Gifts from the Gifted:  Richard Branson (Virgin)

By Shlomo Maital

           Branson

  I just finished a magazine column about a gifted young woman who is 27.  She has a Ph.D., is married, created software that can predict the future, has a black belt in karate, won a coveted prize, interned at Microsoft, did Army service,  and is now launching a startup.   Interviewing her led me to reflect how many wonderful gifts humanity receives from such gifted people.   But what is special about them?

    I came across a study of a very gifted entrepreneur, Richard Branson, of Virgin fame (I counted over 40 Virgin companies, ranging from travel agencies to music to mobile to…everything; the name ‘Virgin’ happened because Branson and partners felt they were ‘virgins’ in business when they started their first company].  The study is by Larisa V. Shavinina, of the University of Quebec.*  (Branson is the 6th richest individual in Britain. )  She lists the causes of Branson’s entrepreneurial giftedness.  Here are just a few:

 # “rule breaking”.   I always enjoyed breaking the rules, Branson says; e.g. ‘no 17-year-old can edit a national magazine’, so he chose to do so.

 # “initiative”:  He broke rules to do things better, not just to rebel.  At school, he wrote the headmaster, making concrete suggestions regarding school meals, etc.

  # “create value”: “I never went into business purely to make money.  A business has to exercise your creative instincts.”

  #  “fierce independence”:  I never enjoyed being accountable to anyone else or not in control of my own destiny, he notes.

  #  “love of challenges and adventure”:  Balloon flights and the Virgin companies form a seamless series of challenges I can date from my childhood, he writes.

     Shavinina notes that Branson’s parents supported his entrepreneurial instincts strongly, and his grandmother holds two British records: Oldest person to hit a hole in one in golf (90), and oldest to pass the advanced Latin-American ballroom-dancing examination.  ‘You’ve got one go in life,” she told Branson, “so make the most of it.”  He listened.   Branson’s aunt Joyce lent him the money to set up his music company, when he was 20, when the banks refused.  His Aunt Clare was an entrepreneur who built a business on an endangered species of Welsh Mountain sheep.  Clare flew a biplane and liked to parachute. Branson named his first child after her.

* Larisa V. Shavinina, “Early Development of Entrepreneurial Giftedness”,  ASAC 2007. 

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