Branson voted top role model for SME owners

In a poll commissioned by online accounting software firm KashFlow in which 936 SME owners were asked to name their business role model, Branson emerged as the clear winner with 34 per cent of the votes. 

In second place was Microsoft chairman Bill Gates with 14 per cent of the votes. As the third richest man in the world, Gates is considerably wealthier than Branson which just goes to show that business owners don’t simply measure success in financial terms.

Indeed, the list below shows the polling results for the top ten most popular role models, including the percentage of owners who voted for them and it is clear that net worth was obviously not the deciding factor for many SME owners.

NAME Percentage Estimated Net Worth 1. Richard Branson 34 £4.4bn 2. Bill Gates 14 £29.4bn 3. Richard Farleigh 10.3 £66m 4. Peter Jones 8 £300m 5. Stelios Haji-Ioannou 7 £1.29bn 6. Steve Jobs 5.4 £2.7bn 7. Michael O-Leary 4.7 £368m 8. Warren Buffet 4 £31.4bn 9. Oprah Winfrey 3.5 £1.3bn 10. Duncan Bannatyne 2 £200m

Ex Dragons’ Den business angel Richard Farleigh and current Dragon Peter Jones came in third and fourth places respectively, despite their combined worth being less than a third of fifth-placed easyJet founder Stelios. 

No doubt the enormous success of the Dragons’ Den’s TV show can explain why three of the Dragons made the top ten. (Bannatyne came tenth in the poll). 

Also, quite noticeably, Oprah Winfrey was the only female entrepreneur who featured in the top ten – not someone you would naturally associate as a big hit with the UK SME sector. More to the point, it was a little disappointing that no British female business owners made the top ten. 

Business owners had a choice of potential business heroes to choose from, with 92.9% of those polled selecting one of the top ten as their role model. 

The full list of MDs and CEOs up for votes included Deborah Meaden, Jamie Murray Wells, Sir Alan Sugar, Simon Woodroffe, James Caan, Doug Richard, Donald Trump, Victoria Beckham and Rupert Murdoch.

“It is clear that entrepreneurs really admire the runaway leader Richard Branson, and maybe this is down to his never-say-die attitude and his willingness to put his personal reputation on the line in the search for good media exposure. Maybe if Bill Gates had shown the same passion for PR he would be on the top of the poll,” said Duane Jackson, MD of KashFlow.

I know that Branson would have had my vote.   

His enthusiasm is infectious and whatever business venture he gets involved with, you can tell he’s always enjoying himself – just think of the endless daredevil stunts he’s performed over the years. 

My personal favourite being when Branson’s trousers split as he descended 407ft from the top of the Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas in a bungee-cum-abseiling stunt to promote Virgin America. Despite the mishap, Branson found time to shower the onlookers with airline tickets stuffed into his pockets. 

Ok, so he may be getting a bit old for PR stunts like this but I’d rather see more businessmen like Branson than the dull grey suits that are all too common. You’ve got to admire a man who’s prepared to put his balls on the line for his business. And yes, that pun was intended.

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