The secret of playing the money game: Think big, start small

Richard Branson

It’s easy to imagine that the normal route to creating a successful business is to come up with a killer idea, write a business plan, prove that the whole thing will work, then go take a giant leap of faith – and a massive risk along with it.

But this simply isn’t true. The roots of most successful businesses are in the early playful experiments of ordinary people who were willing to try something out.

One of my favourite illustrations of this comes from everyone’s favourite icon of unconventional business, Richard Branson.

As Richard tells the story himself,

“In ’79, when Joan, my fiancee and I were on a holiday in the British Virgin Islands, we were trying to catch a flight to Puerto Rico; but the local Puerto Rican scheduled flight was cancelled.

The airport terminal was full of stranded passengers. I made a few calls to charter companies and agreed to charter a plane for $2000 to Puerto Rico.

Cheekily leaving out Joan’s and my name, I divided the price by the remaining number of passengers, borrowed a blackboard and wrote: VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 for a single flight to Puerto Rico. I walked around the airport terminal and soon filled every seat on the charter plane.

As we landed at Puerto Rico, a passenger turned to me and said: “Virgin Airways isn’t too bad – smarten up the services a little and you could be in business.”

Not long after this, he acquired a secondhand 747 and launched his airline in earnest.

Richard Branson is now undoubtedly a very skilled entrepreneur but he learned the vast majority of what he knows by undertaking the same kind of experiments as that first flight.

Over to you…

Have you played  the money game in similar ways? Have you had fun with an entrepreneurial or creative experiment of your own? Have you even had one of them turn into something more significant such as a full time business?

If so, leave a comment and let me know – I may even feature you in my second book (with your permission)!

If you haven’t played the money game much yourself, what could you do as a small play project to try something out?


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