Leading Blog






09.26.08

Richard Branson: There Is No Reverse Gear On This Thing

Richard Branson No Reverse Gear

Business Stripped Bare
RICHARD BRANSON is the quintessential entrepreneur. Business Striped Bare is his candid account of what the Virgin companies are all about—what they hoped to do, what they actually did, how they got where they are, and why it matters. He shares the experiences and key principles that have brought him success (or not, and what he has learned from it). He explains:
There are many ways to run a successful company. What works once may never work again. What everyone tells you never to do may just work, once. There are no rules. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over. It’s the greatest thrill in the world and it runs away screaming at the first sight of bullet points….So all I can do for you now is map the territory I’ve seen. The good news is, I’ve covered a lot of territory.
And he has. You will find great stories in here about how things came to be and almost didn’t. He covers a wide range of interrelated topics: people, getting the brand right, delivering on the brand, learning from mistakes, innovation, the value of entrepreneurs and leadership, the wider responsibility of business and his thoughts on success.

Here are a few excerpts with common themes that can be applied in any context:
A manager should basically be a considerate person who is as interested in the switchboard operator and the person who cleans the lavatories as he or she is in the fellow managers. In my view, a boss who is willing to party with all of their people—and pay attention to their personal concerns—has the makings of a great leader.

Inspire people to think like entrepreneurs, and whatever you do, treat them like adults. The hardest taskmaster of all is a person’s own conscience, so the more responsibility you give people, the better they will work for you.

One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes. When you are pushing the boundaries this is inevitable—and it’s important to realize this. Even when things are running well, there is always the prospect of a new reality around the corner. Suddenly, all the good decisions you made last week are doing you untold damage. … Failure usually occurs when leaders avoid the reality of business. You have to trust the people around you to learn from their mistakes. Blame and recriminations are pointless.

The secret to success in any new sector is watchfulness, usually over a period of many years. It’s hard to spin waiting and watching into a vibrant business lesson, but if there’s one thing you can take away from this chapter, let it be this: that Virgin’s sudden emergence as a leader in cutting-edge industries was decades in the making. You need a huge amount of curiosity to make it in a new sector.

Too many top executives are given massive payouts and allowed to walk away, leaving others to sort things out. I think the opposite should happen. In most cases, leaders should stay on until any problems are sorted out—or a solution found—and then they can go and with a fraction of the money they would earn if successful.
Branson says the stakes have never been higher. No one in business can unmake anything. The first law of entrepreneurial business is “there is no reverse gear on this thing.” He shows how Virgin is trying to get it right and hopes you find inspiration in it. His book will definitely get your mind moving in new directions.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:14 PM
| Comments (0) | Books , Leaders



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