It is evident that modern business firms operate in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. Many companies are dealing in the production of either similar products or services or close substitutes. Therefore, business leadership has become one of the most admired qualities in doing business.
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Modern business leaders are called upon to be more proactive and more entrepreneurial so that that they can be able to drive the business companies that they are leading to success. Success here refers to leading the company to make profits and attain a strong competitive edge over other companies. There are many Chief Executive Officers leading several companies in the world today. However, all of these CEOs cannot be termed as having the quality of entrepreneurship (Clark, 2009).
According to Fletcher, 2002, entrepreneurial Chief Executive officers are those who are able to seek and build opportunities for the company using well informed business strategies. In the context of business leadership and management, an entrepreneur can be defines as a person who is able to lead the business to mold a business from scratch to greater heights.
The entrepreneur develops unique qualities that steers the business through different business environment situation and ensures that the business attains success. An entrepreneur is the main defender of the business and the source of all the growth and success of the business.
In other words, the success of the company lies on the shoulders of the entrepreneurial chief executive officer (Shaw, n. d).This paper is thus is going to discuss Richard Branson as one of the entrepreneurial chief executive officers in the world. The paper will discuss the personal and business qualities that define Branson as an entrepreneurial Chief Executive Officer.
These qualities will be contextualized in order to clearly link Branson to the growth and business success of the Virgin Group. It is going to be argued in this essay that as an entrepreneurial CEO, Branson has become a main pillar of the Virgin Group. Therefore, without Branson, the company can hardly maintain the levels of achievement it has attained today.
Brief history of Branson and entrepreneurship
Grant, 2005 ascertains that Branson began showing his entrepreneurial qualities in the year 1967 when he quitted schools to launch a magazine. By then, he was only 16 years old. He believed in himself and in the idea that his magazine was going to help young activists in raising their voice. As is with many businesses, the magazine business had a lot of challenges. The business was not fetching money as had been expected.
However, as a young entrepreneur, Branson did not give up in business. He quickly resorted to the business of selling records via the mail. He sold the records at highly discounted prices. He integrated the magazine business with the record selling business by running advertisements of the mail orders. Therefore, the magazine business was enhanced in that the adverts on the record mails attracted more people into buying the magazines.
It is through this that Branson managed to rent a shop above a store that sold shoes where he opened a store that sold discount records. This store was dubbed ‘Virgin’ because it was a unique store in an area where such business has not taken place ever. Also the name ‘Virgin’ resonated from the fact that all the people involved in starting this business were brand new entrepreneurs who had not engaged in business before (Grant, 2005).
As the store picked up, Branson faced many more hurdles one of them being an arrest for evading taxes. He was released on condition that he was going to pay taxes. Branson learnt from this experience. He began to formalize his business by introducing accounting and bookkeeping functions to help in monitoring and managing revenues. He continues in sourcing for opportunities and expanding his business.
By the year 1983, the virgin business had grown to comprise approximately 50 companies with more prospects of growth. The business had diversified into different ventures. This is what Branson sought to achieve. Branson was also motivated by his spirit of anxiety which propelled him into wanting to do new and challenging things. Branson dared to do many things that seemed challenging and impossible according to his friends.
However, his motivation and hardened spirit led him to achieving even in the most daring business activities. One of the most daring activities which Branson engaged in was the idea of launching an airline company. This was also one of his biggest challenges (Grant, 2005).
Overview of entrepreneurship qualities of an entrepreneurial chief executive officer
It is important to understand the qualities that help CEOs to run firms to success. Chief executive officers are main strategists of companies. This means that they are the major determinants of the success of a business firm that they are leading. Therefore, a great chief executive officer is the one who crafts the vision of the firm and sets effective strategies that will help the organization to realize the vision.
The CEO should be able to set a healthy environment which encourages creativity from the top managers of the company. The CEO sets and determines the business direction to be taken by the company. The CEO helps the firm in identifying the best market that the firm can enter and the best business opportunities for the company to venture into. The chief executive officer studies the market and the competitors and identifies the best line of products that can bets suit in the market and bear profits for the company (Fletcher, 2002).
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The other important role that has to be played by the CEO is the identification of differentiation and diversification strategies for the company. These are the major competitive strategies that help the company to gain a strong position in the market. All these lead to the establishment of strong brands for the company which results in great business achievements.
Entrepreneurs go beyond the expectations as they do not peg on the statistics or common views about business but believe in making attempts in every venture. They do not rely on the interpretation of statistics but believe in risking to invent new ideas and moves in business (Fletcher, 2002).
