Business Stories

Richard Branson – Overcoming Dyslexia To Become One of the Richest

shutterstock_171314393When Richard Branson was a young boy, he used to be called out by his teachers for being stupid and lazy. He had a difficult time focusing on a task, or on a paragraph to read, which led teachers to dislike him. He had dyslexia, and it debilitated him from being able to do simple things we used to as students – memorizing words, reciting in class, passing exams.

But Richard was not taken aback. What he lost in his early schooling years, he made up for by letting his strengths and talents shine in his adolescent years. Richard was good at relating with people and building deep connections. At that time, in the 60’s, student activism was at its peak. Everyone wanted their voice to be heard. And because Richard was tired with how rigid his school was, he decided to put up his own business at the age of 17: a school newspaper that connected individuals from different schools, and could gain a profit through advertising. They called the paper Student and gained massive following.

At the beginning of the 70’s, the British government scrapped the Retail Price Management Agreement, but no store wanted to discount their records. Branson saw a shining opportunity right then and there: maybe, Student can offer records to students cheaply by leveraging on mail order delivery.

This proved to be such huge a success, that Richard had to call the Student team together to re-orient their business towards catering to the new demand for the discount music records. They discovered an unused shop above a shoe store and instead of paying for rent, negotiated to keep the store with the promise that foot traffic would be so high that eventually, the shoe store business would generate more sales. They named the company “Virgin” because they admitted that they were complete virgins to running a business.

Virgin now stands strong at 150 companies and as a billion-dollar enterprise. Richard opens up that none of those companies were anything he was expert at, and in fact, what made it a success was the fact that Richard relied on his strengths rather than his weaknesses. Instead of tearing himself down because of his disability, he made sure that each and every of his business was born out of his penchant for empowering people to turn their ideas into reality.

He used his dyslexia as a way to realize and focus on what he was good at, and use that to propel him to success. He learned how to manage his disability and was able to morph his management style around it. He once told Bloomberg how he used dyslexia to his advantage: “If you have a learning disability, you become a very good delegator,” he said. “Because you know what your weaknesses are and you know what your strengths are, and you make sure that you find great people to step in and deal with your weaknesses.”

Though Richard Branson is one of the world’s richest and most respected CEOs of our time, he remains to hold dear what got him here: people.

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