This excerpt taken from The Opportunity of Risk: Innovation from American Express OPEN Forum (Sep 8 2010)

We think that there is little point in entering a new market unless it provides the opportunity to really shake up an industry. Almost all our new ventures come about from our thinking up a product or service that we believe people really want. Then, if our entry has the potential to make waves, we’re going to look at it very closely.

You’ll notice that making a profit hasn’t entered the picture yet. It’s rare for me or the team to consider only the money that can be made. I feel it’s pointless to approach investing with the question, “How can I make lots of money? We must bring in the numbers guys and work out some business plans.” No one will ever agree on exactly how to make money. The consultants will say your idea will work, while the accountants will prove that it cannot.

When it’s time to decide whether or not to go ahead, the decision must come from your heart…pursue your passions, your ideas will be more likely to succeed.

I learned to follow my passions at the beginning of my career, when some friends and I created Student magazine to give a voice to young people who were campaigning to stop the Vietnam War. As for the actual business aspects, such as paying the bills… well, we had to sort that out later. We just hoped that we would sell enough copies to stay afloat and learn the business side as we went along.

READ the full article.

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This excerpt is from Branson’s Next Big Bet, published on CNNMoney.com (Oct 2 2006).

What was the first business idea you came up with?
I set up this magazine called Student when I was 16, and I didn’t do it to make money – I did it because I wanted to edit a magazine. There wasn’t a national magazine run by students, for students. I didn’t like the way I was being taught at school. I didn’t like what was going on in the world, and I wanted to put it right.

Of course, a lot of businesses want to reach students, so I funded the magazine by selling advertising. I sold something like $8,000 worth of advertising for the first edition, and that was in 1966. I printed up 50,000 copies, and I didn’t even have to charge for them on the newsstand because my costs were already covered.

So I became a publisher by mistake – well, not quite by mistake, because I wanted to be an editor but I had to make sure the magazine would survive. The point is this: Most businesses fail, so if you’re going to succeed, it has to be about more than making money.

Are you saying entrepreneurs should go into business without the bottom line in mind?
Ideally, since 80 percent of your life is spent working, you should start your business around something that is a passion of yours. If you’re into kite-surfing and you want to become an entrepreneur, do it with kite-surfing.

Look, if you can indulge in your passion, life will be far more interesting than if you’re just working. You’ll work harder at it, and you’ll know more about it. But first you must go out and educate yourself on whatever it is that you’ve decided to do – know more about kite-surfing than anyone else. That’s where the work comes in. But if you’re doing things you’re passionate about, that will come naturally.

Read the full article HERE.

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