Dreamforce 2012: Richard Branson: It's OK to make mistakes

Dreamforce logo

If at first you don't succeed in business, try and try again. Just so long as you learn from it, that is.

That was one of the key messages shared by Richard Branson with delegates at salesforce.com's Dreamforce event this week in San Francisco.

The other piece of advice Branson was keen to share was that experience is often more important than a piece of paper listing a skill or qualification.

"I'm lobbying UK Government so instead of student loans they do entrepreneurial loans. So if there's a 17-year-old who has a great business idea, instead of doing four or five years at university they can get the same grant to set up a business," he said.

"I don't want to discourage people from going to college, but for some people just getting out into the real world and saying 'screw it let's give it a go' [works better]. You learn so much being in the jungle trying to build a business. Sometimes you fall flat on your face. The best way of learning about anything is doing it."

It may be the first and even second business idea is a non-starter or a massive failure, but it could be the third that really takes off, Branson said, encouraging a mindset of can-do rather than can't.

The other key to success lies not in technology but in the people that would-be leaders surround themselves with.

"What is a business? It's a group of people. You need to find an exceptional person to run the business. That person needs to be great at motivating people," he added.

"Giving people the freedom to make mistakes is very important. I love learning from people. To be a good leader you have to be a good listener. Over 45 years [in business] I've learnt a lot from making mistakes and, occasionally, making good things."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.