Sir Richard opens new Branson Centre in Kingston

King of entrepreneurship gives advice to up-and-comers

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

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British business magnate Sir Richard Branson has a simple explanation for how entrepreneurs build businesses.“An entrepreneur is like an artiste. You have an idea, so you have a blank sheet and then you start filling in on that sheet of paper as you create a business,” was his simple answer on the comparison between artistes and entrepreneurs.

“To create a business is like getting the perfect picture on that sheet of paper and (getting) every little detail right, and then you launch your business. You have your perfect piece of art created,” he added.

But Sir Richard — who is the founder of the multibillion- pound Virgin Group based in London, which numbers Virgin Atlantic airlines among its possessions and which has represented leading musical artistes ranging from Mike Oldfield to the Sex Pistols — also had some serious advice.

He thinks that the reason why many businesses fail is that management pays no attention to the little details.

“A lot of big companies don't listen to their staff or the customers, to get the little details right,” he cautioned.

“To run a hotel, or if you have a smaller company, listen to the people who buy your products: Listen to your staff who are on the frontline. Write the things down that they tell you and then make sure that you sort those things out,” he warned.

“Suddenly, you will have a fantastic company that everybody likes, because there won't be anything left to write down. You would have sorted everything out and everybody is loving it, so you can go forward to the next step,” he said.

Sir Richard, who will be 67 next month, was speaking with a new and younger generation of enterprising entrepreneurs seeking to follow in his footsteps with the help of the Branson Entrepreneurship Centre in Jamaica.

The event had a brief discussion period allowed for the media and promising entrepreneurs at yesterday's opening of the Centre's new head office at the Sovereign Commercial Centre in Kingston.

Guest speaker was Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who paid tribute to Sir Richard for his charitable nature.

The centres — in South Africa, Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands — are funded through the generosity of Virgin Airlines flyers — adults and children — who donate one pound sterling and 50 pence, respectively, when they book.

“We strongly believe that tourism can be a force for good, and we are proud to give back to the countries we send British holiday-makers to,” says a message from Virgin Holidays.

The first centre was started in South Africa in 2006 by Virgin Unite, a not-for-profit foundation. Inspired by its success Virgin established a similar centre in Montego Bay. However, yesterday's function at the Sovereign Commercial Centre marked the shifting of the Jamaican office from Montego Bay to Kingston.

CEO of the local centre, Lisandra Rickards, explained that the move was necessary, because all the local patrons were based in Kingston, and it was felt that there is a better chance of creating new opportunities in the capital.

She said that the centre is keen on connecting with “high potential entrepreneurs” with external capital, and who have been certified by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).

The centre has also revamped its suite of services, to provide tools and high-tech services to an even wider pool of entrepreneurs at all stages of business, both free and at a cost, while sharpening its focus on a specially selected group of high-potential, high-impact, fundable entrepreneurs.

“We are now in the emerging entrepreneurial hub of Kingston,” she pointed out.

“The Government of Jamaica is grateful, very grateful, to you,” Holness told Sir Richard at the Sovereign Centre.

“It is great that you have made yourself available so people can have access to you. But, more than that, to invest your own funds in developing an eco-system to support the kind of mentorship that is necessary for the next billionaire, whom I am not just hoping, but I have a certain confidence, will be a Jamaican,” the prime minister said.

During his visit to Kingston yesterday, Sir Richard also lunched with leading Jamaican entrepreneurs including Sandals/Jamaica Observer's Gordon “Butch” Stewart and Proven Investments' Christopher Williams, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

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