My Read of the Month:

Title: Losing My Virginity – the Autobiography – Updated Edition
Author: Richard Branson
Published: 2007
Genre: Business leadership/Entrepreneurship
Ratings: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Richard Branson isn’t on my personal list of top CEO or leaders, but  there’s no denying that’s he has my admiration for building one of the most successful brands in the world- Virgin.

Albeit the brand has not being as prominent as it was years ago, but it remains  one of the most recognisable brands and company that started from scratch by the flamboyant and enterprising Mr Branson. And this is what mostly this book is about- a rags to riches story.

The book starts off during his growing up years as a young boy and his adversities especially with his learning disability of dyslexia. His early life provides glimpses of the environment and upbringing he had which were critical elements that made him who he was and is today in his entrepreneurial pursuit.

Interestingly, his first business started in a modest basement in London when he dropped out of school at the age of 16 to start a youth-culture magazine called Student. Then, his headmaster parting words to him were: “You will either go to prison or become a millionaire.”

And of cos, we now know which Branson has become, but not before getting himself close to imprisonment for tax evasion charges.

Growing up in 1969 and surrounded by the music and drug scene, it was commendable how Branson was always on the look out for business opportunities and not just following the crowd.

During that time, he had the idea to begin a mail-order record company  when demand for music was popular in order to help fund his magazine efforts. And that was the birth of the Virgin.

With that mail-order company sprung from one business to another which followed with record stores, then to a record studio and eventually a music record label. Subsequently, other Virgin companies also emerged such as his own airline and publisher which owns the copyrights of this book.

What I found useful were his honest sharing of his ups and downs as a business man and also his personal life with his family and marriage. These were invaluable insights that provided caution of the sort of challenges that every entrepreneur would encounter.

Branson is also well-known for his adventurous and wild PR stunts which earned him the title, “King of the Publicity Stunts”. Some of his ground-breaking or memorable antics were his attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon and donning a wedding dress after shaving his beard to promote his bridal wear store Virgin Brides.

Many have criticised him for his insatiable appetite for publicity for some of his outrageous stunts, but I believe his main motive is driven more by his appetite to push the boundaries and limits. The stunts are a mere reflection of his drive and entrepreneurial streak that has made Virgin the company it is today.

Today, Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies in over 30 countries including the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Asia, Europe and South Africa. And for his contribution to entrepreneurship, Branson was knighted in 1999, and in 2009 he landed at No. 261 on Forbes’ World Billionaires list with his $2.5 billion in self-made fortune, which includes two private islands.

He is married to his second wife, Joan Templeman, with whom he has two children: Holly and Sam. And currently lives in London.

Who should read it: Aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders who need inspiration and a rejuvenated mind.