By Alicia Kellebrew
The Village Financial Resource Center
I’m always on the lookout for an inspiring story or good advice. Here’s one that supplies both. Sir Richard Branson is known as one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, but I had never heard the story of how his success began. Branson was traveling to Puerto Rico when his flight was cancelled, leaving him and many other passengers stranded at the airport in the middle of nowhere. At that point, he tracked down a private chartered plane, divided the total cost of this flight by the number of seats available, and offered the seats to the others at a price of $39 each. Even though he had no money to rebook his own flight, he managed to sell all the seats on the chartered plane which made his new flight free! This is the story of the humble beginnings of the Virgin Group, which, today, is made up of over 400 companies, including Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic. And, to think it all started with an inconvenience and a little problem-solving!
There are a couple of lessons in this tale. First, don’t let a lack of money (or other resources, for that matter) stop you from trying. And, second, the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem (but I would add this can work for yourself as well).
How do we apply these ideas to our everyday lives especially when it comes to our personal finances? Well, for starters, it’s human nature to sometimes feel overwhelmed to the point that we don’t know where to start in facing a difficult situation. So we do nothing at all – which is always the worst possible solution. Clients often tell me that they don’t have enough money to have a budget, save, or knock down debts. But you have to start somewhere even if that means starting small. By starting small you are putting the wheels into motion and taking control of what you can do rather than focusing on what you can’t do. Sir Richard Branson could have just decided to wait on the airline to get another plane there for free (who knows how long that could have taken!). But, instead, he took the initiative to seek out another solution and try to make it work.
The second lesson from this story is that the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem. This can be applied in many different contexts in life. The first one that probably comes to mind for most people is being as valuable as possible to your employer, which will hopefully translate into a higher salary and/or promotion – a sure boost to your personal bottom line. Another way to look at it, though, is that there are problems we can solve for ourselves and “make” some cash either by saving existing money or generating more money. For example, tracking expenses draws our attention to where our money is going and makes us evaluate whether or not certain expenses are really necessary. By becoming aware, we can reduce costs that are not high priorities to us. Or maybe you find yourself in the situation where you can’t find a babysitter or dog walker so it may spark the idea to start providing that service, or something similar, in order to generate cash or use it to barter for your own similar needs. You’ll be solving someone else’s problem as well as one (or maybe even two!) of your own.