My Brainstorm Lunch with a Billionaire

Posted by Robin Robins On December 21st, 2009

Me & Sir Richard

As many of you know, back in October I flew out to LA to attend a private, 1-hour brainstorm session with Richard Branson, the 261st richest person on the planet (according to Fortune Magazine). This meeting was organized by Joe Polish who runs the Master Mind group I belong to. In attendance was yours truly along with 16 other very successful entrepreneurs including Yanik Silver, Eban Pagen, Brad Fallon, and Joe Sugarman to name a few. The meeting was tied to Branson‟s “Rock the Kasbah” charity event to raise money for Virgin Unite, a non-profit that uses business as a force for good in helping build entrepreneurs in impoverished countries, helping the homeless, improving healthcare and dealing with environmental issues.

What impressed me the most about Branson was how polite, considerate and downright charming he is. You would imagine most of the mega-rich to be arrogant, but he was incredibly gracious in answering our questions and showing an interest in each of our businesses. When one of the people in the room handed him a book they wrote, he pushed it back across the table insisting that they sign it. Small thing, but a perfect example of his character. There were a few things he said that struck me, but nothing that really surprised me. I had taken the time to read his books in advance of the meeting so I already knew a lot about his personal philosophy on business, people and success; and as you might imagine, it’s fairly close to the same success principles you’ll read in many other multi-millionaire’s “how I did it” books. The more I study success and the wealthy, the more I’ve come to the conclusion: there’s no secret to getting rich, successful or achieving any other worthy goal in life. The examples and lessons are all well documented in piles of books on the subject, with nothing held back. I believe it’s simply a matter of your determination to achieve more and ability to carry goals and projects through to their successful completion without excuses. That’s it.

As I coach IT business owners and take calls from members who are struggling, I see a consistent theme in all of them: they’re dabbling. They’ve “tried” to do a little networking, “tried” JVs, “tried” sending out newsletters, etc., etc. Tried being the operative word. They’ve skimmed and skipped over the research with clients, gathering testimonials and case studies, researching their competition and don’t measure or track their performance on a regular basis. They’ve not really committed to the work involved by clearly defining their value proposition. In fact, I can usually stump clients with one or two easy questions regarding how many active clients they have or revenue and profits to date. Worst of all, they KNOW they aren’t giving it the effort it deserves, but still seek an easy way out, some magic pill to fix what’s wrong. This conversation often leads to the second most common request I hear from struggling clients, which is the desire to have someone to hold them accountable or someone to “do it all for them.”

That’s a scapegoats excuse. No one is going to make you successful — only YOU can do that for yourself; and wishing for someone to be your “Mommy” and make you do what you already know you should be doing is not the answer. Personal trainers can’t make you thin if you cancel appointments, constantly complain about them working you too hard, give it only a 70% effort and then hit Burger King on your way home. Sure they can encourage and guide you, but they can’t MAKE you successful at losing weight.

Richard Branson didn’t look for someone to hold him accountable or to do his marketing for him when he was starting up, nor did any other highly successful business owner. And no one did it for them…THEY made the phone calls, connections and marketing early on before they were able to hire people to help them execute. THEY designed their vision and plan to get there, and they executed on it. Not a marketing agency, not a coach. I‟ve never heard of any truly successful entrepreneur who completely delegated the responsibility of revenue generation or marketing strategy of their organization.

I do realize this is not a popular answer with clients and they would rather work for someone who would “do it all for them.” But where those companies, services and people already EXIST— what they are looking to delegate is the STRATEGY and MANAGEMENT part, which is NOT something they should be delegating. Successful entrepreneurs aren’t upset or frustrated by this; they know it’s still up to them to set the direction and vision of their company, then formulate strategic plans to achieve their goals.

My Mastermind Group with Richard Branson

I know, here I go back to the difficult… stuff. But this really is the key difference between the rich and the struggling…those who struggle stay there because they desperately, eagerly and repeatedly seek out simple and easy solutions to complex issues they need to own and resolve. Doing so gets them nowhere fast…except frustrated. If you want to be in the top .4% of businesses that actually break the $10 million mark and the top 1% income earners in the country, you need to embrace the responsibility to learn how to resolve complex problems. You have to be tougher on yourself to seek answers to things you don’t have the answers to and to constantly try different approaches to solving a problem, never giving up until you’ve got it resolved. You also have to learn how to be incredibly self-reliant and resourceful, willing to research and study success. If you don’t want to take the initiative, then go to work for someone else—you’ll never get rich being a business owner. But this type of laziness and lack of resourcefulness is rampant in businesses everywhere. People are just too darn lazy to learn anything. Jim Rohn speaks about being a “serious student” of success, yet very few are serious students of anything, much less their own business and customers. They’re easily derailed by anything new or that takes a bit of time and commitment to learning or researching, particularly in the area of revenue production. So, if I may suggest a final lesson for the year to start you out on a fresh new path of success let it be this: give up your pursuit of easy and instead make a serious commitment to improving your skills and your knowledge. Your current skills and habits are the LID on your business—not the economy, not the lack of time or money and certainly not a lack of opportunity.

As the late Jim Rohn says:

“Don’t wish for fewer challenges, wish for more SKILLS.”