By the time Julian Ranger was 6 years old, he had three big dreams:
1. Work in aviation
2. Go round the world
3. Go into space
To have such clearly defined goals at such a young age is pretty unique. What’s even more unique is that Julian achieved all three dreams and grew up to become a serial entrepreneur, selling his company in 2005 for 19 million!
It all started with a ‘Biggles’ book his mother bought him when he was 5 years old…
“I loved the Biggles books and I always remember there was one called Biggles and the Cruise of the Condor where he goes into South America. The reason that’s important is because he was flying. I loved, loved, loved aircraft. And I thought, from now on I want to be involved with aircraft!”
Aviation wasn’t the only thing to catch his imagination. The Biggles books were set all round the world; from tiny islands in the Pacific to the deepest jungles of Africa. Julian was determined to travel the world himself one day. The same author also wrote space stories; “From then on, I wanted to go into space.“
Here’s how Julian achieved all three of his dreams and more (watch his ‘top 5 tips for success’ videos at the end):
DREAM 1: WORK IN AVIATION
Julian left home when he was 16 and supported himself through his A Levels and Aeronautical Engineering degree by doing early morning shifts on a farm and various “scrawny” cleaning and bartending jobs.
His fortunes changed in 1984 when he got his first job, declining 8 other higher-paid job offers because “something made me feel right about it”.
His gut instinct paid off: On his first day at work, his manager hastily looked round his office for something to keep the new employee occupied. He grabbed a pile of papers on his desk and said, ‘You’ve got to make mini models of the avionic system, written in Speakeasy, and deliver it up to British Aerospace a week on Friday!’
Slight problem: Julian didn’t know what a mini model was. He didn’t know Speakeasy (a programming language). And he also didn’t know that most 21-year-olds are not trusted to do this kind of work, especially on the first day of their first job!
Blissfully ignorant of these facts, Julian got on with the task. He had to pinch himself; “I wanted to go into aviation and here I am modelling all the latest fighter aircraft that’s going into the UK! And I’m being paid for it! I couldn’t believe it!”
DREAM 2: GO ROUND THE WORLD
Julian’s second big stroke of luck occurred eighteen months (and several promotions) later. He was at a conference in Amsterdam and happened to share the 2-hour flight back with a fellow attendee…“By the time we landed, we’d decided to set up a company”.
Julian handed his notice in and started STASYS, providing network consultancy and systems support for Defence and Air Traffic markets. “For 19 years I worked with every single modern fighter aircraft. I got to sit in B1 Bombers, B2 Bombers…I had the most amazing time!”
By the time he sold the business in 2005, the company had 230 members of staff and offices in America, Australia, Malaysia, Germany and the UK. Its annual turnover was £17 million.
So…what do you do when, at the age of 44, you’ve sold your company and can retire and live a life of leisure?
Julian turned his attention to Dream Number 2.
For 18 months he travelled the world with his wife and daughter, visiting all the places he had dreamt of as a child; “We never spent more than 2 or 3 days in any one place. It was the most amazing thing. We took something like 130 different flights. Top, top thing to do. Brilliant!”
On his return home, he toyed with the idea of retiring but found the prospect “terrifying”. So he carried on doing what he loved; building businesses. He became an Angel Investor, investing in innovative start-ups, ranging from mobile apps (WorkSnug, Hailo) to artists (Katie Tunn). And he is the Chairman and founder of SocialSafe, an app which allows you to bring all your social network activities together in one place.
But of all his activities, one of the most rewarding is giving talks to the Princes Trust, a charity which helps young people set up in business. “The Princes Trust is an excellent organisation. They ask people like me to give ‘inspirational talks’. For me it’s about saying, it doesn’t matter where you come from, or where you are, if you work really hard at things, you can get there.”
DREAM 3: GO INTO SPACE
And Dream Number 3? Well, that will be ticked off next year as Julian has booked a flight into space with Virgin Galactic. (Only 500 people have ever been into space. Julian will be among the very first to board a commercial space flight!)
He is also an investor in Astrobotic which delivers space robotics technology and plans to put a rover on the moon in 2015 (“It’s just fascinating to be involved in a space programme – it’s all these billionaires and this stupid guy in Surrey who has put a little bit of money in!”).
Looking back over his extraordinary life, Julian sums things up;
“I’ve got to play with aircraft, go round the world, and I get to go into space. Brilliant! You couldn’t ask for more. And I’m still having fun! All because of him – Biggles.”
JULIAN’S TOP 5 TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
1. Know what you want (and write it down)
2. Cultivate a ‘learning disposition’
3. Pay it forward
4. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘luck bus’
5.Bounce back from setbacks like Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner!