What drives the Ultimate Entrepreneur? – profiling Sir Richard Branson

Have you ever wondered what drives a successful entrepreneur? I have often been asked that question by business people wishing to discover what are the distinctive patterns of motivation that they should look for in themselves and others with regard to business start ups. Thanks to a recent YouTube link I received courtesy of Marie Forleo, the inspiring CEO of ‘Rich, Happy and Hot’, I had the opportunity to watch an in-depth interview recorded on site at Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson, when he answered questions about his life as an entrepreneur and initiator of over 300 businesses under the Virgin megabrand.  Here’s what I discovered…

Because the work that I do involves a very precise form of individual profiling or “motivational fingerprinting” as I call it, I am always quick to point out that there is no such thing as one size fits all, and therefore no ideal set of patterns or motivational archetype from which to draw. However I am happy to share with you what I believe are some of the unique motivational drivers of the remarkable Sir Richard Branson, probably the most well known and successful entrepreneurs of our times. As I have often said, every person is like a walking billboard of unconscious signs due to the language they use in their communication, both written and verbal. Because the specific questions asked of Sir Richard by Marie Forleo, Joe Polish of Piranha Marketing and Yanik Silver of Business Maverick Adventures, mostly focused around what he believed made a successful entrepreneur, I was able to distil some very distinct motivational patterns not only from what Sir Richard had to say, but more importantly from how he said it and the particular language he used to describe his model of the world.

Here are the patterns I discovered with some brief descriptions and examples. They are in no particular order of priority:–

  • Breadth: Someone who works with and thinks about very large “chunks” of information. Predominantly they prefer to work from a global or high level perspective. (No surprises here with RB, given the multiplicity of projects he is overseeing at any one time. One of the true ‘give-away’ lines RB used in his discussion was the comment… “Once you have found people who are better than you to replace you, go off and find the next big picture.”)
  • Initiation: Someone who is motivated by situations where they can do and act. These proactive people do not like to sit and wait for others to initiate first. (Everything about what RB says and does describes a person who is a starter who then hands over to others to finish the job or manage the business. The above quote also describes this pattern of motivation well.)
  • Concept: Someone who prefers to think and conceptualise. Concept people are good at understanding the theory and thinking things through, but once again often leave others to lay down the structure and organise the resources. (As RB says, “An entrepreneur is someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas and building ideas and then handing over to really good managers to manage the business.”)
  • Alternatives Thinking:  Someone who looks for other ways to do things, always weighing up options and seeking alternative ways to achieve an outcome. (Time and time again, RB brings an ‘outside the box’ approach to a problem. He tends not to bring a deliberate, step-by-step approach to any situation, but instead responds to opportunities he discovers along the way.  As he explains, “Entrepreneurs see a gap in the market and they try and fill that gap in the market and almost become an entrepreneur by default.”)
  • Problem Solving: Someone who is aware of potential problems that exist and puts plans in place to counter them, as well as being able to recognise situations that need to be dealt with in the future. (While many people might automatically assume that RB is a goal oriented individual, actually it appears that he is more likely to be motivated by the opposite pattern to Goal Orientation, which is the Problem Solving motivational driver. He is more driven to make a difference in people’s lives by improving the things that he believes need fixing, and by making sure that all bases are covered in the businesses he creates. As he says, “I think if you don’t protect the down side then you are asking for trouble… so without being too conservative, it is important to always think of being able to afford the worst thing that could happen.” This pattern is also demonstrated in RB’s drive to right global wrongs through his promotion of ‘social entrepreneurship.’)
  • Focus on People: Someone who works best with people and their feelings. They are motivated by working with or around people and are often found in mentoring roles. (As RB says, “The absolute key is how good you are with people. If you genuinely care about people. If you surround yourself with people who are genuinely excited by what you’re doing; if you can draw out the best in people, and if you can lavish praise on your people, not criticise, and inspire your people, that’s something you just have to do from day one.” )
  • Shared Responsibility: Someone who wants to share responsibility with others and work as part of a team environment where the members share tasks and responsibilities. (Here is another comment of RB’s that describes this pattern perfectly. “Never use the ‘I’ word. You’re a team – ‘we’re doing this, we’re doing that.’ Never ever let things centre on yourself. If you can do that from day one then you can enjoy the good times together but there will be bad times, and that’s when your people will pull around for you.”)
  • Group Environment: Someone who is productive working in and around people constantly. When they have many people to interact with they are able to be most effective. They handle distractions and interruptions to their daily routine well. (To quote RB, “Use yourself to put your company on the map. A good chairman, for at least a third of the job, should be getting out there and promoting their company.”)
  • Affiliation: Someone who is strongly motivated by being part of a group where he/she belongs and in being liked. They are also more likely to maintain interpersonal networks and socialise. Rapport, empathy, inclusion and mutual respect and fun play a significant part in this pattern. (I doubt whether anyone could honestly say that RB does not like to have fun, often at his own expense. Here’s what he says about that. “I think the chairman of the company needs to be willing to let their hair down. That sort of spirit of fun can make it a fun company to work for, and therefore the leader has to try to get that spirit of fun in the company and not take themselves too seriously.”)
  • Indifference to Rules: Someone who believes there are no best rules for conduct. This pattern has particular relevance for creating new industry standards. (RB has always been known as the individual who is prepared to challenge the status quo of an industry. As this well known ‘rule breaker’ says, “We’ve often tried to get out there and pull the tail of our bigger competitors.”)
  • Convinced by Hearing: Someone who likes to hear about something in order to be convinced. (About this RB says, “I love learning from people. A good leader has got to be a great listener.”)
  • Difference: Someone who can deal with change easily and is motivated by change. If change does not happen within their appropriate time frame, they will create the change or change the situation. (Everything that RB stands for is about being a force for change for the better, both in terms of business and with the driving passion that is closest to his heart, social entrepreneurship. What RB has been quoted as saying he would like to see on his tombstone is… “He made a difference!” I think we can all agree on that score when we think of Sir Richard Branson.)

So there you are, a quick delve into the mind and driving motivations of one of the most respected entrepreneurs of our time, Sir Richard Branson. If you think after reading the above patterns that what I have shared with you falls under the heading of ‘the bleeding obvious’ you may wish to know that this represents only a quarter of the potential motivating patterns available to us when we peek under the surface of someone’s psyche, and because of that you can be assured that with the possibility of infinite combinations, no two people are the same.

So you see, everyone is a walking-talking advertisement of their individual unconscious patterns through the language they use to describe their ‘model of the world.’ Knowing this and leaving our minds open to observing this in our colleagues’ and clients’ conversations and written communications leads us to understand them at a much deeper level than what we once thought was possible. When we reach this level of understanding we have the potential to create so much greater rapport, harmony and influence in our work environment, and ultimately the better utilisation of people’s talents and unconscious desires. If you would like to listen to the interview that Sir Richard Branson gave and consider the observations that I have made, set aside 40 minutes to listen to this wonderful insight into RB, the ‘ultimate entrepreneur.’ I am sure you will enjoy the experience, and once you have done that I would love to receive your own thoughts and comments as a result.

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less.   Have a great week – Brian

Precision Profiling – What Makes You Tick?  Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your staff.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here

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