More likely than not, you would have known who Richard Branson is, or Sir Richard Branson who was knighted in 1999 for his “services to entrepreneurship”.
Richard Branson, is the founder of the Virgin Brand, conceived the Virgin Group in 1970 and has since gone on to grow very successful businesses in sectors ranging from mobile telephony to transportation, travel, financial services, media, music and fitness.
Business Stripped Bare is a book by Richard Branson about his life in business especially most of his Virgin business ventures including some of his social responsibility activities.
Just like the way he put it, Business Stripped Bare is a business book told like a story, as other business books are kind of “dry”.
Before I go into my review of this, let me just list some of the things that I only got to know about from reading it:
- Branson has mild dyslexia and had poor academic performance as a student
- Branson owns an island in British Virgin Islands, named Necker Island
- Branson started the idea of a small group of global leaders without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts, with Peter Gabriel and Nelson Mandela : The Elders
- Virgin Cola tried to wrest a share of the cola market from Coca-Cola
Here’s my personal opinion on all seven chapters from Business Stripped Bare:
Chapter 1 – People : Find Good People – Set Them Free
It started on how Richard Branson or the Virgin Group working culture is, value their employees or talents. Advice on not micromanaging and how teams in a company will split to start other ventures.
Chapter 2 – Brand : Flying the Flag
This chapter talks about the building of Virgin brand, where Nike, Microsoft, Coca-cola has a brand that is unique to product, Virgin is a brand with a variety of products. Richard Branson talks about Virgin Blue, the airline in Australia, Virgin Active and the beginnings of Virgin Records.
Chapter 3 – Delivery : Special Delivery
This is the longest chapter in the book where Richard Branson shares the inner workings of the business, tackling issues and customer’s feedback. There are also instances where how he brought Virgin rising against competitions and how he started Virgin Atlantic, leasing airplanes from Boeing with a name like ‘Virgin’.
There is a also some insights about starting the Virgin brand in Africa especially Nigeria.
An expert who makes things more complicated isn’t doing their job right – and frankly, this is probably your fault. An expert should make things simpler.
Chapter 4 – Learning from Mistakes and Setbacks : Damage Report
Like anything in life, we are bound to mistakes and setbacks, and in this chapter, Richard Branson not only talks about his early days of crime, evading tax from his first export of records and then about damage control when one of his trains from Virgin Train met with an accident. There was also an iPod like venture – the Virgin Pulse that failed and also the project in trying to grab a share from the cola market with Coca-Cola. The Virgin Cola venture in the end did not succeed although initially the brand had entered a number of countries worldwide.
The chapter ended with the story about the plan to pursue Northern Rock bank but failed when it was intercepted by the government.
Chapter 5 – Innovation : A Driver for Business
This chapter about innovation is where the story about its venture business into space comes along and how the calculations of sending people into space for $200k per trip would make Virgin Galactic a viable business.
Chapter 6 – Enterpreneurs and Leadership : Holding on and Letting Go
True leadership must include the ability to distinguish between real and apparent danger.
In this chapter, Richard Branson became humorous in sharing his personal experience in not recognizing a danger he faced although he had doubts about it. He talks about his style of leadership and his friendship with Nelson Mandela including the setting up of The Elders group.
Chapter 7 – Social Responsibility : Just Business
Social responsibility is where Richard Branson was particularly involved in trying to tackle the HIV/AIDS in Africa, running the campaign – no glove, no love.
Another social initiative mentioned in this chapter is about reducing impact of the climate change. Ironically, Virgin Atlantic is an airline company? Richard Branson wrote that all the profits made by the Virgin Group from carbon-creating business, such as airlines and trains be invested in developing cleaner technologies for the future.
How true it that? I’m not quite sure.
No one is asking you to save the planet. Just dream up and work on a couple of good ideas. No one expects you to find a global solution to everything. Just make a difference where you can.
Personally, this is a nice book to pickup if you like to learn more about Richard Branson and his adventures of being a global entrepreneur. Although I was slightly bored with the earlier chapters and some repeat stories, it is inspiring to read about the many business ventures where some failed and some succeeded. Virgin Group afterall, is a global brand.