3/16/2013 @ 9:20AM |25,604 views 11 Quotes from Sir Richard Branson on Business, Leadership, and Passion
10 comments, 9 called-out Comment Now Follow Comments I’ve always been a fan of Richard Branson. I’m fascinated by serial entrepreneurs as a general rule – and Branson just continues to do the most amazing things with such elan, confidence and joy. And it turns out that he says insightful and useful stuff in the process. So, for your inspiration and delight: “Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?” “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” “A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.” “I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.” 1 2 Small Clues You Can't Ignore When Interviewing L ouis Efron Contributor W hy Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1 Erika A ndersen Contributor “Most necessary evils are far more necessary than evil.” “Engage your emotions at work. Your instincts and emotions are there to help you.” “You can never go too far wrong by thinking like a customer who’s new to the business.” “You shouldn’t blindly accept a leader’s advice. You’ve got to question leaders on occasion.”
“I believe that drudgery and clock-watching are a terrible betrayal of that universal, inborn entrepreneurial spirit.” “The time to go into a new business is when it’s badly run by others.” “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” And then there’s my very favorite one of all – something that I actually say fairly often: “Screw it, let’s just do it.” Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group--an empire of more than 400 companies that includes an airline, a mobile phone company, and a credit card company--sat down Wednesday with Inc. editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg. Their exclusive interview kicked off Inc.'s GrowCo conference in New Orleans. Branson spoke about the power of delegating, the importance of branding, how to assess risk, and why he wants to change the entire concept of space travel--soon. Here are some of the interview's most poignant take-aways. 1. "A business can be started with very little money." When Branson was 15 years old, he decided he wanted to start a magazine to give young people a way to speak out against the Vietnam War. He didn't have any money--not even enough change to make a phone call. But when his mom found a necklace and turned it over to the police, nobody claimed it. So she sold the necklace, and gave Branson a couple hundred dollars. That money enabled him to bring on advertisers, which led him to start printing his publication. 2. "Consider getting smaller in order to get bigger." Rather than grow his original record business exponentially larger, Branson instead set up 30 different record companies. Rather than have a few top managers overseeing layers upon layers of people below them, some lower-level employees became managers of those smaller entities. A hearty spirit of competition developed. Branson attributes this strategy's success to the fact each company knew directly and immediately when it had succeeded, and when it had stumbled. Virgin today is a huge entity with more than $20 billion in revenue--but Branson's original strategy has been retained in that it also is a series of smaller companies.
3. "You can be a David vs. a Goliath, if you get it right." When Branson launched Virgin Atlantic, it had tough competitors such as TWA, Pan Am, and Air Florida. "I mention these names," said Branson, "because none of them exist anymore." Why'd the others fail? The others didn't focus on the customer, Branson said. 4. "A business is simply an idea to make other people's lives better." Branson explained this is what drives him as an entrepreneur: "If you can make peoples lives a lot better, you've got a really good business." 5. "Unless you dream, you're not going to achieve anything." Branson is funding Virgin Galactic to make space travel more accessible to average people--even if it would still cost an individual a couple hundred thousand dollars. Because governments have traditionally overseen space travel, only a select and elite (and very small) group of people have been into space in the last six decades. Branson is trying to change that. "People in this room under the age of 50," Branson said, "if they want to go to space will be able to go to space in their lifetime." 6. "You can get too close with a doctor, or banker, and not realize you should actually snoop around." When he launched Virgin Atlantic, Branson found a manager at his bank on his doorstep one Friday evening in a complete panic, questioning how someone in the record business could launch an airline. The banker said he would foreclose on the whole Virgin Group that Monday. "I just pushed the bank manager out of my house and told him he wasn't welcome," Branson said. He then explained that, in a state of "half-anger, half-fear," he spent the weekend asking people he knew to chip in to help him gather the money he needed upfront. And the next week he changed banks-- something he should have done much earlier (he even got a better package from the new bank). 7. "Detail is very important." Richard Branson carries a notebook at all times, so he can write down conversations. He doesn't want to forget on, say, a Virgin Atlantic flight, what his customers or staff tell him. He brings the notebook along when he visits out-of-town teams and goes out with them. "When I get drunk with staff, I won't remember, so I'll definitely write it down," he laughed.
8. "You can create a business, choose a name, but unless people know about it you're not going to sell any products." When Virgin Atlantic was getting started, it was so much smaller than its competitors that Branson went to extraordinary lengths to put the brand on the map, including stunts like attempting to get a boat across the Atlantic in the shortest period of time. "Luckily when it sank, the Virgin brand was sticking out of the water," he joked. Likewise, when Branson tried to be the first to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon, it was rescued by helicopters--but Virgin was all over the newspapers. 9. "Find somebody else to run your business on a day-to-day basis." Branson recommends you should be brave enough to find somebody else to run all the day-to-day, and nitty-gritty details of your company, and then step aside and work from home for a while, so you can start to think about bigger picture--or your next business. 10. "Protect against the worst eventualities. Make sure you know what they are." Ask yourself when you embark on a new venture if you can afford the absolute worst-case scenario, and then just go on and do it. "You may say, 'OK, I feel so sure about it I will mortgage the house.' I have done that against my wife's wishes on two or three occasions," he said. "Sometimes you'll fall flat on your face, sometimes you won't," he added. 11. "I think because I have great difficulty saying the word, 'no,' almost every day's a different adventure." Branson's not one for taking it slow. Or turning down opportunities--even if they mean jetting around the world and back. Inc. caught up with Branson in New Orleans between a trip to New York--where he announced the Virgin Atlantic service from two New York City-area airports to Los Angeles and San Francisco--and his next stop: Peru. Read more recent articles by Allison Fass: SoulCycle Founders on the Path to Entrepreneurship SoulCycle Founders: 'How Can We Make Working Out Fun?' SoulCycle: How 2 Strangers Built a Fitness Phenomenon