Start: Mark Evans

Lessons learned from Richard Branson

Special to The Globe and Mail

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two and SpaceShip Two flies over head at the airfield at Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Sir Richard Branson pose at the runway dedication October 22, 2010 in this publicity photograph. (HO)

I recently had the opportunity to see an interview with entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson.

One of the most intriguing questions was about what motivates him to continue to start new businesses, often in markets where there are plenty of established competitors, given the tremendous success he has already enjoyed.

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Mr. Branson replied that starting businesses is what he does, so it just seems right to keep pushing the envelope. It sounds like a simple answer but it reveals how entrepreneurs think and behave. For them, success or failure is just a way of keeping score, and the real thrill comes in trying to create something new and, hopefully, viable.

For many entrepreneurs, Mr. Branson is the poster-boy for success. From humble roots starting a record store at the tender age of 16, he has created a global empire that operates in the airline, wireless, travel, banking and music businesses.

Then there is Virgin Galactic, the space-travel business he is backing, which will be available to consumers - albeit for $220,000 a ticket.

There are many reasons why Mr. Branson has been successful but perhaps the biggest may be his unbridled optimism and willingness to put himself and his reputation on the line. It is an attitude that entrepreneurs need to have, even ones with far more modest aspirations than Mr. Branson. Unless you truly believe in your vision or mission, it can be difficult to do what it takes to be successful.

When asked if there was anything on his plate that he would love to do, Mr. Branson said his next entrepreneurial dream is to create a submarine that can travel more than 35,000 feet below the surface. This would allow for the exploration of oceans around the world to discover unknown species.

Mr. Branson also talked about how companies should be focused on becoming "forces of good" as a way to complement and enhance their business operations.

"It's not just the people of need who would benefit but the companies would benefit because their employees would be motivated and feel that much better about their companies," he said.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a digital marketing and social media strategic agency that helps companies create and tell their stories to customers, bloggers/media, business partners, employees and investors. Mr. Evans has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. He is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh and meshmarketing conferences.