Thumbs up to franchising

Sir Richard Branson tells Roy Seaman how he built his business empire and how he will always back franchising

At a Business Start-Up exhibition at the Design Centre in Islington, London, Sir Richard Branson was only too pleased to sing the praises of an early newsstand edition of The Franchise Magazine, sister title of Irish Franchise Magazine.

The Virgin business mogul was delighted to hold up the publication and announce his support for franchising and wished its publishers, Franchise Development Services (FDS), every future success. More than 25 years later, at the launch of the first Virgin Money Lounge in Norwich, Sir Richard was again happy to renew his ‘thumbs up’ for the franchise industry and the spirit of entrepreneurship it represents.

Sir Richard believes that a business has to be fun and it has to exercise creative instincts. However, he added that the magic ingredient is for the owners to have a genuine passion, as he demonstrated when he started his first business venture – Student magazine. Sir Richard recalls that he did not like how he was being taught in school and Student hadn’t been set up to make money – he did it because he wanted to be an editor.

Sir Richard then revealed the need for entrepreneurs to persevere and recalled how he spent four years trying to obtain the brand name of his Virgin Record shop. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) informed him that Virgin was too rude a name and would not proceed to register this application. However, to back his application he responded with a dictionary definition of the word – ‘pure and untouched’. This was enough to convince the IPO to grant him the right use of the Virgin name. Today, Virgin is a globally known and valuable brand and has more than repaid those four years Sir Richard spent securing those rights.

As a result of the growth of his Virgin Group, which includes around 400 companies, Sir Richard is acknowledged by Forbes as the 254th wealthiest man on the planet, with a net worth of US$4.2 billion. He went on to say that there are risks in life, but he still remains a great believer in living life to the full and this is how he approaches his businesses.

Sir Richard added that he has no fear of losing money because, at the core of everything he does, is the joy of creating something that will help other people. His advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on their passion for whatever ventures they wish to explore.

“One of the critical elements of being successful is to strive to be the best. If you want to own a restaurant, create the best. If you want to go into the airline business, create the best. They succeed because they are the best,” he says.

*Sir Richard Branson’s latest book, Screw Business as Usual, is about being a business success and is now available.