'What I learnt hanging out with Richard Branson'

All it takes to start a business is one idea. For this SME owner, it was the words of none other than world-famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

After nearly 22 years of running PowerNET IT Solutions, Jacob Ohlson happened to visit a friend's Melbourne cryogenics business in an attempt to alleviate a hangover.

“Effectively it’s putting people in a sauna … freezing you up to over three times the temperature in Antarctica… you get some fresh air, your head’s clear and cooling you down to up to -170 degrees. Newbies, you go to -130, up to three minutes,” he says.

“I was very sceptical, but I used the machine and gee, it went. The hangover was gone. It disappeared.”

Jacob wanted to use these cryogenic machines back home in Sydney, but there were none to be found.

“I've spent a couple of weeks with Richard Branson [pictured] over the last two years,” Jacob recalls.

Sir Richard Branson“One of the things he taught me in particular was just take a risk sometimes, and he’s taken many risks, and just know when to cut that cord.”

Of course, this lesson is nothing new to virtually anyone who owns their own business. But coming from the a man who became a billionaire through his business risks – and is renowned for the risky daredevil stunts he undertakes – the words ring truer than ever.

“[So] I thought, 'You know what? I really want to get a machine. I’m going to run it, start this business and do it properly and do it really well and safe'. And so, Cryo was born,” says Jacob.

Since taking this risk, Jacob hasn’t looked back, and maintains both PowerNET and his new business Cryo.

“Richard Branson teaches us 'delegate and elevate'. Get the right people into businesses and your business will grow.

“I'm obviously working more in PowerNET, but Cryo is more a personal thing ... there's a manager and it runs really well, and that's what you have to do.”

One result of this risk has been helping those in need.

“It’s really great to help people in this way,” says Jacob.

“Originally, I was a bit selfish to help myself to get the machine, but … one of the keys was to have the machine available to help people who really need this treatment to help them resolve their ailments.”

Jacob’s experience was truer to Branson’s words than he originally intended.

Speaking at the World Business Forum, the Virgin founder said business owners should keep customers front and centre in their minds. 

“That's the simple thing about business – just come up with an idea that is really going to make a positive difference to other people's lives and the figures, by and large, will add up,” he said.

Listen to more insights from Jacob about retaining his first two customers for 22 years on the My Business Podcast now!

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