Q. I'm an 18-year-old Singaporean preparing for A-levels. I want to become an entrepreneur; to improve lives, serve the public and explore new horizons. However, the education system in my country doesn't really expose students to entrepreneurship.
I've read a few books, including Like a Virgin, but I'm not quite sure how to kick-start my career. What resources do I need? What steps should I take?
My parents named me after you, and I hope that someday I can reach your level of success or maybe even surpass it!
Branson Lee, Singapore
Branson, first I'd like to thank your parents for the great honour. My own children named their babies recently, so I was reminded of what a big decision it can be! I was completely bowled over when I read your letter and found that I have a namesake.
Considering their flattering choice, I will assume that your parents have a passion for entrepreneurship. In the long run, their support and advice will be one of your greatest assets as you embark on this adventure of becoming an entrepreneur.
This is far more valuable than any classroom training –entrepreneurs are born, not created in schools, and those who go on to make a living from it simply rely on the skills that they have always had. Back in your playground days, did you ever swap your sandwich for a better one? Have you ever sold something to a friend and made a profit? If so, you've got the entrepreneurial spirit.
I hope "Like a Virgin" whetted your appetite to get out into the real world, because that's where you'll do most of your learning. Ultimately, there's only one way to start your career, and that's by starting a business. If you find yourself hesitating, remember my motto: Screw it, just do it.
Now that you're ready to get started, keep these six simple tips in mind:
1. Think about what drives you
When you're considering which idea to turn into a business, think about the subjects and problems that interest you most. Is there an industry you love? A talent you have? A cause that you are 110 per cent behind? Don't start a business just because you think it'll turn a profit; if you're not in love with the idea, you won't move mountains to make it happen.
2. Start at your doorstep
Now that you have decided on the area you'd like to focus on, look around yourself in Singapore. What is the market missing that it desperately needs? Which services do you and your friends use that are lackluster and could be hugely improved? Think about how your business could help your street, your neighbourhood and your city. From there, you might someday expand to bigger markets.
3. Shake things up
As you design your product or service, remember your resolve to serve the public; business is about improving other people's lives. Hopefully, once you've done that, more money comes in than goes out.
From Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Money and Virgin Active, our team has always launched businesses out of a genuine desire to disrupt the status quo and improve things for customers.
Our businesses have succeeded because we are focused on shaking up sectors where poor service was the norm. We want people to have a seamless banking experience. We want to make working out and staying healthy enjoyable. We want to make long-haul airline flights occasions to remember, rather than ones to endure!
4. Listen to advice, not to naysayers
When you're just starting out, you should ask those with experience in your field for advice, especially your parents. But be careful not to confuse discouraging comments for good advice. Lots of people will tell you that your idea won't work, or that it has been done before. When I started out, I lost count of the people who told me that I wouldn't succeed.
It's important to remember that ideas are rarely unique; what matters is execution. How can you do something better than anyone else? How can you follow through in a way that your competitors don't?
5. Stay focused–and motivated
You need to dream big and have lofty goals - but in your first year, concentrate on establishing your business and surviving. Keep your eyes on the prize and on day-to-day operations, setting small targets for each day, then each week, each month, each quarter and each year. Write them down and then tick them off. You will be amazed at how much satisfaction you get from this.
6. Love what you do
Whatever you're doing in business, it should be fun. That has always been a priority at Virgin, and it's a vital component of our success. I love what we do, our employees love what we do, and so our customers love what we do, too.
(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.)
@2015 Richard Branson. Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate