Richard Branson’s Enlightened Corporate Management Style

I attended a Q&A session with Richard Branson as the main attraction at the National Achievers Congress 8-9 May 2013 in Adelaide.

I came away with the conviction that I am on the right track because he confirmed my beliefs about how people tick and therefore how to get the best of people in organizations of any size.

The notes below are a summary of his personal and professional work ethos that I furiously scribbled down; get ready to pump your fist into the air and go Yes! as you read the points that you too agree with.

  1. Don’t go into business solely with the aim of making money-it probably will not survive the process.
  2. Go into business because you want to serve people or make a difference in peoples’ lives eg, you have identified a large gap in the market that’s crying out to be filled.
    • Think British Airway’s monopoly and cheeky upstart Virgin Atlantic offering prisoners er I mean passengers a choice.
  3. Have fun creating the product or business. He figured that since most people spend from 8-10 hours at work, it should be a fun place. I was literally jumping for joy when he listed the following initiatives:
    • Allow staff to work from home
    • Encourage them to take time off
    • Be flexible in working arrangements
    • Job share
  4. Create a product or service that your people can believe in and by inference they put their heart and soul into too. Build a brand that is respected, provides great value and quality. It is your job as the MD/leader/CEO to instill that 100% belief of the product/service in your staff.
  5. Dream big because you never know where this may lead
    • In the case of Virgin Galactic it will be commercial space travel; now that’s a first in anyone’s book
    • As a bonus it has opened up the potential of this business to launch satellites for other telecommunications companies (can you already hear the cash registers ringing?)
  6. Listen to your people; they probably have great ideas
    • This makes a lot of sense as your staff members are at the coalface, factory floor, frontline service desk…you know what I mean.
    • Be big enough to take criticism from them. Acknowledge that you have heard them and then take the appropriate action.
    • Keep your word. If you say you’ll get back to them DO so within a reasonable time frame
  7. Carry a notebook (which he does). Speaking with his many staff in different businesses and locations can cause things to blur. He writes them down rather than depending on his memory recall.
    • An interesting aside was his comment that he did not think much of Managing Directors (he called them “weak”) who just flapped their gums. In his own words he wondered about the benefit of attending meetings where nobody took notes. The implication was that these people were not serious about the outcome of said business meeting (and the unsaid is why bother doing business with them).
  8. Treat people well; praise lavishly (I loved this one!)
  9. Learn the art of delegation; because he has surrounded himself with good people it has allowed him to spend time on Necker Island connecting with his wife and kids as his trusted people have his back
  10. Find time to be fit; prior to coming on the Q&A session he had had an hours bike ride around the city of Adelaide. Later it emerged that he received a caution from the local constabulary for riding without a bike helmet but that’s a story for another day.
  11. Do not be embarrassed by failure, but learn from them. Give it a go, if it floats other people will get on board with your business idea and maybe even become a source of finance
  12. Do not hide your talents under a “bushel” but share them. He recounted that he was shy as a child and his mother’s words were something to the effect that shyness was a form of selfishness. Go out and contribute to the world was her advice.
  13. Make friends with people you have fallen out with; in his case it was inviting the Chairman of British Airways to lunch after their protracted and acrimonious court battle.
  14. And finally, screw it just do it.

 

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