Monday, September 20, 2010

Sir Richard Branson's Speech at Exact Target Connections 2010

Last Wednesday I attended the keynote address of Sir Richard Branson at Exact Target's 2010 Connections Conference.  It was absolutely awesome to hear Branson speak in person about the early days of his entrepreneurial journey.  He primarily covered the early days of Virgin Records and explained how the idea for Virgin Atlantic, his second major Virgin venture, was hatched.  In short, he said that he was tired of flying on airlines that treated passengers like second class citizens and thought there was a huge need for an airline that worked the way he thought it should work.  So he proceeded to start Virgin Atlantic by hiring "200 friendly flight attendants" focusing on what he described as "friendliness" over any other trait including experience.  In spite of the view of his two partners at the time that he was completely crazy, he proceeded to launch the airline.  He now says he was lucky that he didn't know any of the details because he probably wouldn't have proceeded with the plan.  The strategy worked and Virgin Atlantic has flourished as an airline that has friendly employees who treat passengers well.

He also made the point that Virgin is not about being the "biggest" in the businesses they enter but rather being the "best".  In the case of Virgin Atlantic, they have 35 aircraft in their fleet, which pales in comparison to its large competitors, but they have become one of the best and most well-respected airlines known for their flights from London to New York.

Virgin has over 300 businesses they have launched and have proven to make the recipe of being the best work on many occasions.  Eight of the Virgin businesses have exceeded a billion dollars in annual revenue.

They now have their sites set on space with Virgin Galactic.  Perhaps in space flight, Virgin will be both the best and the biggest.

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