Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 24th 2015 Contents DECEMBER 24 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Q: As the leader of such a
massive company, what do
you think your greatest
strengths and weaknesses
are these days?
--- Haermana Sivamohan
As an entrepreneur, you can t
hide your weaknesses, no
matter how big or small your
business is. They are obvious
to your colleagues and
employees, and since the
structure and culture of your business will
reflect them, it s likely your competitors and
customers know about them as well. Those
weaknesses can become even more apparent
and, in some cases, debilitating, if you try to
pretend that they don t exist.
Over the course of my career I ve learned
that it s vital to identify your weaknesses and
come to terms with them. Once they are out
in the open, you can deal with them and move
forward or even turn them into strengths.
Throughout my life, I ve always been very
open about my dyslexia. As I have written in
the past, when I was a kid very few people
understood that this was a disability.
My teachers thought I was lazy and not
very clever, mainly because I got bored easily
in class and sometimes had a hard time fol-
lowing the written lessons, and passed the
time daydreaming about all the things I would
do when I left school.
The key to turning a disadvantage into an
advantage is to recognize the opportunities
before you, even if others see only challenges.
You must have the courage to trust your
instincts, and be ready to ask questions that
other people are not. And you must seize the
chances that other people might miss.
I learned this myself as an entrepreneur, as
I turned my dyslexia to my advantage. Instead
of struggling to follow written text, I asked
our team to sum up our latest pitches to cus-
tomers in a few words. This prompted me to
focus on simplicity. If our offer couldn t be
summed up clearly and simply, we couldn t
expect our customers to buy it. Eventually
this became one of the most powerful tools
in my bag of business tricks, and fundamental
to Virgin s success.
As my teachers also noticed, I am insatiably
curious and restless; that made me perhaps
difficult to manage as a boy, but I definitely
consider it a strength now. It s related to my
willingness to say "yes," which many have
called a weakness (and they d say it s one that
I have struggled with for some time.) I view
these aspects of my personality as assets.
Don t get me wrong: I am not a yes man,
but an optimist, since I learned early in my
career that opportunity favours the bold. I like
to try my hand at everything, and experience
has shown me that if an amazing opportunity
comes your way, and you are not entirely sure
how you can benefit from it, you should still
say yes, then figure out the rest later.
While my "screw it, let s do it!" philosophy
hasn t always led to huge wins (we ve expe-
rienced some epic failures too) we ve learned
so much from the twists and turns that we ve
encountered along the way. It pushes our com-
pany outside its comfort zones and spurs us
to accomplish amazing things. And if some-
thing doesn t work out ... well, everyone, espe-
cially entrepreneurs, should embrace failure
with open arms.
These days, my greatest strength is my
ability to have fun, and again, this could be
perceived by some entrepreneurs as a weakness.
Business leaders are generally expected to show
up at the office in a suit and tie, ready to com-
mand authority with a stern look. But it has
always been my opinion that we should do
what we love, and love what we do. And after
more than 40 years in business, I still love
what I do, and I am still having fun.
Haermana, we all have weaknesses and I m
sure my friends, family and colleagues could
highlight more areas in which I don t always
make the grade! But every challenge in our
lives is there for a reason: So that we can figure
out how to turn it into a strength.
(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
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
RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, e-mail address and the
name of the Web site or publication where
you read the column.
Turn your flaws into strengths
Once a weakness, now a strength
Working to overcome dyslexia was
once my greatest challenge, but now
the disability is one of my key
strengths. Here are two ways that I
• Dyslexia allows me to focus on
simplicity: I have found that straight-
forward goals and values can provide
a clear path to success.
• I taught myself to delegate: I
knew that in business there would be
aspects in which I would lack the nec-
essary skills, so I became adept at
asking for help and delegating certain
tasks to people who were more quali-
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