Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2015 Contents FEBRUARY 2015 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Q: Passion is said to be key to launching a
successful business. But what if you have a
good idea for a product or service in a field
that you aren t necessarily passionate about?
Could I build a business on an "ah-ha" idea
I have that fills a gap in an existing market?
Would that ultimately lead to failure?
Starting a business is one
of life s biggest challenges,
and only truly determined
people are able to find a
path to success. Since
passion is one of the
effective motivators, it s
also one of the strongest
predictors of whether an idea will lead to the
launch of a thriving business.
When you have an "aha" idea, pay attention:
Perhaps that idea will help you to identify a
market gap, or even to disrupt an industry.
But launching a startup simply to make money
is likely to result in failure - if you don t care
deeply about your idea, how can you motivate
others to work with you or to buy your product
Great ideas are often transferable. If you
have an idea that might work in an area that
you re not passionate about, instead think
about ways that you could apply it to a sector
that does excite you. Look at your idea from
a different perspective, and you might be sur-
prised by the results.
Here s an example of what I mean. Person-
ally, I ve never had a great mind for finance.
In Virgin s early days, we had some truly tur-
bulent relationships with banks. Some of the
most testing times of my life were spent sitting
barefoot in boring boardrooms (this was during
my hippie days)discussing Virgin s future with
Understandably, it surprised people when
I decided to enter the world of finance with
the launch of Virgin Money in 1995, but our
team saw a great opportunity for revamping
customer service in banking. While I wasn t
passionate about banking, customer service
is something that interests me. In fact, it drives
the entire Virgin ethos.
Our team wanted to make a real difference
in a field that was ripe for disruption, so we
leapt. Since then we have worked tirelessly to
build the company into one of the UK s leading
challenger banks, striving to make everyone
Our goal was never simply to make a profit:
We wanted to instill our passion for customer
service into an industry that was known for
a lack of it. We were also intent on reinventing
banking with our straightforward approach
and the inimitable Virgin touch. One of our
innovations was the Virgin Money Lounge---
based on our airport Clubhouses concept---
which was the first of its kind in the banking
Following the 2008-2009 financial crisis,
people started to think that banks had the
responsibility to help their customers thrive,
and to educate them better about financial
matters. This new awareness changed the
industry: banks now need to deliver positive
financial and social outcomes, and to abide
by a firm set of values.
This is the fundamental reason why we got
into banking in the first place. We didn t just
have a passion for finance; we were passionate
about making it accessible and understandable.
Our efforts paid off late last year when Virgin
Money became a publicly listed company.
Passion is also important because you need
to inspire your staff when you launch a com-
pany, and you need to help them believe in
your vision for the future. In other words, you
have to be a passionate leader with a purpose.
Such leaders have been central to Virgin s suc-
Take Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Virgin Money s
CEO. She s been with Virgin Money from the
very beginning, holding steadfast to her motto:
Never give up. And she hasn t. Though we ve
experienced a number of setbacks along the
way, her passion for the business has kept her
head clear and her spirits high.
While I don t believe that passion can be
taught, I do think it is infectious; Jayne-Anne s
certainly is. When you believe in something,
the force of your convictions will spark other
people s interest and motivate them to help
you achieve your goals. This is essential to
Mike, my advice would be for you to go
back to that "aha" moment and try to under-
stand what motivated you to think in that
direction in the first place; the passion behind
your idea might lead you to the business or
industry that you truly care about. And
remember, passion is more than an attitude.
It s a requirement for any entrepreneur or
(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 Richard-
Branson@nytimes.com. Please include your
name, country, e-mail address and the name
of the Web site or publication where you read
Passion and purpose go together
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