Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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The best advice? Ask for advice.
When you got started in business, did you have any clue about how to structure a corporation, allocate assets, and so on? Do you learn these things along the way? Was there anyone who advised you on this? And if so, how far along your business adventure did you require that advice?
Launching a business is essentially an adventure in problem-solving. This is why I rarely quote experts in this column, and why I strongly emphasise hiring the right people, rather than just looking for people with the right qualifications: because every problem is a little different, and applying generalised solutions—especially by rote—is not a good idea. A great problem solver is usually open to new ideas, innately curious and good at working with others. Above all, terrific listening skills are essential.
When my friends and I started up the first Virgin businesses, we didn’t know anything about building a company. At our mail order record venture, everyone received a wage of £20 per week (I think we were all still in our teens). It was a truly flat organisation, and as we worked, each of us discovered by trial and error what he was good at, what areas he should focus on, and how to work with the other members of our group.
Back then, because there were no companies like the Virgin Group, my friends and I didn’t have an example to imitate. Even if there had been, we certainly had no idea of what the future held for our enterprises. But as our businesses grew and grew, I began to delegate responsibilities—there was simply no better way to get things done well—and this became the blueprint for the structure that has served the Virgin Group ever since. The CEOs and their teams lead the various Virgin businesses independently, while the management group and I focus on the company’s future.
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