Richard Branson’s Entrepreneurial Journey Analysis Using Timmons FORT Model

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson is a British Entrepreneur and Founder of the multinational Virgin Group.  Born on 18th July 1950, he dropped out of school at age of 16 to start his first venture, a decision that led to the creation of Virgin Records and a wide range of corporations including Virgin Galactic, Voyager Group Travel, Virgin Atlantic Airline and a group of Virgin Megastores among other 400 companies (Branson 2018). Sir Richard Branson is best known for his ambitious decisions and immense success. Branson is also characterized as an adventurous person with sporting interests. He was knighted in 1999 for his contributions to entrepreneurship and is also associated with achievements like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a Hot air Balloon.

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Timmons FORT Model

The Timmons Founder, Opportunity, Resources, and Team (FORT) Model of Entrepreneurship was devised by Jeffrey Timmons in his doctorate Thesis at Harvard University.  The model presents three factors that define the basics of a successful venture (Hammad, 2013).  They include opportunities, teams, and resources (Timmons, Spinelli & Tan 1994). According to the model, the entrepreneurial process begins with a founder, or the entrepreneur, whose success is highly dependent on the ability to balance the three factors. The Timmons FORT model is based on the entrepreneur’s actions, whereby an individual seeks an opportunity and morphs it into a venture with vast potential by creating a team and pulling up resources necessary to kick-start the venture. During the initial process, the entrepreneur takes a risk, and his reward is interpreted in commensuration that accounts for his contribution to start and finance the business (Timmons, Spinelli & Tan 1994). 

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The opportunity factor is the most important in the process as it precedes strategy, money issues, teams, networks and a business plan.  The model strongly affirms that an entrepreneurship process is driven by opportunities since a high-potential opportunity attracts long-term business success (Hammad, 2013).  Notably, The Timmons Fort model maintains that a great idea does not necessarily translate into a great business. However, the best ideas are structured when the product or service adds value for consumers, is always attractive, durable and at the right time. After identifying an opportunity, an effective entrepreneur should have the capability to create a talent-oriented and innovative team that will competently contribute to the growth and success of the business. The background, as well as size of the team, is dependent on the nature of the start-up. There is, therefore, no standard number of individuals required as long as one remains objective and realistic about the available resources and necessity (Timmons, Spinelli & Tan 1994).   The Timmons FORT Model holds that a good team is critical to the success of the business while a bad and incompetent team can lead to the downfall of the business. A team is considered to be the most significant resource as they have the capability to grow the business and effectively manage the pressures of a start-up (Spinelli & Zacharakis 2007).   A team is responsible for removing any uncertainties, ambiguities as well as creatively contributing to the advancing of the opportunity. Finally, a team is essential to offer leadership and manage available resources in a smart way that will ensure the business withstands exogenous forces in the context of the capital market.

The resource factor is based on bootstrapping ideologies where an entrepreneur is required to start with minimal resources as a means of gaining a competitive advantage rather than seeking extensive resources with the notion that the latter would reduce presumed risks for the venture (Spinelli & Zacharakis 2007).  The Timmons FORT Model postulates that embracing the bootstrapping idea not only drives down market costs but also instills leanness and discipline as an organizational culture. It further encourages the team to use resources creatively in order to manage the limited resources. The resource factor works under the principle of ‘minimize and control’ as opposed to the traditional maximize and own strategy. Overall, the entrepreneur is tasked with the responsibility of managing resources and developing a business plan using the fit and balance strategy to effectively exploit the teams capacity as well as resources for growth.

Analysis of Sir Richard Branson’s Entrepreneurial Journey

The Timmons FORT Model comprehensively applies to Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial journey. At a young age (16), Branson had problems with his educational foundations and was limited in scope and capabilities due to dyslexia; a learning disorder (Branson 2018). However, he had entrepreneurial ambitions and decided to exploit the music and hype-culture that were key to teenagers, young adults and even the elderly in the 1970’s. Branson decided to quit high school and founded a youth-culture magazine. The venture was very successful as he sold copies worth $8000 through advertising in his first edition, despite disbursing 50,000 copies for free. The entrepreneur sought an opportunity and settled on the music industry because it not only added value to customers, but was also timely given the music culture at the time, and it was also durable since new music would emerge over short periods of time. Branson started Virgin records, a mail-order record company with the aim of funding his magazine business. By utilizing the opportunity, Branson fulfilled the first critical factor of the Timmons Model (Branson 2018).  The music venture record had high potential as he gathered a team and in time grew to the point of opening a record store in Oxford Street, London in 1972.

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            Branson and his team utilized their minimal resources through the “maximize and control” principle and signed up their first artist on the Virgin record label in 1972. Using the success of this first venture, the team signed up several other upcoming musicians whose music led to the ultimate success of Virgin Record Label (Branson 2018).  With an increase in the venture’s resources, Branson sought more opportunities and invested in competent and talent oriented teams to start up the new businesses. Using the same principles, the entrepreneur’s ventures grew in size, value and profitability. Currently, Branson owns more than 400 companies operating in different nations and is worth billions of dollars as a result of his entrepreneurial ventures. Branson’s entrepreneurial journey accomplishes embraces the Timmons FORT Journey as he is the founder, who seeks an opportunity, a team, and further maximizes his minimal resources to grow his business and later uses commensuration from his achievements in the business to invest in other ventures following the same model.

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While the entrepreneur’s journey is attributed to the Timmons FORT Model, there are other factors he embraced as an entrepreneur which ultimately steered the success of his business ventures. He explains in a magazine interview (Martin, 2018) that he followed he had ambition, had confidence in himself, was overly generous with his rewards and therefore shared with the poor, he was always resilient amidst challenges, constantly set new targets as a way to challenge himself, learnt to delegate, encouraged the success of his team, sought more opportunities and remained focus and objective. This goes to show that personal traits also play a significant role in ensuring the success of an entrepreneur.

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Based on Sir Richard Branson’s journey, I believe that a successful business venture has the potential for growth when an individual decides to take the risk and focus on the opportunity at hand. For instance, Branson dropped out of school to pursue his business ideas. Additionally, one ought to find competent and self-driven individuals during the formation of a team and also pull his/her resources and creatively exploit the little available to increase their value. Further, launching a successful venture requires one to search for opportunities that are timely, durable, and attractive and consequently add value to customers. Finally, launching and growing a successful venture not only depends on one’s capacity to embrace the Timmons FORT Model but also requires the entrepreneur to develop a set of skills, habits, and characteristics such as disciplines as well as other personal attributes like generosity, self-confidence and resilience.

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