Start a business by asking the right questions


Launching a business is essentially an adventure in problem-solving.

This is why I rarely quote experts in this column, and why I strongly emphasise hiring the right people, rather than just looking for people with the right qualifications: because every problem is a little different, and applying generalised solutions — especially by rote — is not a good idea. A great problem solver is usually open to new ideas, innately curious and good at working with others. Above all, terrific listening skills are essential.

When my friends and I started up the first Virgin businesses, we didn’t know anything about building a company. At our mail-order record venture, everyone received a wage of £20 (Dh118) per week (I think we were all still in our teens).

It was a truly flat organisation, and as we worked, each of us discovered by trial and error what he was good at, what areas he should focus on, and how to work with the other members of our group.