Book Review: “Like a Virgin” by Richard Branson

Secrets They Don’t Teach You At Business School

Published September 25, 2012

352 Pages

Softcover – $16.00

Kindle Version – $9.99

Four out of Five Stars

Like a Virgin - Secrets they won’t teach you at business school

Sir Richard Branson, the internationally famous entrepreneur, adventurer, and self-proclaimed icon has the distinction of being the only person in the world to “have built billion-dollar companies from scratch in eight different sectors”. As you can guess there’s some ego to get past here with Branson’s latest book, Like a Virgin. But as Walt Whitman once said, “If you’ve done it, it ain’t bragging”. Well, it’s safe to say that Branson has accomplished enough for him to be able to what say just about anything he feels like expounding on.

With this in mind, one also has to appreciate the walking handbook quality of this sometimes random, but incredibly insightful book. Learn from my mistake, and don’t try to plow through Like a Virgin, thinking that one chapter is a building preamble flowing effortlessly from one topic to the next.

Instead, I recommend taking a look at the book’s Table of Contents and using it more as a reference guide to issues that you have experienced or may have now with your business situation. This can be from the perspective of an owner, investor, or employee. There are roughly 75 different topics covered with these short vignettes. Having the perspective of someone like Branson, who has such a thorough and successful background, makes Like a Virgin a stellar resource. Here are some examples of the varied subjects and content:

The Perfect Pitch, provides best practices for anyone trying to raise money for a business or project. Branson has been on both sides of this table, and presents a no-nonsense approach that rationally explains the motives of both the investor and the borrower.

More Walking and Talking. Less Typing and Griping, will strike a chord with many stuck in office or professional situations where a key player would rather send a passive aggressive email than simply pick up the phone and effectively communicate. Anyone who has experienced the email that creates more questions than answers (and the resulting, time-sucking politics), will relate to this section.

Kick Start The Economy, lists 10 tips for jump starting the economies of the world, complete with a common sense prescriptions for what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Branson is certainly qualified to weigh in on this from his experiences.

The topics covered are up-to-date and wide ranging. This is guts of the book, and the insight from Branson is many times humorous and but always honest. It’s interesting to hear Branson admit and explain details of the businesses he started and that failed.

Branson also takes time to look back at others that have inspired him along the way, acknowledging that Steven Jobs is perhaps the greatest entrepreneur of all time. He believes that Jobs built his customer loyalty around innovative products. Branson then explains that the only way he knew how to succeed was to build his business around customer service. It’s these customer opportunities and recognized voids in the marketplace that are the inspiration for Branson’s diverse (in terms of product) business concepts.

Don’t get the idea that Like a Virgin is heavy on ground breaking business theory. The point is that Branson is a true entrepreneur that is able to innovate and adapt like no one else. I couldn’t help but imagine sitting down with Branson at a pub or coffee shop and having the ability to ask him anything about building a successful business. If that were to ever happen, the transcript from that conversation would sound something close to the content of Like a Virgin.  Like any storyteller, you might hear a few things more than once (Branson mentions multiple times how he started a music magazine), but that’s a minor demerit. If you’re looking for a refreshing alternative to the mindless drivel of most mass produced business books, Like a Virgin is a great choice.

Chris Wendel is a consultant and lender with Northern Initiative in Traverse City. Northern Initiatives is a private, non-profit community development corporation that provides entrepreneurs with access to capital, technical assitance, and new markets.

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1 Response to Book Review: “Like a Virgin” by Richard Branson

  1. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: “Like a Virgin Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School” by Sir Richard Branson | GlobalEd

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