The Branson Effect

Richard Branson’s 15 minutes of fame at the GEC this week almost headed into surrealism as he spoke of his next intrepid venture… almost. Yet somehow, it came as no surprise that his never-diminishing energy is currently being spent on thoughts of putting hotels in space.

As bizarre as it might seem now, there’s something about this man, who speaks in public with a quiet but engaging modesty, that makes you want to raise your hand and say, yes, take me to the space rocket – I’ll have a ticket now!  It’s the belief, and the trust that the public has come to expect from Branson and his no-holds-barred adventurous spirit – the way we know that he can do whatever he decides is worth doing – that make him the perfect businessman, and the ultimate entrepreneur.

The man also has an ability to make the unthinkable seem do-able. Which is why, even though he was only on stage for a quarter of an hour, at the Echo ACC, the adventures of Richard Branson became captivating listening for the 2,800 delegates present.

Yes, we’ve heard many of the stories before – how his first foray into the world of publishing in his student days came about through some cheeky phone calls to advertisers via his local telephone box. How the new Virgin record stores provided cushions where you could “smoke a joint”. How he fought, and won, the right to continue flying with Virgin Airways after BA took him to task. And how the might of Coca Cola was just one battle he had to concede.

But, we didn’t mind hearing the old ones, because we also got to marvel at the new. And we got to hear about the areas of business that he holds important. The art of delegation – finding good people to help you run your business. Working with them, looking after them so they put their own skills and passion in, while allowing you to think about your next steps that will allow you to grow. You must always strive to be better than your competition, even the big players.

Branson also explained. “Offer the best, and the customers will come to you and not them.”

Branson has a creative, perceptive mind. And he never gives up thinking how he, and his team of ‘Elders’ (Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Mary Robinson et al) can continue to change lives and making a real difference to people’s lives throughout the world. Social enterprise was central to his conversation. Aspire, achieve, and change lives. It was a short, but inspiring lesson.

My only disappointment was that he took the train, and not a high-altitude balloon, to get here.