Frustrations can make you righ
‘Sir’ Richard Branson went into business when he was 16 years old. He now owns planes, trains and telecom companies in his enormous imperium. This year the now 61-year old Branson wants to send people into space.
“As I am talking to you now I am looking over a great flamingo lake. I have flamingo’s flying over my head. I’m very lucky”, Branson tells over the phone from the Bahama’s. This is the place the rich British entrepreneur works and lives. “I mix work and play all the time. I spent my live doing the things I enjoy doing. From a very young age I learned to delegate and to make sure I have wonderful people around me. Personally I’m not very keen on office environments. I encourage our managing directors to allow as many people as possible to work from home, because working from a pleasure environment gives you more time to think and you don’t get distracted.”
You own quit a few companies. What’s the latest that has come across your path?
“The fun things are the adventures. We’re building a submarine, to explore the bottoms of the oceans and go to the deepest places. And then there are the non profit things, like setting up a centre for disease control in Africa. We are desperately trying to keep the subject of global warming on the agenda. Telling the Americans in particle the importance of doing something about it through something like the Carbon War Room that we have in Washington. We’re still working on conflict resolution through The Elders. And then we have obviously quite a few new business branches. We have set up an airline in America, called Virgin America. And an airline in Australia, called Virgin Australia. Quit a few business adventures as well.”
Is it more difficult times than ever keeping poverty and global warming on the agenda in this economic crisis?
“There is certainly the danger of that. With the Carbon War Room we work in practical ways, like trying to come up with cheaper alternative fuels together with the industries that exhaust a lot of carbon. We invest all the money from our airlines in alternative fuels.”
So when are your planes flying on green fuel?
“We’ve got 3 different types of fuel that we have developed, but we are still working on it. One aviation fuel is even made from the waste product from steal and aluminium plots. So I think we are getting there, but we’re not quite there. I think in five years from now all our planes are flying on clean alternative fuel.”
How do you look at the current crisis in Europe?
“We’re certainly in a difficult time. I’m sure governments are making sure to pull through it. I think Europe has the financial strength and political will to pull through this and to avoid a catastrophe. We have to get through this problem, learn from it and make sure it will not happen again. Simply treating countries like you treat the running of your own family. Making sure you are not getting into too much debt. It’s up to countries to have strict rules in the future, so we’re don’t settle up children with an enormous debt. Without knowing exactly how much money owing etcetera and what the real problem is, I am just a commentator like anybody else.”
Is your advice asked a lot by young people?
“I get a lot of questions. I’ve written four or five books. Screw Business As Usual is the latest one. I try to use my books to answer a lot of the questions. I also write a column for the New York Times every week, which I’m actually going to publish as a book quit soon. If you’re lucky enough to be successful, it’s important to give something back in spending some time to answer questions.”
In many EU countries the youth unemployment is very high. What would you do if you were 18 today?
“I would work out what frustrates me in the way other people are doing things, in any particular sector. And I would try to improve it. In every sector there are things that are not well done. You can get in there and run it better than other people and start a very good business. Good businesses often come out of personal frustration, like every Virgin business came out of personal frustration. About the way airlines, train companies and mobile phone companies treated me. Just feeling I could do it better. That was what I would do if I was 18 again.”
Would you be active in the Internet business, like the Mark Zuckerbergs from these times?
“A lot of ways of making a big difference in this world is through the Internet. Make a dramatic difference in people’s lives and use the Internet to do it, is obviously a lot of where the wealth is coming from. Do it and live on an Island one day, if you want to!”
Do you recognise any of your own drive to become successful in the founders of Facebook and Google?
“Yes, I think so. Some of them I know quit well. Larry Page from Google is a very good friend. A lot of the Internet people are quit geeky. Twenty years ago they would have sat in a corner at a party and nobody would talk to them, but now off course they are at the centre of any party. But they are very determined, they know what they want, they know how to make a difference and they get on and do it. There are certainly some similarities there.”
How is Virgin Galactic going? Is the first passenger going into space this year?
“Yep. I hope by Christmas. It may be next year, but I hope by Christmas.”
So what intrigues you so much in space travelling?
“I think that not to be intrigued by outer space would be really strange. We are on a tiny earth, with billions and billions stars around us. We should be striving to populate other planets, in a way the Dutch populated different continents. And the British have done in the years past. I think it is natural to want to get out and learn about other continents. If one day a giant asteroid would hit the earth, it would be nice if mankind could live on. And I love the challenge as well. Always love a challenge.”
Richard Branson starts selling cheap elpee’s in Londen with the Virgin Mail Order. A year later he opens the first Virgin Record Shop in Oxford Street. Branson started to make name in 1968 with the youth magazine Student.
Virgin Records releases it’s first album: Tubular Bells from Mike Oldfield. The record label rapidly becomes famous, with artists like The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, The Human League, Simple Minds, Japan and Culture Club.
First flight of Virgin Atlantic Airways. Branson continues to build is imperium, with Virgin Games, Virgin Radio, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Cola. In Europa more Virgin Megastores are opened.
Branson needs to save his airline company. He signs The Rolling Stones and sells Virgin Records for a lot of money to EMI. Four years later he starts V2 Records, which is now owned by Universal.
Start of Virgin Trains and Virgin Money in the UK. Branson is also a famous adventurer, by his attempts to cross the oceans in a hot air balloon. He is knighted in 1999.
Virgin Money takes control of Northern Rock, which was nationalised during the bank crisis. This year the offices will be named as Virgin. Branson sais he will offer easy-to-understand financial products.