Richard Branson and the Virgin Group of Companies – initiating and controlling business growth
Borowiec, 2008, argues that successful business leadership starts with entrepreneurial minds. Talking of entrepreneurial minds, Richard Branson had an elaborate entrepreneurial mind which led him to starting the Virgin Business. Richard Branson is undoubtedly one of the best known entrepreneurs not only in the United Kingdom but also the entire global scene. Branson is the brainchild behind the virgin business.
He has propelled the Virgin business to what is today. He is argued to be the man behind all the products and services that bears ‘virgin’ as a brand name. Richard Branson has played a lifelong role in the success of the Virgin business making it tom produce brands that are now recognizable globally like the Virgin Airways.
Branson has transformed a single business into a conglomerate of businesses under the Virgin banner. These businesses are now sprout all over the globe and are performing well. This is one of the most competitive brands in the world’s airlines industry which challenges even the oldest airline companies that began their yeas way longer before the commencement of the Virgin business.
One of the greatest challenges of a business is to venture and succeed in a business field that is dominated by well-known world-class firms. The Virgin Group has panoply of business which range from wedding gowns to condoms, airlines and even financial services. Both of these businesses offing by the Virgin Company have proved competitive in that they are wrestling a market share from companies that produces similar or complement goods.
The giant companies are feeling a pinch from the market competition generated by Virgin Group products. Branson has grown into a flamboyant business leader who commands enormous publicity for the Virgin Group. He is an admired entrepreneur and business leader in the entire world. He has been the base on which the Virgin Group business has expanded its reach and luster in the global business (Borowiec, 2008).
Branson and his tenure of management at the Virgin Group: a combination of entrepreneurial and leadership skills
As mentioned earlier, the name Richard Branson cannot be separated from the Virgin Group of companies. Burns, 2008, supports the observation that Branson began this business and has been a major contributor in each and every development that takes place in the company.
As it is now, the Virgin group is now comprised of over four hundred firms which have come courtesy of Richard Branson. Branson has ascertained that cultivating entrepreneurial spirit in the company is not a simple exercise. It needs hard work and commitment all of which he has put in the company. To sustain the running of the four hundred companies, Branson came up with a very brilliant strategy which has sustained good running of individual companies making up the Virgin Group (Mills, 2007).
As the president and the chief executive officer of the Virgin Group, Branson sought to ensure that all the companies making up the groups are run well. To achieve this, Branson realized the need to have motivated directors to run these companies. He crafted a strategy which ensured that each of the individual directors has a certain percentage of shares in the company which he or she is managing. This is a motivator of performance in the companies.
The directors ruin the companies with passions knowing that the outcomes are beneficial not only to the companies but also themselves. This has really boosted the performance outcomes of the individual firms of the Virgin group. Branson ensures that the directors are well guided on how to drive business in the companies that they are running.
Therefore, he does not just expect outcomes but he ensures that he sets necessary business steps to help in getting positive outcomes. Being entrepreneurial means that one is always busy with coming up with thinking and rethinking strategies of improving performance. One must be ready to fully commit him or herself to the business as he also embraces the aspect of delegating duties (Burns, 2008).
As an entrepreneur, one must ensure that all the staffs of the company get to understand the vision and objectives of the company. It is easy to work on course especially so when all the employees and organizational leaders are aware of the course that they are working for. The chief executive officer in any company is the vision holder of the company.
Branson ensures that all the employees of the company are on course by organizing for transformational seminars. In these seminars, they get to discuss the progress of business. They identify the hitches of doing business and the remedies possible to beat the hitches. He uses these meetings to challenge the staffs on how to work towards attaining the goals of the company.
Transformational meetings and seminars have proved to be effective for the Virgin Group. They portray the business as it is and lays down the possibilities of changing or adjusting the course of working (Howard, 2010).
Brands and branding is an important tenet of business more so in this competitive era. One of the most important roles of an entrepreneur is to brand the company as this is what will position the company in the competitive global market. If there is any are in which Branson has been successful both as a chief executive office and an entrepreneur, then it is his ability to brand the Virgin Group. First of all, Branson has ensured that he is the ‘first’ brand of the company.
Branson has patented himself to the company and carries the company on his shoulders. Whenever he appears anymore, he is not just as a CEO or president. He is seen in terms of the company itself. This has helped in easing marketing and the conducting of public relations for the company (Kapferer, 2008). Branson has this character of pulling the media to the company and thus publicizing the company and its products.
This resonates from his personal characteristics which he tailor makes to work in favor of the business. While many other companies spend a lot of resources in creating an image for their products and services, Branson only dedicates time to public relation thereby highly saving on business expenses (Borowiec, 2008).
Branson is argued to spend a quarter of his time in conducting both direct and indirect public relations. He does this with vigor such that he fully attracts the media thence the public and by effecting attracting free advertisement of the Virgin Group and its products. This is contrary to many other Chief Executive Officers who dedicate huge sums of money for advertising and public relations.
