IMG_1984Remember when Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines before he was crowned SIR?  I thought he was fabulous…I wanted to work for him.  Why?  He said that one of the key differences that made his company a special place to work was the fun and freedom of expression that rested from the absence of employee handbooks that read like some kind of a corporate penal code.  Recently I heard an interview with Sir Richard as he launched his new book, ‘Richard Branson, The Virgin Way’ and was asked how he maintains the culture in all his companies.  He said it is really simple.  He hires great people, lets them soar, focuses on their strengths, they then do good work,  are happy,  and give more.  Occasionally he has to let someone go, but it is rare.  People are his first priority, then the business.  ‘If you put the business first you will never achieve results.’  He celebrates with his team, has ‘ear to the pavement,‘ and shows up!  His book is an easy read, entertaining, personal, with clear life lessons in leadership.  I highly recommend it.

Remember when he took a hot air balloon to cross the Atlantic?  After 37 hours flying from Maine to Scotland the balloon went down, he ended up in the sea, rescued by the Royal Navy.  A true risk taker and impressive to say the least.

The last time I went ballooning, I asked some of some friends to go with us.  YOU LEARN ALOT ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS!

One friend who I thought was a risk taker, as he is a hunter, an international flyer, a leader in his career, yet he said no.  Another  friend who I though might be tenuous and afraid, could not wait to go, and loved the thrill of  heights, the birds eye vistas, and adventure.  At one point the wind died down, we were floating on water, just before the waterfall, and ended up like ‘Moses in in Weeds”.  Freaking out…the pilot was calm and cool and we were airborne in no time.  Dusk was setting in!

This taught me a valuable lesson. Never prejudge until you put a person in a position to take risks, float in the heavens, experience the quiet of the air above the trees and the rush of adrenaline.

Sir Richard recapped the book at the end. (For those of us that like to read the end first.) Here is his recipe.

1. Follow your dreams and Just Do It…(take the Nike Challenge) Pursue your passion and have courage to work on the things you love.  Dare to take a risk.

2. Make a positive difference and do some good.  What are you waiting for?

3. Believe in your ideas and be the best.  Is the difference between success and failure.  Be focused on being the best you can be and profits will come.

4. Have fun and look after your team.  This is an underrated term…if your team is having fun and genuinely care about others they will do good work.

5. Don’t give up. The easy thing to do is to throw in the towel.  Stick to it.

6. Listen, take lots of notes and keep setting new challenges.  This means remember and refer to your goals and keep alignment.  A listening culture can overcome obstacles.

7. Delegate and spend more time with your family.  A well balance life keeps your perspective.

8. Turn off the laptop and iPhone and get your derriere out there.  There are so many fascinating people to meet that will inspire you.

9. Communicate, Collaborate, and Communicate some more.  KISS- keep it simple stupid.

10. Do what you love and have a couch in the kitchen.  Surround yourself with people you love and it does not matter where you are.

Your people have the greatest influence on the success or failure of the business, and maintaing the family culture is critical to achieving the targets.  Consistently giving customers both internal and external a better work environment or service experience than they can find anywhere else is the very heart of everything.”

‘Pure Passion is you are 100% behind the quest for excellence 100% of the time, nothing less.’

Now go order a balloon ride and see how it feels!