Thursday, 19 May 2011
Sir Richard Branson, 60, is said to be the 5th richest person in the UK and 254th in the world, worth around £2.58 billion.
He's best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies. His first successful business venture was a magazine called Student which he set up when he was 16. In 1970, he set up an audio record mail-order business. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. Branson's Virgin brand has grown rapidly ever since - with Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Trains, and Virgin Money among his businesses. Richard Branson says not even the sky is the limit and, with Virgin Galactic, he plans to run the world's first commercial spaceflights. He has also announced plans to take a submarine to the deepest points of the world's oceans where no explorer has ever been before.
Oh, and he's dyslexic…
When were you diagnosed with dyslexia? And did you know, before you were told, that you were dyslexic?
My dyslexia was diagnosed quite late on - mainly because when I was at school very few people knew what it meant to be dyslexic. I always knew I struggled with reading and understanding when the teacher wrote things on the blackboard (do you still have those nowadays!) but didn't understand why because I wanted to learn.
Did teachers treat you differently because you learned in a different way to others?
My teachers assumed I didn't want to learn, was trying to disrupt the class or was just plain lazy! I love learning new things, it just took me a little longer than my class mates to grasp what was being taught and I had to work extra hard to concentrate - it could be so frustrating.
How did you overcome the challenges you faced with your dyslexia?
Having it properly diagnosed made all the difference. Once you are able to put a name to something and explain to people that you are not being dumb or not concentrating but genuinely need to look at things differently than others might - things become so much easier. Don't be ashamed of telling people you're dyslexic - it's nothing to be ashamed of - look at me.
What would you say to kids with dyslexia or other learning challenges?
You must never give up on your dreams and aspirations! As difficult as you may find school always try to strive for the best. Push that little bit further and you may surprise yourself by what you can achieve. There's nothing wrong with having to look at things from a different perspective - you'll see things many, many times that other people might miss!
How did dyslexia affect your learning at school?
My dyslexia was a problem at school, so I found it hard to focus on academic subjects. There was no name for what I had so teachers gave up on me a lot and, to be honest, at times I did stop trying through frustration. So I concentrated on the things that I was good at and enjoyed - like cricket!
Were you ever made to feel as though you weren't as clever as the other kids in your class?
Not so much not clever - but lazy and disruptive. To hide the fact that I was struggling I would play practical jokes and tell jokes in class. Teachers just assumed I was taking the mickey constantly - I found myself in the headmaster's office more than once!
I was lucky, though. My parents helped me through it as they did not see my trouble with learning as a limitation. Rather, they helped me to find my strengths by teaching me to constantly look for new challenges. Again, life became easier when we realised it was dyslexia - although I'm still known for playing the odd practical joke!
In what ways does your dyslexia make you unique?
It has helped me to understand that you don't necessarily need a degree to help you succeed in life. Ambition, drive, passion and your dreams will help you achieve what you want in life. My granny always used to say to me: "You've got one chance in life, so make the most of it!" And that is just what I did… just because you see things differently from others doesn't mean they're all right and you're wrong!
Finally, has the unique way in which you process and understand information contributed to your success in the business world?
Dyslexia definitely presented a challenge but the most important thing for me was to have a positive attitude. Never be afraid to ask lots of questions and remember that dyslexia often makes you not only see things differently but think differently than other people - which for an entrepreneur is very useful!