Hundreds of entrepreneurs and VIPs converged on Seattle’s Pioneer Square today to get advice from one of the world’s flashiest business leaders, Virgin billionaire Richard Branson.
The panel discussion, titled “Business Is an Adventure,” featured local startup masters such as Hointer’s Nadia Shouraboura, CreativeLive’s Chase Jarvis and Jonathan Sposato of Picmonkey (and GeekWire).
But Branson was clearly the star of the show, and based on the Twitter reviews, most of those in attendance felt as if they got what they came for.
With his flowing white locks and signature goatee, Branson entertained the crowd with stories of entrepreneurship, sharing tips from his decades in business and even answering a few questions from Seattle entrepreneurs who got a rare opportunity to hop on stage with the entertainment and airline mogul.
In an exclusive interview with GeekWire following the panel discussion, Branson expressed dismay over many of President Donald Trump’s policies and elaborated on ways to fix the gender gap in business. He also shared a few interesting insights about playing tennis with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and his first meeting with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (more on that tomorrow on GeekWire).
But a good portion of the today’s discussion revolved around entrepreneurship, clearly something that still drives Branson at the age of 66.
For those who missed today’s discussions, here are six entrepreneurial tips from Branson:
How to make a difference in the world
“Apart from just running your company, you should take on an issue and try to address that issue. … That will also give fantastic motivation for the people who work for your company, to know the company is more than just a money-making machine.
“If we can get every company doing that, most of the problems in the world can be solved. If you’re an individual, one of the first things you could do is try to persuade the company you’re working for to take that attitude.”
Coming up with a brand
“Think locally, initially, but then think about a brand that will work around the world. You can start dreaming about getting around the world one day, so try to come up with a brand that will work on a global basis as well.”
How to juggle multiple ventures
“Have great people around you. That’s all a business is: Having wonderful, motivated people who believe 100 percent in what you’re doing, and what the mission is.
“Give them the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to make good things. Don’t second-guess them. Make sure they’re the kind of people who treat the people who work for them the same way. … If you get that right, you can have 300 companies, because you’ve got these wonderful people around the world.”
Don’t be afraid to fail … the first time
“There’s a very thin dividing line between success and failure. … For most of us, you’re happy just to stay on the right side of that dividing line. Of course, some people don’t manage to stay on the right side, and their companies fail. They would have had the most incredible education in the process of fighting to survive.
“The key is to pick yourself up, brush yourself down, and start again. … The next time around, you will be that much stronger. … And it’s likely, as long as your name isn’t Trump, that you’ll succeed the second time around.”
Put yourself out of business
“You must be willing to delegate yourself. I’m a great believer that entrepreneurs should, very early on in their business, put themselves out of business. Basically, what you should be doing is having the time to find somebody who is better than you to run the day-to-day running of your business.
“And then that person should be getting the people who work in the various divisions of your company to find people who are better than them to run the day-to-day running of all their divisions – so you’re freed up to think about the bigger picture, be a true entrepreneur and push forward into new areas, knowing that if you get run over tomorrow, the day-to-day running is working fine.
“You can also spend a bit more time looking after yourself, your family, your body, and not just burn out. A lot of entrepreneurs are not willing to do that, but at companies that do that, everybody’s happier as a result. You’ll definitely be happier. And companies will flourish as a result.”
Finally, have fun
“If you’re a smaller competitor taking on a bigger competitor, you need to have a lot of fun at their expense, and they do help put your brand on the map,” Branson said.
He recalled the time when construction workers ran into trouble erecting the giant Ferris wheel known as the London Eye, which was sponsored by Virgin Atlantic’s archrival, British Airways. Branson scrambled an airship to fly over the site, emblazoned with a double entendre: “BA Can’t Get It Up.”
“We got the headlines, and they didn’t,” Branson recalled. “We’ve had our good moments taking on BA, and a few frightening moments, but we somehow survived.”
Over the course of the evening, we expanded the list of tips from five to six, adding Branson’s comments about putting yourself out of business.