A review of Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson
‘Inspire your people to think like entrepreneurs, and whatever you do, treat them like adults…the more responsibility you give people, the better they will work for you.’
What’s it about?
How Branson does business the Virgin way. It is about the ethics of business, the passion and the reasons why behind any business model. Branson talks about his failures and successes in business and in life – the publicity stunts gone wrong, his audacious beginnings with Student magazine and Virgin Records to his current roles as entrepreneur and social activist (and so much more).
He champions causes such as the battle against HIV & Aids, and was particularly vocal about South Africa’s government failings to do more to save lives.
‘Very few pregnant women in South Africa had access to life-saving drugs…in 2006, the incidence rate in South Africa was up to around 29 per cent for females coming into antenatal clinics.’
He is a leader in solution-oriented approaches to battle climate change and to fight global warming head on – which he realises is ironic being a billionaire owner of the Virgin Airlines fleet in multiple countries across the globe.
‘To run a business ethically, you have to consider the effect of your operations on others. You must not tolerate casual damage to the environment.’
What did I get out of this? What will you learn from this book?
Business is simple and fun.
‘We launched an airline in ninety days.’ Don’t overcomplicate things if you can help it.
Do not be afraid of failure. Take risks. Protect the downside.
Antithetical, right? Let’s just say, there is a balance to be struck; one that can really only be learned through trying and failing; through making mistakes, dusting yourself off and trying again. One of Branson’s biggest business mistakes appears to have been not letting go of Virgin Records early enough – as sales diminished with the new era of music downloading technology, Virgin Record Stores became redundant. But he would not be as successful as he is today without leaning into his projects wholeheartedly and learning through experience.
People make the business.
You hopefully already know this, but do you apply this truth? Branson truly does everything in his power to obtain and retain excellent, innovative, high-performing, smiley and composed staff. How does he manage this even when handing out redundancy cheques? In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the checks and balances in place by the US government’s protectionist mode meant Virgin Atlantic had to release 1,200 staff members to stay viable.
‘It was the first mass redundancy in Virgin’s history. We offered our people part-time work, job sharing and unpaid leave. We also tried to find them work in other parts of the business…but we promised to get them back on board as soon as conditions improved – and, thankfully, most returned.’
When you’re in a rut, innovate.
Change is not optional; it’s a natural process of evolution to keep you relevant, unique and the best in the business. Branson is always trying to stay ahead of the game whether to keep his head above water and avoid drowning, or in his eagerness to upgrade from his paddle boat to a yacht – both are analogies! From his battle with Coke fighting for Virgin Colas’ place on the shelves to his semi-secret installment of the best seats in the skies at Virgin Airlines, innovation is core to Branson’s Virgin brand.
‘What delights me is the way the company has continued to innovate its way out of trouble.’
Get your name out there.
Define yourself clearly. Virgin is a way-of-life brand. Wherever you see the Virgin name, you know it to be synonymous with supreme-quality, fun, pleasure, ease of use, and relaxation. Having received complimentary travel with Virgin Trains since 2007 (thank you, thank you, thank you!), I have taken my fare fair share of Virgin rides. And honestly through the years I have seen Virgin Trains grow from strength to strength – adding carriages to reduce passengers’ stress and frustration, regularly switching up the First Class snack boxes and food menus, and even adding funny flushing instructions in every lavatory (click here to check out the fun). Small details matter! In my opinion, if you are a frequent traveler with Virgin Trains you can never get bored of the perks! As a business, therefore, get your name out there but the right way – do customer-centric, ethical business and earn your respect. It’s a process, but it is worth the effort to create something customers and clients will rave about.
In summary, Richard Branson has a heart for people. He builds businesses not solely to earn money, but to innovate, to provide others with a chance to innovate and discover that entrepreneurial spirit, and he refuses to be the captain who abandons ship – he tries hard even in the face of the toughest storms to not let a single crew member fall overboard. When he is forced into a position where he has to lay-off members of the Virgin family, it is with the knowledge that in future, calmer waters they can return if they want to.
A little more Virgin Wisdom:
Some things take a long time. Persevere.
‘Virgin America should have been ready to launch at the end of 2003. Instead it launched in August 2007.’
Some things never happen. Shrug it off.
‘At Virgin, we move on.’
But everything still standing and evolving is a success. Be thankful.
‘Success for me is whether you have created something you can be really proud of.’
Now ask yourself, ‘Is my business a success?’ Whether it is or not, add Business Stripped Bare to your reading list!
Thank you for reading. Sir Richard Branson certainly is an inspirational individual! For more inspirational reading, visit the Motivate Inspire page. Please like, comment & share this post if it benefitted you. Thank you.