He began with a magazine called Student when he was 16. Today, at the age of 61, Sir Richard Branson is the 254th richest person in the world, according to the Forbes 2011 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US$4.2 billion.
During a recent conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Branson said he is appreciative of the success he has found having struggled in his early days, rising from humble beginnings to building one of the world’s most well-known business empires. And he believes African entrepreneurs too can do that.
“I’m sure African entrepreneurs can make global impact. Having made money in Africa, African entrepreneurs can then go to address global issues,” said Branson.
He described the desire to make a difference as his driving force.
“I find myself in a position where I can make a difference and I do not want to waste that position. I like proving things to myself and to others.”
“Virgin has become a life brand and we have investments in over 300 sectors. It has been done by me being inquisitive, learning new things and when frustrated by the way things are done, I go and do it myself,” he added.
“I’m also quite good at spotting new people [and to] incentivise them. I let them make mistakes and I do not second guess them. We have been able to transform every business we go into. With the enhanced brand of Virgin, it has become easier to open more businesses,” Branson explained.
The billionaire attributed his success to having a close-knit family.
“I encourage other people to work from home. I work from home and spend lots of time with my family. Having a work and family balance is important. I encourage my CEOs to let employees work from home or part-time if they want. Job sharing is part of creating jobs … That way every single person will have a job.”
Branson said he would like to be remembered for making a difference in people’s lives.
“Lying on my death bed, I would go in comfort knowing that I lived a good life and made a difference.”