The Virgin Way , Richard Branson

Thanks to Aliso Viejo, CA Library, got to read The Virgin Way, by  Richard Branson. When you run a business or manage a team , reading books like The Virgin Way is inspiring and also teaches you business lessons.

Taking notes & listening:  Even if you are a CEO, listen more and take notes during any meeting – this is a great lesson learnt reading this book. Often times during meetings we tend to interrupt (thinking we look smarter) – however it makes the person on the other end of the meeting look bad. I have interrupted teammates  multiple times.  Instead take notes and when the other person completes his conversation, address the questions or maybe they would have answered your questions already. Go to the employees work place and discuss, you will learn more (rather than having them come to your place). I remember reading this in another book. Listening & Taking notes makes you look smart and is also very effective.

Family & Public Speaking: Ask Family for feedback. Throw ideas at them and ask , what do you think? Richard received great feedback on businesses he shouldn’t be getting into or the use the Virgin brand (because he checked in with his wife) . Public Speeches take practice. The more you speak, the more you get better at it and avoid using fillers.

Thank you, Please: We often underestimate the use of Thank you, Please and more.  E.g, Thank you so much for your hard work on this report. People take pride in their work. Surprise employees. It is good to walk up to the employee’s desk for a praise – Say Thank you, Awesome Work.  (of-course this has to be genuine – otherwise derides value)

Mission Statements and Luck: According to Richard , Vision and Mission Statements does not mean much. These statements are interchangeable for competitors as well. If you do need to have it, keep it simple and short.  Being at the right place at the right time. You have to be at the place first to know if the place is right or time is right. Fortune favours those who work hard. You have to try to see if it will work or not. Never be afraid to talk to strangers. Your “Sergey” could be up there. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity – Roman philosopher.

People Skills & Finance: Being Courteous is very good for business leaders.  A vital skill to be a great business leader is picking great people to work for you. Diversity in Staffing and all age groups helps.  Employees are your assets. Just because 2 to 3% are bad (which will always be the case) don’t deny service to the rest 98%. Home grown intrapreneurs are great for a company. Profit is a byproduct of customer service. People are like plants. Take care of them, water them and let them flourish.  Do the right thing, build the right way, don’t set unrealistic financial targets. Send one good/appreciation email everyday. Fun is infectious. Creative Marketing helps, Instead of spending loads of money on marketing, try to get as much free press as possible with creative marketing ideas. (Bigger Bang for a smaller buck). Be visible. If you cant get ways to generate a lot of attention through free ink they will eat you alive(biggies). Run like a public company – be disciplined. Starbucks is a great example of a need to raise money.  Adding stores doubles revenue. Go Public if you really have to.

Keep looking for Problems: If you find a problem , don’t sit on it or keep complaining about it. Just go and solve it. This will lead to opportunities later.  Keep looking for problems. If you can’t find something, go create it. You may not have answers to everything. Learn it.

Hiring & Firing: Hiring should be the CEO’s #1 priority . Be involved in hiring decisions (and as a CEO you have to make time for it). Hire for your weaknesses. Letting someone go is hard. If you are in a need to let someone go , often times it is the fault of the company.  Hiring the right people is a skill and you will get better with time. Hire people from other industries and promote from within. Don’t move someone into a role just because it is their turn. Don’t hire for paper, spot talent. Hiring leaders from competitors may also work. Here are some great questions to ask in an interview ,

“Tell me a joke” , “Tell me something you learnt recently”,   “What did you not include in your CV”

A Famous Richard Branson quote – (in this book as well) “Train them well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”

Mentor: It is great to have a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask (even if they are big).

Leadership: Leaders put themselves in front. If there is a problem don’t shy away. Be there. E.g If you are a CEO of an Airline Company and if the flight lands in an accident (God Forbid) – be at the accident site. Don’t send your subordinates (or) shy away.  Just show up and don’t stay home. If there is a problem and you had indicated to your team earlier – “I told you so” should never cross your lips. Collaborate and create partnerships. Don’t work in silos. Challenges should be shared. Central Atrium (where employees can collaborate). Law of Large Numbers. It takes a lot of little things to make a big thing. It is ok to start small (this may be the only way).  Listen to feedback at all levels and great design is everyone’s job.

Running a company is managing people’s aspirations. Let their imaginations take flight, so people (working) feel great about themselves and also have a sense of accomplishment. Thank you Richard for sharing what you have learnt in “The Virgin Way” . I am thankful that you took the time to write as a lot of us can learn. Thank you for inspiring us.

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