Successful Mistakes of Richard Branson and Peter Jones

by / ⠀Startup Advice / March 20, 2013

Learn From Your MistakesShow me someone who hasn’t made a mistake and I’ll show you a person who hasn’t lived.

Mistakes are part of life, and although I don’t condone or glorify them, I do wish to demonstrate how valuable they can be. Mistakes are part of growth, and in the business world it’s vital to grow and learn and adapt to something bigger, better, and perfectly YOU.

I know this better than most because I’m currently writing a book called The Successful Mistake: inspiring tips, tricks & tales from 250 successful entrepreneurs. The premise is to interview business people and discuss their mistakes and how they turned them around.

Shortly I’ll share how you can get involved, but first let me demonstrate how valuable a mistake can be… with the right mindset.

Mistake Or Valuable Lesson?

Having interviewed dozens of inspiring individuals I’m beginning to connect some rather important dots. Often the difference between a successful person and everyone else is how they react to adversity.

Bad things happen from time-to-time, and we’re often left with a rather simple decision: Fight or Flight

Yes, that natural instinct of fighting or fleeing comes to mind, and those successful entrepreneurs that build empires are often those that fight…fight…and fight some more. Success is rarely handed on a plate, and I’d like to share 2 Famous Entrepreneurs who had to find success the hard way:

Richard Branson

In 1971 Richard Branson was just starting to grow Virgin Records, and although things were going rather well, money was tight and tough times lay ahead.

His mistake began when he won a contract to export records to Belgium, and after a few things went wrong, he realised he could avoid certain UK taxes by appearing to export but never actually doing so. His debts would soon be cleared and all would be well, but this little idea was illegal, and as with all illegal matters, the risk is high.

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As you can imagine the Tax Man came knocking and Richard Branson spent a night in jail and was forced to pay a rather hefty fine. Yes, the same Richard Branson that so many people idolise (including me).

What Richard learned was that his reputation is his biggest attribute, and no amount of fame or fortune can replace it. He vowed in that jail cell that he would never return, and this mistake helped him build a certain set of values that he’s since lived to. As with most wealthy people he’s no doubt faced occasions where bribes and ‘loopholes’ could have been taken, but he’s learned his lesson from a rather large and potentially devastating mistake. This error in judgement could not only have ended his business, but tainted his entire life.

To read more about Richard Branson’s mistake, read Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson.

Peter Jones

One of the Uk’s most prominent entrepreneurs is Peter Jones, a serial entrepreneur who’s fame is largely down to his appearance on the Dragon’s Den TV Show. Peter decided to become a self-made-man in his mid twenties, quickly amassed a fortune, but lost it all before his thirtieth birthday.

As his successful computer business was growing he had the opportunity to take out Credit Insurance for a sum of £12,000 per year. This is, of course, a lot of money for a growing company to pay, especially as it only covers the what-if scenario. Had the worse case scenario come knocking though, his business would be covered and saved from oblivion.

After deciding not to take this insurance, he won a large contract with a reputable company, and, after supplying the equipment and fulfilling the order, decided to visit the offices to make sure everything had gone according to plan. As he approached the building it turned out his new client has just been handed over to the receivers. The worse case scenario had occurred, and with no insurance his business soon went into decline. He lost everything!

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Peter has since rebuilt his empire, but it took losing his livelihood and having to start again to get to where he is today. It was the most costly of mistakes, but it taught him a great deal about business, people, and covering yourself correctly.

To read more about Peter Jones’s tale, read Business Nightmares by Rachel Elnaugh

Be Brave

The above mistakes are from people who have more respect and money than I can comprehend. I don’t know about you, but I find it humbling to read examples like this. It’s not that I want to see people fail, but things go wrong and everyone is forced to react and rise to the challenge.

Successful people – those we often admire – have been through this. Many mistakes can be avoided, but some can’t. However ALL can be learned from, and with the right mindset I believe everyone can benefit – in the long term – from an unruly error or two.

I’m in love with The Successful Mistake, and it’s for reasons like this. I’m learning so much, but the journey has a long way to go. As such I invite you to take part and join dozens of other amazing people in sharing stories that matter. You have a story to share, this I’m sure of! Will you join me?

Matthew Turner is a storyteller currently writing a book called The Successful Mistake: inspiring tips, tricks & tales from 250 successful entrepreneurs. Everyone has a story to share and he wants YOU to share yours. Fill in the short survey and be part of a movement looking to ease the worries mistakes often breed.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.