bits of Branson's life are his various hot air balloon attempts. They are described in great detail and often go wrong with potentially dangerous consequences that keeps the chapters page turners.

On the other hand towards the end of the book the focus is more on Branson's charity work and work in establishing a global Council of Elders ground which I didn't find that interesting. More business and balloons please!

Overall though a great life conveyed in a well written book. Worth a read!

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