Good day Friends, I got this piece from a friend and I thought it would make for good reading, it is an interview with Richard Branson, although I prefer to call him “Virgin”. I have always been a big fan of Virgin and I would rush to buy off the shelf any book authored by him, he has some amazing breathtaking inventions/ success stories from almost all business industries. In one of his books, he actually talked about his trip to Nigeria during the Reggae boom in Jamaica, later he made an entrant into Nigeria and invested in the aviation sector, well that didn’t go very well. I learnt and still learning some core business principles from him and the lesson learnt today just sank all the way down. I’d like you to read through and share your comments.
Richard Branson, one of the most exuberant and successful entrepreneurs of the last 50 years, stopped by our offices recently. As the conversation below suggests, one of his greatest strengths may be his ability to grasp all that’s thrilling and inspiring to people, be they his customers, his employees or anyone he happens to meet. The following has been edited for clarity and length.
Henry Blodget: Most management gurus preach the virtue of focus. They’ll say you have to focus on one thing, learn how to do it great, crush everybody else. How does Virgin succeed doing dozens of things in dozens of industries?
Richard Branson: It’s interesting. When we started diversifying from student magazines to records, from records to airlines, there were big headlines saying, “Will Branson’s balloon burst? He’s stretching the brand too far.” Fortunately, we ignored them. We built up what I would call a “Way of Life” brand, a brand that has overcome my frustrations in lots of different areas. I hated flying on other people’s airlines, so I thought we could create an airline that we enjoyed flying on. I was frustrated by the way the banking system works, so let’s create the friendly bank that I’d like to go to, and so on. And if we hadn’t done that, 50 years later, we would not be in business today. Because our original business was the record business. The record business has imploded, record shops have disappeared. So by diversifying, we’ve I think had the last laugh.
HB: But each of these businesses is very hard, very competitive. Even if you have a macro idea for a great airline, how do you actually execute it while then also building a space tourism company, a cola company and the many other companies that you’re doing?
Skye Gould, Business Insider
RB: Let’s take Virgin Atlantic as an example. I was trying to fly from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands, and I got bumped off an American Airlines flight. I was desperate to get there. I had a beautiful lady waiting. So I went out, I hired a plane, I was 28 years old. Came back with a blackboard, wrote on it: Virgin Airlines, 29 dollars, one way. And I filled it with all the people who’d been bumped. When I got there, somebody said, “Sharpen up the service a bit and you might be in the airline business.”
I thought there was no point in going into the airline business unless we could be by far and away the best airline. We got one secondhand 747. We were competing with British Airways and about 18 other American carriers. And by creating something really special, we survived. In fact, every single one of the American carriers we were competing against disappeared, went bankrupt. And the reason for our survival was we just had magical stuff, we had magical service, and people enjoyed the experience with Virgin Atlantic. Continue reading