The Guide to Doing Business the Branson Way

Last week I read this book, written by Des Dearlove: "The Unauthorized Guide to Doing Business the Richard Branson Way - 10 secrets of the world's greatest brand builder".

I highlighted some key points I want to share with you.

The first lesson of the Branson business strategy is:
  • Make business a crusade. Branson has a remarkable ability to clothe almost everything he does in a crusading cloak. This lens the Virgin brand moral authority.
  • Hoist a pirate flag. Others see Branson more as a buccaneer than a crusader. His appeal is seen as a lack of respect for figures of authority, combined with a gleeful sense of fun and the pleasure of being an irritant to big business.
  • Play the underdog. It's hard to think badly of a man who picks on companies that are, or at least appear to be, bigger than his.
  • Pick your battles. Although he gives the impression that he likes to climb business mountains simply because "they are there", in almost every case Branson is responding to specific business opportunities that present themselves.
  • Hit them where it hurts. In a number of cases, Branson has successfully used guerrilla tactics against a larger rival.

Haggle: everything is negotiable
  • Nice guys finish first! Branson's shrewd negotiating skills and persuasive tongue are accentuated by an easy charm that lulls all but the most hardened of negotiators into dropping their guard.
  • Never take no for an answer. Branson's cheek of the devil negotiating skill has become a hallmark of the company. "No", "never", and "impossible" are not words in the Branson business dictionary
  • Talk softly and carry a big stick. For all his bonhomie, there are those who say that Richard Branson isn't nearly so nice to do business with as you might think. This is a curious view of one of the most successful businessmen this century. It would be naïve to think otherwise.
  • Get good professional advice. Behind Branson's happy-go-lucky public image lurks not just a calculating businessman, but one who knows very well the value of good professional advisers.
  • Always cover the upside. When it comes to setup costs, most canny entrepreneurs seek to cover the downside risk. Branson, on the other hand, wants to cover the upside, too. In his mind, every cloud could have a silver-plated lining.

Make work fun

Business, in Richard Branson's view, should be fun. Creating an exciting work culture is the best way to motivate and retain good people; it also means you don't have to pay them as much. The Branson technique for managing people provides the following lessons:
  • It pays to play. Going to the office at Virgin isn't the drudgery that it can be at other companies, or at least that's what Branson wants his people to believe and clearly believes himself.
  • Let employees loose. Branson has always surrounded himself with talented people and given them the freedom to be creative. Time and time again, they have rewarded his confidence with dazzling results.
  • Encourage informality - stay on first name terms. To the average Virgin employee, Branson, the company's chairman and major shareholder, is simply "Richard"
  • Enthusiasm is infectious. By inspiring his staff, Branson gets exceptional performance from them, with sales and profit levels far above industry standards.
  • Make business an adventure. Part of the appeal of Virgin as an employer and as a consumer brand is the promise of adventure to be had.

Do right by your brand

"I believe there is almost no limit to what a brand can do, but only if used properly"
  • A good brand travels. The ubiquitous Virgin brand has prompted some commentators to ask whether the brand is being diluted. Those who understood what Branson was about, however, recognize that he has created an entirely new kind of brand proposition.
  • Brand elasticity is infinite. The most important aspect of the Virgin brand proposition is its credibility among its market segment. Existing Virgin products and services provide credibility for new offerings.
  • Love, honour and cherish your brand. Branson has acknowledged time and time again that the most vital asset Virgin has is its reputation. His philosophy is: look after your brand and it will last.
  • Rules are for breaking. If you've got a great brand and can see a market opportunity, you shouldn't let a little thing like whether you have any experience of that market get in the way
  • A pinch of salt adds flavour. Whatever Virgin does, it adds a sense of fun or cheekiness. It is not that the company goes into anything in an unprofessional way - far from it. It's simply that it has a sense of humor.
Richard Branson may not look like a finely tuned PR machine, but he has turned himself into a walking, talking logo. Every tume his picture appears in a newspaper or magazine, it promotes the Virgin brand. Promoting the business the Branson way has number of subtle and not-so-subtle twists to it. These include:
  • Understand what the media want, and give it to them
  • Think in pictures, always create stories with visual impact
  • Know when to duck: avoid negative publicity for the business activities

Don't lead sheep, herd cats

The lessons for leaders are:
  • Be a back seat leader
  • Act as a catalyst
  • Surround yourself with talented people
  • Encourage chaos
  • Constantly scan the horizon for new opportunities

Size Does Matter

  • Grow your own. Branson is a builder not a buyer, something that marks him out as a special kind of business leader. Where other business tycoons have created empires by gobbling up smaller empires, Branson has grown his own.
  • Keep it simple. Branson's life is remarkably uncluttered. This adage epitomizes the Branson approach.
  • Break it up into management molecules. To maximize the entrepreneurial energy, and to counterbalance the risk of losses in one part of the empire infecting the other parts, each Virgin venture is intended to be a stand-alone business.
  • Ensure the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Richard Branson has made it company policy to listen. He has also made it public knowledge that the company will take a look at business proposals from would-be partners.

Never lose the common touch

There is an F-Factor to Branson; he's got fame, fortune and fun. The combination makes people feel good. A decade later and he has been elevated beyond the status of a national hero, almost to that of a global icon.
  • Listen to people - it's the least practiced management skill of them all. The difference between Richard Branson and 99.9 percent of the people who run large businesses is that he treats people decently and listens to what they think.
  • Don't let success go to your head.
  • Use your customers as consultants.
  • Treat everyone as an equal.
  • Be what people want you to be and don't let them down.

I always appreciated Richard Branson and this book reinforces my sentiments. I discovered some anecdotes that, if they are true, are very funny. This guy rocks!

> The book on

By the way, I read this book using the kindle app for iPad and I was very disappointed. Apple iBooks is far away beyond (from the downloading to the UI and the sync. between my devices).

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