Parents are the primary influencers in their children’s future.
A look at how Richard Branson’s parents and family contributed to the development of his entrepreneurial abilities.
My last blog 6 Tell-tail Signs that your child might be a Budding Entrepreneur introduced parents to what to look out for in their child. Now we consider the vital role that parents and the extended family play in nurturing their young entrepreneur's talents, values, and self-belief. While there is considerable research attesting to the role of the family in developing children’s abilities, research specific to the development of entrepreneurial ability is limited. However, a case study of the social factors that contributed to the early development of Britain’s most successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is illuminating. It provides insights that may help parents not only develop the entrepreneurial abilities of their child but also other skills that they show signs of.
Richard Branson, born in 1950, is a British business magnate, inventor, author, and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group in the 1970's, which controls more than 400 companies in various fields such as; Virgin Music, Virgin Airways, Virgin Hotels, Virgin Money, to name but a few. He has also broken some world records in crossing the Atlantic by boat and hot-air balloon.
There were two notable features about Richard Branson’s early years – he was dyslexic and an underachiever in school. However, he did show early signs of practical intelligence and creative ability. He started his first venture at 16 – a student magazine – with no resources. In fact, he had no resources either for some of his early successful business ventures. Creativity was behind all of Richard Branson’s ventures, creating something original that sticks out, something that he was proud of.
So, what contribution did Richard Branson’s family make to the development of his entrepreneurial abilities? For starters, his parents were very talented and had a wide range of interests. They had an abundance of love for their children and for each other. They trusted their children and were very supportive of them. There was an open, sincere relationship between parents and children, where parents never judged their children, choosing to praise the good things rather than criticise the bad things. They treated their children as equals, valuing their opinions. They rarely gave advice unless asked. They had high ethical standards, instilling the notion that reputation is all you have in life.
In addition to the favourable conditions listed above, Richard Branson’s mother was a role model for entrepreneurship, making things she could sell, as they did not have much money. She exposed her children to significant challenges from very young, as she was determined to make her children independent. There was an attitude of rule-breaking in the family, which cultivated a rebellious streak. There was also an irreverence for authority, and an attitude of ‘I can change the world’. Both parents loved adventure and ensured that their children worked hard and had a strong sense of teamwork. They were brought up to be independent in thoughts and actions.
The extended family, aunt, and grandmother, in particular, played an important role, often reinforcing many of the factors identified above.
So, what can we, as parents, learn from this case study of Richard Branson’s up-bringing? Regardless of whether we have a young entrepreneur in our family or not, our children show signs of their abilities early, and it is up to us to recognise and help them develop these abilities. What we say and do matters. We are the primary influencers in our children’s future.
This blog is a summary of Micro-social factors in the development of entrepreneurial giftedness: the case of Richard Branson, by Larisa Shavinina.