How do you survive in the face of stiff competition? How do you stay afloat in the time of recession? What small business survival strategies can you implement in trying moments? These are the answers Richard Branson provided in his best selling business autobiography “Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way.

I stumbled on Losing My Virginity recently and after reading it through; I couldn’t help but shake my head in amazement. It’s quite consoling to know that you are not alone; it’s quite inspiring to know that most successful entrepreneurs and drop out billionaires have faced the same business challenges you are presently facing. It’s quite encouraging to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

There are lots of lessons you can pick up from the book “Losing My Virginity.” With lessons on how to become a billionaire from scratch to handling competition and facing business challenges; Losing My Virginity is a must read for entrepreneurs.

But in this write up, I will be focusing strictly on the business survival strategies that saw Richard Branson and his Virgin Group through thick and thin. With lessons learned from Losing My Virginity; I have been able to pinpoint 21 small business survival strategies, as highlighted by Richard Branson. But aside this brief excerpt, I will recommend you get the book “Losing My Virginity” and read it through; you will be glad you did.

21 Small Business Survival Strategies from Richard Branson

1. Remain focused on fulfilling your business mission. Never allow adversity divert your attention and efforts.

“Above all, you want to create something you are proud of. That’s 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 doing nothing.” – Richard Branson

2. Don’t wait till you are big before you begin building your brand. Build a brand from scratch alongside your business.

“In the beginning it was just about the business; now it’s about the brand.” – Richard Branson

3. Learn to use your brain power. Critical thinking is the key to creative problem solving in business.

4. Build your own business team. Survival in business requires a synergy of skills.

“To be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running, and if you have a good team around you and more than a fair share of luck, you might make something happen. But you certainly can’t guarantee it just by following someone else formula.” – Richard Branson

5. Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the life blood of business.

6. If you are a new startup company, try not to arouse the interest or suspicion of your competition; especially if they are a bigger company. They can crush you while you are still in your startup phase. Lie low while still strengthening your bottom line.

7. Grow internally first. Strengthen your bottom line first before considering external growth.

8. Focus on your business strengths and keep its weaknesses away from the competition or public.

9. Be swift to take advantage of business opportunities. Bigger companies are too cumbersome to move quickly; this can be a competitive advantage for you.

“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” – Richard Branson

“We look for opportunities where we can offer something better, fresher and more valuable and we seize them. We often move areas where the customer received a poor deal and where the competition is complacent. And with our growing e-commerce activities, we also look to deliver old products in new ways. We are proactive and quick to act, often leaving bigger and more cumbersome organizations in our wake.” – Richard Branson

10. Learn to live on the edge.

11. Be creative. Innovate consistently on the little things that the big companies ignore. Little things often make big differences in business.

“If you are trying to do something for the first time, it’s always an enormous challenge, and there is no guarantee of success. You never know with these things when you’re trying something new what can happen. This is all experimental.” – Richard Branson

12. Listen to the customer’s complaint and act fast.

“Back then we would create a company based on frustration at other people’s service and suddenly realized we had one of the most respected brands in the world.” – Richard Branson

13. Meet regularly with your business team and brainstorm. Intricate business problems are mostly resolved at brainstorming sessions.

14. Run lean; avoid unnecessary expenses.

15. Don’t hesitate to seek external help or advice where need be. Sometimes, it takes an external, emotionally unattached individual to detect your business flaws and render unbiased advice.

16. Follow your instincts and live with the consequences.

“Screw it, let’s do it.” – Richard Branson

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” – Richard Branson

17. Avoid litigation. They are expensive and consume loads of time but if you have got a good case and a better chance of winning; then fight it out.

“We have always had a pretty competitive ferocious battle with British Airways. It lasted about 14 years and we are very pleased to have survived it.” – Richard Branson

18. Free publicity and word of mouth is probably the best and cheapest form of advertising. Learn to use it to your advantage.

19. Learn to raise capital by any means necessary. That’s your primary job as an entrepreneur. You must continually raise capital from family and friends, banks, suppliers, customers and investors.

20. Seek out strategic alliances; they are essential to growth and provide resistance to bigger competition.

“We don’t actually plan to launch new businesses over the next few years, but we are planning to take the ones we have into new territories.” – Richard Branson

21.  And if after all this you eventually fail; don’t take it personal. Don’t be ashamed to start all over again.

As a final note, these are the business survival lessons and strategies i learned from Richard Branson’s book. So i am recommending Losing My Virginity to all startup entrepreneurs, business owners and would-be entrepreneurs because the lessons contained in it are real life challenges and problems you may also face in business.