I just got to see Richard Branson Live in Singapore today. It was my 2nd time seeing him in person in Singapore.
For those of you who don’t know him, he is the inspirational founder of Virgin Group with over 30 companies under the brand. He is also a billionaire.
I just wanted to share three key takeaways I got from his sharing today.
He always likes to challenge the status quo or the ones ‘in charge’. He never liked customers all submitting to one dominant player in the market. He felt that led to a lack of innovation as people just settled for the ‘norm’ He challenged British Airways (BA) by creating Virgin Atlantic. He got sued multiple times by them and got taken to court by BA as well. Eventually he won the lawsuit and gave all his employees a BA Christmas bonus. Did you know that Virgin was the FIRST airline to ever introduce inflight entertainment? He challenged Coca Cola by creating Virgin Cola. He challenged entire GOVERNMENTS who controlled space exploration and founded virgin galactic so that he could bring ordinary folk to space.
How do you determine what are risks worth taking?
To the above question his answer was very intriguing. He mentioned that when he started virgin atlantic the company had very little marketing budget. So he went on to do guerilla marketing instead. He tried flying around the world in a hot air balloon. He literally got pulled out of the sea by a helicopter 6 times in his life! That got him and the Virgin brand on the front page of the papers.
“Get on the front pages of the papers even if it means to make a fool of yourself,” Branson says he was instructed. “So for our inaugural flight when we had only one plane, I turned up dressed as the captain and we made the front pages.”
These risks involved less dollar spent and a whole lot more fun and entertainment for everybody. In the end he got on the front pages and he made plenty of people smile.
Another interesting story was about how he bought his island ‘Necker Island’ for $180000 when the initial asking price was $6million dollars. According to him, that was all he had and he made the offer anyways. Eventually the owner decided to sell the island to him!
He also had a strong belief for dreaming. He spoke about how he dreams of creating the first virgin hotel in space where his guests on Virgin Galactic could stay. In fact next year in 2018 he will become an astronaut and will be bringing along the first batch of space tourists on virgin galactic! [You can sign up on that link] He dreams of making space tourism possible and affordable even for the ordinary man! He said ‘IF you dream, you have the chance of making the impossible POSSIBLE! If you don’t dream nothing will happen. Dreaming is good!’ The best thing to do is to get on and DO IT! Screw it just do it!
Many of the businesses he started stemmed from a place of frustration when he saw things not being run well by people or companies. Ultimately he believes in having fun doing what you do and always treating people well. “Life should be fun, so why shouldn’t working for a company be fun?’
He ended off the interview rather controversially. He believes strongly that business leaders should use their voice and stand for what they believe in. He went on to attack some country’s ministers directly and even called out names. He thinks Donald Trump is a joke for believing climate change is a hoax. He called out the Malaysian Government for jailing a gay opposition member simply because of his sexual orientation. ‘1 in 8 people are born gay so we have to accept them’ He also condemned Duterte for his actions in the Philippines.
Well I was largely impressed by everything he said except for that last part. I felt he was just rattling off criticism based on what he reads online or in the papers without first understanding certain fundamental issues in the countries he mentioned. Oh well. He did prove his point. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in!
Ultimately a great learning from Sir Richard Branson!