What causes someone to quit a stable career to start his own business? Personal ambition is, of course, one reason. Another driving factor could be an adventurous mindset. Someone unprepared for risk-taking had better not get into the field of running their own business.
So what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? An innovative mind is definitely important. Being able to identify market niches is an asset, as is the ability to motivate your colleagues to contribute their strengths and efforts to the success of the company they work for. Innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.
One just cannot help but admire business magnates like the founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, who turned his airline company into a leading air carrier offering domestic and international flights to and from the UK. It has seen a 3.5 per cent increase in passenger volume over last year, with 5.5 million passengers in total. Its profits have dropped for the past two years but it remains a large employer, with close to 10,000 staff. The company is relatively young, with a history of less than 30 years.
Branson launched his first venture when he was 16, setting up a magazine called Student, followed by attempts in areas from a mail-order record business to his famous Virgin Records music label. Since the 1980s his businesses have grown, catapulting him into the position of fourth richest citizen of the UK today. If he had not dared to explore new business opportunities, Branson would never have become the phenomenal success he is.
My recent flight experience with Virgin Atlantic confirms that it probably injected much-needed change into the aviation field when it was launched back in the mid-1980s. Costing a little less than major players such as Cathay Pacific and British Airways, flying with Virgin is a comfortable, well-served experience. Its inflight entertainment does not boast a huge variety but nevertheless offers sufficient choice.
You also feel the sincere, caring attitude of cheerful crew members who always wear a smile on their face, whoever they are. That could be a reflection of a company culture that encourages openness and customer-oriented service rather than mere investment in adverts or exotic meals. In all, it is the kind of service that meets the needs of flyers who want to have a comfortable - but not a pampered – journey at an affordable price. This is a huge market niche.
It does help provide business opportunities, although I don’t know whether innovation can be taught. I suppose probably not in a classroom setting. Maybe one good option is to look around and find inspiration from what works and what does not.