Branson is creative and innovative and always devices means of attracting the attention of the public without spending financial resources. The Virgin Groups has found an easy way of marketing and public relations which is its CEO (Dearlove, 2007).
Branson has driven the company into fully discharging corporate social activities. In the recent years, Branson has been setting aside huge sums of money to help in fighting the effects of climate change and other corporate social activities. Corporate social responsibility has come to be an important parameter on which companies are judged by the public.
Full participation and discharge of corporate social duties work to the advantage of the company (Dearlove, 2010). Branson has instilled the principle of time management in the Virgin business. He emphasizes a lot on the skill of good management of time in order to achieve the objectives of the business.
Branson spends most of his time; about a third troubleshooting, a third on developing and enforcing charitable work and the remaining third on inventing new business projects for the company. He has fully put the company at the center of his plans with the company taking the highest priority (Brook-Hart, 2008).
Rifkin, n. d, observes that Branson loves challenges in business and takes them as opportunities for growth. This is a rare phenomenon as most Chief Executive officers view challenges as obstacles to business which have to be fully fought using organizational resources. He is a daring business leader who approaches and confronts challenges head on. He is courageous and daring.
This quality enabled him to initiate the Virgin Airlines which according to many was considered to be an overambitious and unattainable business for the Virgin Company. As of today, the Virgin Airlines is one of the most outstanding Airlines in the world’s aviation industry with big shares in the US, UK and Europe. He is guided by the motto of being the bets in each of the business which the company ventures into.
He works on a conclusive assumption that significant profits prevails in even the smallest potions of the expansive business in the market. The success of Branson can also be associated with his ability to attract customers by taking their points of view and personalizing them. This makes it easy for him to introduce and implement these viewpoints (Haig and Haig, 2011).
According to Mitchel who wrote in the British management journal, the winning formula used by Branson is found in the clashing business values of the 1960’s. These are money versus morality, company versus consumers, profit versus people, formal versus informal and big business versus the small consumers. Others are conventionality versus novelty, planning versus spontaneity, secrecy versus openness and hierarchy versus egalitarianism.
Branson has always chosen the humanistic path and has managed in turning to the Virgin business. These values are synthesized in the five basic criteria of the Virgin products. These include high quality, innovation, good value for money, challenging to the prevailing alternatives and lastly is that the products must have a sense of fun. This has driven the venturing into several businesses with success being attained in every business that is ventured into.
Business Implications to the Virgin Group if Branson Leaves the Company
Well, there are no prospects of Branson leaving the company. However, many people argue that the Virgin Group can suffer from major business shocks if Richard Branson was to leave the company today. Their argument is that the virgin business has so much been centered on Richard Branson to an extent that no other person is known who can publicize the company in the Absence of Branson. This according to marketing and branding experts was is one of the major shortcomings of Branson.
Building the business around his name alone an overshadowing all other people in the company thereby making the now and the future of the company to revolve around him. This has risked the future of the business. There are a number of serious implications is at all Richard Branson was to step down as the CEO of the Virgin Group of Companies (Kapferer, 2008).
The first significant effect will be a drop in business due to the shock and the effort to choose a person to replace him who may not match even a half of his impact. Therefore, the confidence of customers in the company will significantly drop followed by lapses in the share prices of the company products on stock exchanges.
This can be equated to the case of Apple Incorporated and the death of Steve Jobs, its long serving ad most trusted CEO. The company shares dropped significantly as it struggled to cope with the reality of the demise of Jobs (Lynch, 2012).
The other serious business implication will be a significant loss of publicity for the Virgin Group business. A lot of public relations duties are accomplished by Branson. Therefore, finding another person to conduct publicity the way Branson did can be quite challenging. Branson is known to be the main representative of the Virgin Business in the public domain.
The Virgin Group may also be forced to pump huge sums of money in advertising the brands of the company; an activity that was easily accomplished by Branson at very minimal costs. The cost of running the business will thus shoot up resulting in the reduction of profits that are made by the company. This will also be combines with other disorientations in the company leading to a period of underperformance.
The company can take a long time to learn to deal with the situation. However, the major supportive thing for the company to peg on will be the strong brands that have been developed by Branson. This was the case in Apple where the strong brands of products developed under Jobs helped the company to pick upon the demise of Jobs (Lynch, 2012).
The entrepreneurial qualities of CEOs are essential in business growth of any company. Richard Branson is among the most outstanding entrepreneurial CEOs. Branson started the Virgin business and through a powerful combination of leadership and entrepreneurial qualities has managed to develop ecstatic brands which cut across business borders globally. The Virgin Group can suffer from major business shocks if Branson leaves the company.
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