Richard Branson’s Straight-Shooting Advice for Over-50s Founders and Entrepreneurs
We sat down with Sir Richard to discuss what it takes to thrive in business in your 50s, 60s and beyond, and his top advice for over-50s founders and entrepreneurs.
A risk-taker, a rule-breaker, a problem solver and a modern businessman who redefined the very notion, Richard Branson is the ultimate entrepreneur. In the early days of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard took on the big guns at British Airways. At the time, many did not take him seriously as a businessman with his music industry beginnings, optimism, shaggy hair and casual attire.
Now 72 years of age, with 100s of businesses under his belt, and with no plans to “slow down” anytime soon, our CEO & Founder, Lyndsey Simpson, sat down with Sir Richard to discuss what it takes to thrive in business in your 50s, 60s and beyond, and his advice for over-50s entrepreneurs.
What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur
While outdated ideas about age might have us to believe that you can’t start a business later in life, it would seem running a business is more about determination and solid ideas, rather than much to do with age.
“I really don’t think age is relevant,” Richard says to Lyndsey during their interview.
“The only time I realise that I am not in my 20s is when I look in a mirror. Otherwise, I still think I am in my 20s or 30s.”
The 2022 Scale Up Index by Beauhurst reveals that 22% of directors at scaleups are over 60, while the average age of scaleup directors is 52.5 years. In this fifth edition of the Scaleup Index, Beauhurst looked at 8,457 visible scaleup companies with more than 20% growth over three years – as well as 2,951 pipeline scaleups with 10 to 19% growth.
Passionate about starting businesses and empowering founders at any age, in 2013 Sir Richard Branson founded not-for-profit, Virgin StartUp (VSU), to support others who are looking to do the same.
Offering advice, access to funding, mentoring, training and sometimes just a friendly shoulder to lean on, they’ve helped tens of thousands of founders to start and scale, with over-50s being one of the fastest growing segments. Between October 2019 and September 2022, VSU funded 1646 founders. Of this, 136 were aged 50 or over on the day they drew down the funding.
Richard Branson’s Tip Tips for Over-50 Entrepreneurs
Thinking of starting a business but looking for that reason to take the plunge or a little extra support to help you with planning? We turn to the ultimate entrepreneur for some straight-shooting advice.
1. It’s Never Too Late to Start
“I started a couple of my latest businesses in my 70s, so you’re definitely not too old to start over 50. You know, you’ve got the president of America is in his 80s and he’s pretty full on and the person who’s trying to take him down is 77, so I really don’t think age is relevant. The only time I realise that I am not in my 20s is when I look in a mirror. Otherwise, I still think I am in my 20s or 30s.
As long as you look after yourself, I think you can keep going a long, long time. Two weeks ago, I climbed Mount Kenya and interestingly you can find time to do extreme things like that, as well as, building businesses. You’ve got to learn the art of getting good people around you and delegating. Getting that balance between in life is important.”
2. Find Joy in Carving Out Your Own Path
“I mean, I just enjoy life. And the idea of going from doing what I enjoy to not doing anything at all actually is not something that appeals to me. I get the greatest pleasure from creating things and I think for people who do retire from a more ordinary job, or mundane job, and set up their own business, I think they will get a lot more satisfaction from that than going into proper retirement.”
3. Make Your Health A Priority
“As long as you keep fit and healthy, and that’s the number-one priority – make sure you’re as healthy as possible, then your body is not going to let you down and you can carry on well into your 90s and maybe into your hundreds. The key, the absolute key, is to make sure you find the time for yourself, to keep yourself fit and healthy and then you can achieve pretty well anything for decades longer than you think.”
4. Start Small and Focus on Your Mindset
“You need to think, what is a business, a business is coming up with ideas to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. That’s all a business is. Your first thing is to think hard about is there a way you can make people’s lives better that isn't being done by other people. And then, just giving it a go, and you can start in a really small way and if it gets some traction, you can build on it. But if you’re finding you are getting down, I am a great believer in something I call circles. So, you put a circle around yourself and get yourself really strong physically. If you get yourself really strong physically, you can then become mentally strong, and then once you’ve got that circle really right you can then go out and start businesses and do wonderful things, but you need to get yourself into a frame of mind that is then going to get you to the next stage.”
5. Find Role Models You Can Learn From
“Role models are extremely important and one of the reasons I write book is to share things I’ve learnt in my lifetime. A lot of us have looked at our parents and we all learn from them, and I was lucky enough to have a mother who, she wasn’t a successful entrepreneur, but she was relentless in trying. In running to keep up with her, a lot of it rubbed off on me.”
Watch the Full Interview with Sir Richard Branson
To hear more about Richard’s story and experience as an entrepreneur, watch the full interview below.