Here are my notes from Losing My Virginity:
- My schoolwork was going from bad to worse, but I was giving myself a wonderful lesson in confidence-building. Had I been five or six years older, the sheer absurdity of trying to sell advertising to major companies, in a magazine that did not yet exist, edited by two fifteen-year-old schoolboys, would have prevented me from picking up the phone at all. But I was too young to contemplate failure.
- Anything I do in life I want to do well and not half-heartedly.
- Throughout my life, I’ve always needed somebody as a counterbalance, to compensate for my weaknesses, and work off my strengths.
- Later, it became apparent to me that business could be a creative enterprise in itself. If you publish a magazine, you’re trying to create something that is original, that stands out from the crowd, that will last and, hopefully, serve some useful purpose. Above all, you want to create something you are proud of. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving; it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.
- In fact, the ‘Big Business Boys’ weren’t being as friendly as I’d hoped. The struggle to secure advertising had always been much more difficult than finding contributors. We were pleased to be able to interview the actor Bryan Forbes or publish Gavin Maxwell’s article, but they didn’t bring in money to help us run the magazine and distribute it. We charged £250 for a whole-page advertisement, down to £40 for an eighth of a page. For example, after countless calls I had managed to get nine companies to take out full-page ads in the first edition: Walter Thompson, Metal Box, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Gas Council (the forerunner to British Gas), The Economist, Lloyds Bank, Rank Organisation, and John Laing Builders. These nine advertisements had brought in £2,250 and had been wrung out of a list that started off with over 300 possible companies. But it had been enough to cover the cost of printing the 30,000 copies of the first issue. With these funds I had opened an account at Coutts, where my family had always banked, as our clearing bank. I must have been their only customer who walked in barefoot and asked for a £1,000 overdraft. Throughout the life of Student, selling advertising space was always an uphill struggle.
- For all our efforts, it was clear that Student wasn’t making money. I began to think of ways to develop the magazine, and the Student name, in other directions: a Student conference, a Student travel company, a Student accommodation agency. I didn’t just see Student as an end in itself, a noun. I saw it as the beginning of a whole range of services, an adjective, a word that people would recognise as having certain key values. In 1970s language, Student magazine and everything Student promoted should be ‘hip’. Student was a flexible concept and I wanted to explore this flexibility to see how far I could push it and where it would lead. In this way I was a little removed from the rest of my friends, who concentrated exclusively on the magazine and the student politics they wanted to cover.
- I am prepared to try anything once.
- We knew that we were successful when people started coming up to London just to go to a Virgin Records shop.
- The experience of selling 100,000 copies of Student across the country had given me confidence that we could get this record out in quantity.
- Whenever Virgin has money I always renew my search for new opportunities. I am continually trying to broaden the Group so we are not dependent on a narrow source of income, but I suspect this is more down to inquisitiveness and restlessness than sound financial sense.
- My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable, challenges and trying to rise above them.
- It sometimes seems to me that I have spent all my life trying to persuade bankers to extend their loans. Given that Virgin’s policy has always been to reinvest our surplus cash back into the business, our profit and loss accounts understate the underlying value of the businesses.
If you liked the above content, I’d definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