EDUCATION of children is the best investment parents can ever have. My wife, Dr. Lyne, and I share this passion in making sure that our kids are able to accumulate these learning experiences beyond the confines of their classrooms.
Most recently, the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) promoted an event which featured billionaire Sir Richard Branson. I was not available so I asked my 17-year-old daughter, Lyca Agnes, if she was interested, and as expected, she was excited about it. The ticket was expensive at P15,000, but I knew it would be all worth it for the lessons and affirmations she can get from this rare event.
For this article, I am featuring her assignment (and my requirement) for this very expensive one-hour learning experience. Here is an article written by my daughter Lyca Agnes M. Balita on her close encounter with one of the world’s respected billionaire.
The five lessons I learned from a billionaire
Last May 25, 2016, I attended a forum by ANC with billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group. The event lasted only an hour, which I felt was definitely insufficient, but it was an incredible experience to meet such a successful and influential man, and he confirmed several lessons that my dad has taught me. Can you imagine having a Dr. Carl Balita as a father who intentionally would capture every life lessons for us? Well, I was entrusted to edit his book Entrepreneur in 12 Days not only because he trusted my millennial style of communication, but also (I suspect) because of his intention to make sure that I digest every idea in his book.
I was as excited as everyone in the ballroom of the Sofitel in Pasay City and found myself in the middle of much older people. I felt lucky being there learning these precious lessons earlier in my young life.
Here are the top five lessons I have learned from this encounter.
1. College vs. Business
Among the first questions that Branson was asked was regarding his advice for the youth, given that he took a risk and dropped out from school at age 16 to start a youth magazine, yet grew up to become a very successful and influential billionaire. Branson’s answer to the question was that the youth needed financial and entrepreneurial education. Upon hearing that, most, like I, may first assume that he alluded to a formal university education on management or business because our traditional society usually equates college education with success. But, surprisingly, Branson clarified that he actually meant business experience, and not college. In fact, he asserted that “If you have a business idea, make that your education. If you do not, education is a good fallback.” This is not to say that the youth should drop out, but this should instead motivate the youth to make their business ideas realities, and make them realize that college education is not the only key to success. Branson dropped out at 16 to start a youth magazine, and he now owns over 100 companies worth billions of dollars.
You have a business idea that you want to start, but how do you compete with the existing huge and established competitors? Branson gave an answer by talking about one of his newest business ventures, Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world’s first commercial space line, bringing more people outside the earth itself. He came up with the idea when he realized that pretty much every one wants to go to space. So what’s the secret to a successful business? Differentiate. Do something that has never been done before, make it with unmatched quality, and make it affordable. Like what my dad taught me, if you do not differentiate and establish a good brand, you will become a commodity, just another product competing by making prices lower and lower. With differentiation, one can establish a brand, which people won’t care buying for a price it dictates. My dad will always say that we don’t go to Starbucks to buy coffee. It is the brand we buy and we never question its price.
3. Making A Happy Business
A happy business is a successful business, but a business cannot be happy when its people aren’t, so here are Branson’s own words on how to develop a happy business because no one else can say it as well as he.
On leadership: “The best run companies are headed by those who genuinely care about the people who are around them.”
On new ideas: “Be a good listener. Listen, then unite a team around it.”
On followers/employees: “Be full of praise, rarely criticize,” and “Make people love their jobs.” Branson told his audience that in his companies, his people do not need to ask permission all the time, and his people surprisingly never abuse this. If his people work better at home, they can take home their work. If it’s their birthday, they can take a day off. By caring and taking care of your people, they will learn to love their jobs, and your business will be happy.
You’re successful, your business is happy, and so are your people. Then, what? Philanthropy. Help change the world for the better.
One of Branson’s most memorable lines during the forum was “The best part of being in business is being able to create non-profit organizations.” Branson, who owns a non-profit foundation called Virgin Unite, is a philanthropist himself, with numerous advocacies such as those that support drug policy reform, and oppose poaching and the death penalty.
Branson, like my Dad and I, believe that entrepreneurs change the world. And that if you have the means, be a force for good. Ask yourself about what problems, whether charitable or entrepreneurial, you can help fix, then help solve them. In Branson’s words, “Changing the world begins with a bunch of people unwilling to accept the unacceptable.” Give back to the universe after all the blessings you have received. My Dad defined prosperity, in his bestselling book of the same title, as “what others become because of you.” Indeed the generosity of the universe is only proportionate to our generosity to it.
5. “Screw it, just do it.”
The quote stuck to me not just because I found it interesting that such a great man would be so chill that he uses an informal word in formal forums, but also because the message of the quote is probably what every aspiring entrepreneur needs to hear. This probably sounds really cheesy, but the only thing stopping you from starting your own business is yourself. I believe that one of the biggest mistakes that people commit is not starting early, or not starting at all. I’m sure we all have had a great business idea that we believe could help others and become a success, but there was always that fear of failure that kept us from starting. Branson taught me that if you have a good business idea, you should do it, because even if it fails, you will learn from the experience, and if it succeeds, you help change the world. Besides, until you do it, you will never know. Just remember that if you don’t start now, someone else might get there before you, or worse, your idea becomes pretty much worthless because of its inoperativeness.
Had Branson not started with his first business of a youth magazine, he might not be where he is now. If you do not begin with your idea, you will stay where you are and your idea becomes insignificant. Screw it, let go of your insecurities, and just go on and do it. “Work hard, take your chances, and seize opportunities when they present themselves.”