The Branson Effect: Lessons I learned from Sir Richard Branson

I recently attended my company’s retreat held at the Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas. It was a fun-filled weekend where we engaged in discussions about future company initiatives, reconnected with friends and relaxed on the beach with a few drinks. During the general session of the conference, the CEO of our company surprised us with our guest speaker. This man needed no introduction and as he walked on stage, gasps could be heard around the room. His name is Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire playboy entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group.

I’m personally a huge fan of Richard Branson and his story and was thrilled to see him come out to speak with us. During his hour on stage he talked about various aspects of his life and how his upbringing and personal characteristics enabled him to found and build the Virgin group into what it is today. Here are some of the take-a-ways that I found most beneficial:

Be Kind and generous

Although Sir Richard Branson may be a billionaire play boy entrepreneur, he is one of the most generous philanthropists in the world today. He’s dedicated the past decade of his life to initiatives that have made our world a better place. His Ocean Elders, Virgin Green Fund and Carbon War Room initiatives (to name a few) have missions focused on taking care of the limited resources we have on our planet. In his discussion with us, he told us a story about his upbringing. He had a very happy childhood and remembers his parents being very supportive of his early entrepreneurial endeavors.

They instilled a sense of kindness and generosity in him that Richard said served him well throughout his life. Being kind and generous attracts people to you and helping others is the ultimate purpose of life. Make a commitment to do something kind for someone else this week. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture either. A simple show of appreciation for someone’s hard work can be enough to put a smile on their face and yours as well.

Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks

The Virgin group currently owns and operates 300 unique companies worldwide. These companies range from music conglomerates, airlines, communication companies etc. One of the most intriguing stories that Richard Branson recounted was the story of how he started Virgin Airlines. On the way to see his girlfriend one afternoon his flight was cancelled because there were not enough tickets sold on the plane. In his hurry to get back to his girlfriend, he chartered a plane and invited the other stranded passengers to split the cost of the flight with him. It was on this trip that he had the idea to start Virgin Airlines. Although he said that it seemed like a crazy idea at first, if you look at the business landscape and his initial deal with Boeing it was actually a fairly calculated move.

Airlines at the time were notorious for cancelling flights and not being customer centric. On top of that, Richard Branson was able to acquire an older Boeing plane with the agreement that if his new company didn’t work out after 12 months, he would be able to return the plane. This contract helped remove one of the biggest risks associated with starting an airline company. Do you have a big goal or ambition you’ve been scared to tackle? Find out what it will take to get you there, what risks are associated with your goal and then go about mitigating those risks. I’m sure that if you put your mind to it, you’ll be able to overcome the obstacles in your way and build something special.

Solve big problems and you’ll be rewarded

Richard Branson is known for his larger than life personality and being a prominent world figure. But as big as his personality is, the problems he aims to solve are even bigger. His mantra since the early Virgin days has been “thinking big” and it’s stuck with him through today. One of the biggest problems he aims to solve is space travel for the masses. With his venture Virgin Galactic he and his team are constructing the first commercial aircraft that will allow ordinary people to experience space.

As he prepares to launch Virgin Galactic’s maiden voyage later this year, his company is on the verge of becoming a lucrative business venture that will charge $200,000 per person to experience space! What big problems or annoyances do you experience on a daily basis? Once you narrow down your list, set out to solve those problems. If you succeed, you may be richly rewarded for your efforts.

Have fun along the way

Although Richard Branson is very serious about the causes he believes in, he never fails to have fun along the way. His infamous “BA can’t get it up” banner stunt over the London wheel just goes to show his humor and jovial personality. He’s also quite adventurous and has revelled in performing various death-defying stunts to help raise awareness for the Virgin brand. Some of his most notable excursions include breaking the world record for fastest Atlantic ocean crossing by boat, fastest Pacific ocean crossing by hot air balloon and fastest crossing of the English channel in an amphibious vehicle to name a few.

Although he said that he doesn’t necessarily recommend attempting some of these stunts he did say that part of living a satisfying life is to enjoy what you do. So what do you enjoy doing? Sit down and write out some of your top choices and try to incorporate more of them into your life. I’m sure that you’ll be happy you did.

Bringing it all together

As Richard Branson wrapped up his discussion with us, he left us with a call to action. He challenged us to find ways to reduce our ecological footprint and told us we could all make a difference in how we leave the planet for future generations. I’m very thankful to have gotten the opportunity see such an inspiring entrepreneur first hand. His life advice and inspiring words made a big impact on me and I’ll continue to aspire to live life more like him. Did you guys enjoy the take-a-ways from the discussion? What was your favorite of the talking points? I’d love to hear your feedback.


My book recommendation for this article is “Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson. In the book, Richard Branson recounts the stories of his life that brought him to where he is today and the lessons he’s learned along the way. This auto-biography is one of my favorite in recent memory and I highly recommend it. I’ve provided the book link below:

Check out “Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson