Richard Branson - Planning with a beer mat

“Keep business planning simple to get started.” – Richard Branson

“I didn’t really think too much about my first business plan – I just went ahead and did it. It turns out that this was the best thing I could have done, and it’s a tactic that has gone on to define my approach to business plans.

To this day I don’t make formal business plans, but am always crystal clear on the concept of the business. We have a saying at Virgin, if your pitch can’t fit on the back of an envelope, then it’s too complicated. In fact, we have written many business plans on the back of beer mats and envelopes – they have gone on to become successful companies like Virgin Australia.

At Virgin, we use simple and straightforward language that gets to the point concisely and quickly. I believe that if you can’t explain what your business is all about in a couple of sentences then it’s likely you’re not focussed enough, or you don’t really know what’s truly at the heart of your business. Great leaders tend to be simplifiers, coming up with concepts that are universally understood.

If you’re having trouble simplifying your business idea, ask yourself: what’s the problem you’re trying to solve? We were frustrated by cancelled flights and bad customer service experiences with other airlines, so we decided to do it better with Virgin Atlantic. We wanted to make health and exercise fun and accessible, not a chore, so we founded Virgin Active. We wanted to give our customers more positive banking experiences, so we founded Virgin Money. Every Virgin business, despite covering many different industries, has the same simple core objective at heart: how can we change business for good?”

LEARNING POINT – The business that seems simple, the success that looks effortless, and ‘overnight’ all started with a complex jumble of thoughts and ideas, that evolved into the one sentence summaries we know and love.

Don’t be afraid to invest time in practising.

Whether you like it or not you could never hope to be an Olympic Gold Medal winner without putting the time into the training necessary.

Q. How long does it take to the win 100m sprint?
A. 9.58 seconds.

Q. How long does it take to run 100m in 9.58 seconds?
A. It took Usain Bolt 8 years of training to achieve this in 2009.

Go and find yourself a beer mat and get planning!