As promised, here is the first instalment of my review of Richard Branson’s ‘Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur’ (BSB). Granted, I’ve only read the 11 page Introduction, but as it’s a 329 page book and I’m juggling 11 other books, I’m figuring I’ll read a chapter at a time and post as soon as I can. The quote scrawled on the back of the book grabbed my attention immediately: “The Brave may not live forever – but the cautious do not live at all!”
The book jacket also makes an impressive boast: ‘Whether you are an executive, an entrepreneur or are just starting out, Richard strips business down to show how you can succeed and make a difference.’ Now, I love books focusing on positivity and Richard always seems smiley (oh come on, he does grin a fair a bit). I know business is made up of the triumvirate of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but I’ve got a feeling that this book will be life-affirming in some way.
I was hooked after the Acknowledgements, where Richard said BSB was another life lesson for him. This guy is humble. And I love it. I think it’s awesome how the multi gazillionaire owner of Virgin can be so grounded (no pun intended). Richard starts off by describing how he procured the services of Gordon McCallum, an ex-consultant at McKinsey & Co and currently Group Strategy Director of Virgin. The book describes a barely dressed Richard interviewing Gordon after leaping out of bed – and he hasn’t looked back on his choice. The point made, is that business isn’t about formality (Richard wasn’t suited and booted, unlike Gordon), but about getting the job done.
It’s nice to see that even someone as astute and well versed with the media can have a ‘brain-freeze’ moment. During a 2007 interview with Bob Schieffer at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Richard was temporarily gobsmacked when asked why he had gone into business. His comeback line was: “I’ve been interested in creating things.” This is a key point to any business-minded people. Profit margins, trade, commerce are all secondary (albeit significant secondary factors); your driving force has to be so much more.
One of Richard’s quotes that leapt out for me is as follows: “Would I have been happy had I not found concerns to absorb me and fascinate me and engage me every minute of my life? No, absolutely not, I’d be miserable as sin.” This quote contains a universal truth; to do something that consumes you so that not doing it, will seem wrong on some level. This struck a chord with me, because I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t writing. It completes me, it’s as natural to me as breathing and I couldn’t imagine not ever writing. Sometimes, it feels as if Richard is talking out loud to you (I’ve not been hitting the brandy today, I promise) and this can only be testament to the engaging writing. I’m trying my hardest to keep my posts as punchy as possible (a mission if you’re as loquacious as me) and if the Introduction has me saying this much, you’ve been warned as to future posts about this book. In the meantime, here are memorable quotes that I just had to include.
“What everyone tells you never to do may just work, once. There are no rules. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself falling over.”
“Dust yourself off. Learn what lessons you can. Make your next call.”
“Can you unmake your hangover? Your indigestion? Your children? Your last week’s work? No. Welcome, then, to the first law of entrepreneurial business: there is no reverse gear on this thing.”