Richard Branson: Leadership At 7,908 Feet Above Sea Level

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 23, 2013

When you think of Richard Branson, you may think of innovation. After all, Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, which boasts more than 400 companies around the world including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and Virgin Mobile. Branson has always been an entrepreneur, and has always embraced innovation and a “pushing-the-envelop” style.

There’s more, however, to achieving the kind of success that Richard Branson has enjoyed than simply being open to new ideas. Innovation goes beyond simply “thinking outside the box.”  It requires leadership.

Not long ago, Branson got together with a heady group of fellow entrepreneurs for dinner in Aspen Colorado (elevation: 7,908 feet about sea level). After that dinner (and of course, the ensuing conversation) Sir Richard shared some of his thoughts in a blog (which you can read in its entirety here). But I’d like to pull out just a couple of nuggets for your consideration.

  • The belief that you can always do better is something that sets great entrepreneurs apart, and helps drive them toward future successes. Creators are never fully satisfied. They can always do better.

There are entrepreneurs and then there are great entrepreneurs. The great ones are never satisfied with good enough. It doesn’t mean they hold off until things are perfect. That won’t happen. But a great leader continually looks for ways to make or do things better.

Are there areas in your business where you settle for “good enough?” Or are you constantly pushing to be better at what you do?

  • A company’s culture shapes everything from how its products look to how customer service staff answers the phone, so every company’s culture should be a little different and fit its particular circumstances.

You’ve probably noticed that I make mention of culture quite often. That’s because it’s important. As Branson says, “It shapes everything.” Your company is more than just your products. What you produce may be what the public sees, but who you are shapes what you do. And remember that people don’t do business with your products—they do business with you.

Are you paying attention to the company you’re building as well as to the products you’re building? They are inextricably entwined. You may have a plan for improving your products or services, but what’s your plan for improving your team?

  • Just start. Brooding over one idea or another for four or five years is what most people do. Just start. You will learn so many lessons by doing. Start. Trust the process, trust your idea and trust your team.

Being an innovator—an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It’s scary to start something when you know you could fail. But once again, this is one of those things that separate the good from the great. There is no substitute for experience. Of course, in order to trust your process, you have to have one in place. But once you’ve done that, you eventually have to make a move and try your idea.

Do you have ideas that never make it off the drawing board? You’ll never really know if they’re good or not until you start doing something with them. They may be great ideas—or they may be utter failures. But they may give birth to something even better. A successful entrepreneur doesn’t just come up with ideas—he or she does something with them.

You may never get to have dinner at 7,908 feet with Richard Branson. But that doesn’t mean you can’t elevate your business by listening to—and applying—some of what he has to say.