Business Brains

Richard Branson bares all: how to run a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate and have fun at it

Posting in Finance

Though Richard Branson is well-known for thinking galactically, he admits he still pays a lot of attention to the smaller details in the day-to-day operation of his company.

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, isn't your average global magnate. He believes both passion and compassion are essential for business success. His ventures include Virgin Airlines and now, Virgin Galactic, which may be the first commercial space travel enterprise. Just recently, he also unveiled an underwater plane.

In his recent book, Business Stripped Bare, Branson shares some of his business insights, and though he is well-known for thinking galactically, he admits he still pays a lot of attention to the smaller details in the day-to-day operation of his company.

Thanks to Derek Sivers (a visionary entrepreneur in his own right), who provided helpful notes on Branson's latest work:

On time management: "Don't waste your precious time. Phone calls and emails can eat your day. Don't let them. No one will think less of you for getting to the point."

On mixing business and emotions: Do so. "Engage your emotions at work. Your instincts and emotions are there to help you. They are there to make things easier. For me, business is a 'gut feeling', and if it ever ceased to be so, I think I would give it up tomorrow."

On firing employees: "I think that you should only fire somebody as an act of last resort. If someone has broken a serious rule and damaged the brand, part company. Otherwise, stop and think. You'd be amazed how quickly people change for the better, given the right circumstances, and how willing they are to learn from costly mistakes when offered a second chance."

On finance: "Even in a big business like the Virgin Group, I sit down now and again and sign every single check that goes out... Sign everything for a month every six months and suddenly you're asking: 'What on earth is this for?' You'll be able to cut out unnecessary expenditure quite dramatically when you do that."

On new ideas: "We receive hundreds of business ideas every month, often directly via our Website. We employ a gatekeeper - a corporate development assistant - whose job it is to record, log and classify all ideas as they arrive. She then passes them on to our experts. They read through and research the best of them. A tiny number are passed to our investment professionals - whole teams of them."

On the meaning of business: Branson is an example of do what you love, and the money will follow. He says that "business is not about formality, or winning, or the bottom line, or profit, or trade, or commerce, or any of the things the business books tell you it's about. Business is what concerns us. If you care about something enough to do something about it, you're in business."

Interesting how he even still regards himself as an entrepreneur, and not a manager or CEO.

Share this

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure