Like A Virgin

★★★★

Portfolio/ Penguin Books – Softcover $16.00 – Kindle Version $9.99 – 352 pages

Sir Richard Branson, the internationally famous entrepreneur, adventurer, and self-proclaimed icon, has the distinction of being the only person in the world to have built billion-dollar companies from scratch in eight different sectors.

As you can guess, there's some ego to get past here with Branson's latest book, "Like a Virgin." But as Walt Whitman once said, "If you've done it, it ain't bragging."

Well, it's safe to say that Branson has accomplished enough for him to be able to what say just about anything.

With this in mind, one has to appreciate the walking handbook quality of this sometimes random, but incredibly insightful book.

Learn from my mistake, and don't try to plow through this book, thinking that one chapter is a building preamble flowing effortlessly from one topic to the next.

Instead, I recommend taking a look at the book's table of contents and using it more as a reference guide to issues that you have experienced or may have now as an owner, investor, or employee. There are about 75 different topics covered with these short vignettes.

Having the perspective of someone like Branson, who has such a thorough and successful background, makes "Like a Virgin" a stellar resource.

Here are some examples of the varied subjects and content:

– The Perfect Pitch: This section provides best practices for anyone trying to raise money for a business or project. Branson has been on both sides of this table, and presents a no-nonsense approach that rationally explains the motives of both the investor and the borrower.

– More Walking and Talking, Less Typing and Griping: This will strike a chord with many stuck in office or professional situations where a key player would rather send a passive-aggressive email than having a face-to-face conversation. Anyone who has experienced the email that creates more questions than answers (and the time-sucking politics) will relate to this section.

– Kick Start The Economy: This part lists 10 tips for jump-starting the economies of the world, complete with common sense prescriptions for what needs to be done and who needs to do it.

The topics he covers are topical and wide-ranging. The insight from Branson is oftentimes humorous but always honest. It's interesting to hear Branson admit and explain details of the businesses he started and that failed.

Branson also takes time to look back at others that have inspired him along the way, acknowledging that Steve Jobs is perhaps the greatest entrepreneur of all time. He believes that Jobs built his customer loyalty around innovative products. Branson then explains that the only way he knew how to succeed was to build his business around customer service. It's these customer opportunities and recognized voids in the marketplace that are the inspiration for Branson's diverse business concepts.

This book, however, is not heavy on groundbreaking business theory. The point is that Branson is a true entrepreneur that is able to innovate and adapt like no one else. I couldn't help but imagine sitting down with Branson at a pub or coffee shop and asking him about building a successful business.

If you're looking for a refreshing alternative to the mindless drivel of most mass-produced business books, "Like a Virgin" is a great choice.

Chris Wendel is a consultant and lender with Northern Initiatives in Traverse City. Northern Initiatives is a community development organization based in Marquette that provides entrepreneurs with access to capital, information, and new markets.

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