Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 24th 2014 Contents Unfortunately there s no short-
cut or magic recipe to suc-
cess. If there is, I haven t
found it yet. Creating a suc-
cessful and profitable busi-
ness takes time, since you
build your reputation as customers learn to
trust and rely on you, one by one.
Also, there s no guarantee that spending a
huge amount of money on marketing will
slingshot your business forward. If you spend
your time looking for shortcuts, you will find
one---right out of business.
While there are no set rules for succeeding
in business, over my 40 years as an entrepre-
neur, I have embraced some rough guidelines
that can be very helpful:
1. Create a useful product or service
Above all else, you should not go into
business purely for financial reasons. Running
a company involves long hours and hard
decisions; if you don t have a better reason
than money to keep going, your business
will more than likely fail, as many new busi-
So it s important to create something of
use that is going to benefit society as a
whole. If you do something you truly care
about, you will be in a much better position
to find customers, connect with them, and
keep them coming back.
Once you have decided on the type of
product or service that interests you, focus
on how to do things differently from the
competition: Do your research, find a gap
or an area ripe for innovation, and position
your business in a way that sets it apart.
2. Simplify your message
Customers don t just shop for a brand and
its products, but also identify with its core
values. Ask yourself, why did I start my busi-
ness? Be honest - this will help you establish
an authentic value and voice. Then distill your
message into something simple.
At Virgin, we stand for great customer serv-
ice, good value and innovative alternatives to
our competitors offerings. Most importantly,
we view business as a force for good. Knowing
who we are and what we stand for ensures
that we don t waste time or money on mes-
saging that doesn t represent us or resonate
with our customers.
3. Market yourself
Marketing is a powerful tool, but it doesn t
have to be expensive. My mentor, Sir Freddie
Laker, a man who had started a company to
challenge British Airways on their home turf,
gave me some invaluable advice when I was
starting up Virgin Atlantic Airways. Knowing
that we couldn t match the more established
airlines in terms of marketing budget, he
encouraged me to drive the publicity myself:
"Use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Oth-
erwise you won t survive."
I took his advice and I ve been thinking up
fun ways to stand out from the crowd and
draw the media s attention to our company
ever since, from breaking world records to
While I ve always been interested in sports
and physical challenges, that might not be the
route for you. Find your tone, know your brand,
do things your own way, and create waves.
The free advertising will follow.
4. Embrace social media
Tools like Twitter and Facebook are won-
derful ways to get your message out to a wide
audience. Social media is not only more cost-
efficient than advertising, but it also offers
great opportunities for innovative engagement
with your customers. Use it to your advan-
Remember that there is a difference between
selling and marketing. In my experience, selling
a product through social media doesn t work;
it s better to simply communicate with your
customers in an authentic way and have fun.
As you build an online profile that people can
identify with and trust, you ll find that they
will soon become customers.
The feedback you receive on social media
can be invaluable, especially when your busi-
ness is just starting out. Listen to your cus-
tomers comments about your company s
offerings to gain an understanding of what
you are doing right and wrong. You can also
use this feedback to sharpen your social cam-
paigns and measure the effectiveness of your
calls to action.
5. Keep on enjoying what you do
If you genuinely love and believe in what
you do, others will take notice and share your
enthusiasm. Geraldo, in your case, this might
prompt people to take out a loan with your
company instead of another provider, or
encourage them to recommend your company
to a friend.
If you find your interest flagging, it s time
to make a change; switch from operations to
management, move on, expand into new ter-
ritories, anything that interests you. To find
success, you need to be fully committed or
your work will show it.
(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
JULY 2014 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG17
No shortcuts on the road to success
Are there any quick ways to succeed in business without
spending a huge amount of money on marketing?
Geraldo Kandonga Fillipus, Geraldo Financial Solutions, Namibia
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