Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 24th 2015 Contents Q.: I own a bridalwear business, and
I'd love to get your advice on how
we can put the right leadership in
place and get to the next level. We
are thinking of bringing someone
onto our board of directors who has
a lot of experience, but we're con-
cerned about choosing the right per-
son and about how much it would
cost to persuade her to join us.
Your question reminded me of
some of the lessons we
learned in the 1990s; a time
during which we expanded
the Virgin brand into many
different sectors, including
clothing, cosmetics and even wedding services
through Virgin Brides.
Those startups were founded by passionate
leaders and offered interesting products and
services. What some of them lacked, unfor-
tunately, was the ability to survive and thrive
over the long term.
We started up Virgin Brides after a member
of our Virgin Atlantic cabin crew pitched me
the idea of a one-stop wedding service. She
envisioned a business where customers could
arrange all aspects of their nuptials: pick a
wedding dress, reserve a venue, choose catering
and flower arrangements and, of course, book
the honeymoon. Planning such an important
event can be very stressful, so the idea was
that our customers could rely on Virgin to
bring the best suppliers and services together
in one place. (I also loved the cheekiness of
the Virgin Brides name!)
We launched our Brides shop just off Trafal-
gar Square in London; a location that showed
not only that we meant business when it came
to the wedding business, but also that we were
bringing a touch of glamor to the industry.
Of course, our public relations team followed
my No 1 rule of launching a business by gen-
erating headlines about it. This time, with a
noteworthy (and some would say arresting)
picture of me in a wedding gown. I even shaved
off my beard!
Sadly, Virgin Brides did not have the impact
we had hoped for and, after a few years, we
decided to wind down the operation. The staff,
the service and the products were all excellent,
but the cost of growing the business was not
proportional to the slice of the market such
an effort would attract. We had misjudged the
business model, and Brides needed to be big
enough to deserve the Virgin brand.
With that experience in mind, along with
the challenges you face in the same sector
today, let s revisit four key rules for building
a business, and examine how they could take
you to the next level:
1. Research your market
The best ideas are often sparked by an entre-
preneur s frustration with a product or service
that s already on the market. When you spot
a gap like that, you can create something that
you yourself might want, and others will, too.
With a wedding business, look into what
your competitors in your region are offering,
and also at the sector as a whole. What do
you think is missing? How can you address
2. Decide on how your business will
stand out from the crowd
This might mean refocusing your efforts on
a particular area of the weddings sector.
How is your business different?
Do you provide a one-stop shop for would-
Do you specialise in a particular type of
wedding, for instance, country hotel weddings?
Differentiating your company from its rivals
will help you to attract customers.
3. Get your online strategy right,
and promote yourself effectively
In order to draw customers to our London
store in the 1990s, we relied on foot traffic
and on our PR team to create headlines in the
papers. We also bought ads in key lifestyle
But today, a new business is not bound by
geography or traditional advertising, so make
sure to create a well-designed website that is
easy to use.
Build a strong social media following and
then maintain it. There is a natural churn in
your customers, but if you offer special deals
and interesting content such as how-to advice
on weddings, you will find new followers
through word-of-mouth recommendations.
4. Bring on great people and
Your business success will not be based on
your work and passion alone. In addition to
a strong leadership and solid core staff, a wed-
ding business needs a small group of experts
to help with areas like planning, tailoring,
catering, photography or travel. You ll also
need a loyal bunch of suppliers who will give
you great deals.
So you must think hard about who you
bring into the company, and how they can
drive its success. While I can t offer specific
advice about your board, sometimes you do
need to hire people with specific skills. When
we started our airline at Virgin, I recruited
people like Roy Gardner and David Tait, both
talented airline executives who knew how to
help me build the business from scratch. Such
executives may cost a little more, but their
firsthand knowledge and experience can help
you to avoid costly mistakes, saving you money
over the long term.
If you can get these four steps right and
bring on people who can offer the right advice,
your business will have an excellent chance
of surviving and thriving.
(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 the column.)
SEPTEMBER 24 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Four steps for surviving, thriving
Links Archive September 23rd 2015 September 25th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page