Leadership

3 things Richard Branson learned about business by watching babies learn to walk

Want to enhance your business acumen? Then take a note from Richard Branson's playbook — watch how babies learn to walk.

In a recent blog post, the Virgin founder says that "playing an active role as a father and a grandfather has taught me so much and definitely made me a better businessman."

Specifically, watching his children and grandchildren learn to walk has not only been exciting, but he says it taught him three crucial lessons that you can apply to business. Notably, to always pick yourself up, consistently practice and to exercise patience.

1. Pick yourself up

When babies are learning to walk, says Branson, they stand up on wobbly legs, fall over, struggle to get up and fall over again before finally taking their first steps.

Businesses evolve in much the same way.

"In business, you will never get everything right the first time," says Branson. "Learn to dust yourself off and get up quickly when things don't go your way."

Branson has experienced many failures as he's expanded the Virgin brand and has pulled the plug on several ventures. "But I've always tried to learn from my mistakes and see challenges as opportunities," he writes.

A recent disappointment was the April merger between Virgin America and Alaska Airlines due to increasing competitive pressure among airlines.

Though the serial entrepreneur initially expressed displeasure over the partnership, he quickly realized that the important thing to do going forward was to ensure commitment to its customers. So Branson focused on providing a top-notch Virgin experience with new services like fleetwide WiFi and an on-demand food ordering platform.

2. Practice, practice practice

Babies have to stand before they can walk. Then they begin to put one foot in front of the other and soon enough, they're comfortable moving at a fast pace. It's the same in business, says Branson.

"The more you get used to doing something, the better you get at doing it," he says. "Don't give up after the first attempt."

Sir Richard Branson
Getty Images
Sir Richard Branson

Branson explains that there were many instances over his 50 year career span, where he could have thrown in the towel. A prime example was when Virgin Atlantic was repeatedly tried to gain permission to travel to South Africa but were denied access.

Though Branson could have quit early on and focused on other ventures, he persisted and learned how to play the game better.

"The country's Aviation Minister told me in private that he'd welcome us, so I cheekily and tenaciously relayed his comments at a national press conference," says Branson. "We've now been flying there for almost 25 years!"

3. Exercise patience

Learning to walk takes time.

"In the same way, building billion-dollar businesses didn't just happen overnight," says Branson.

Branson acknowledges that while he has built some pretty successful companies in a short amount of time, such as Virgin Australia, he has been growing the overall Virgin company for almost five decades. His company's current success took years of work, he says, and owes it all to his employees.

Just as children must be encouraged and praised in order to give them confidence to be curious about the world, says Branson, business leaders must also support and motivate their workers.

"It's important to look after your employees by investing in their learning and development and encouraging their creativity," says the entrepreneur..

Branson adds that he feel blessed to be a father and a "grand-dude" because he's always learning from his children's perspective on the world. He leaves readers with this question: "What have your children taught you?"

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See also:

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