Virgin Group founder Branson (Screw Business As Usual, 2011, etc.) reveals the methods that have helped him build his unconventional multibillion-dollar business empire.
A prolific and outrageously successful promoter of himself and his myriad businesses, the author provides a rollicking romp through Virgin’s fun-loving, iconoclastic approach to building a business and reputation. Underneath the April Fool's jokes (one of which earned Branson a cooling-off period in a London police station) and the deftness of the humor with which the author recounts his battles against much larger and well-established opponents (e.g., British Airways, Qantas and British Telephone) lies a much more brass-knuckled story. Beginning with Virgin Records, Branson has simply given customers a product and service they wanted—in that case, beanbag cushions and coffee in a record store. The author presents both a well-calibrated sense of the relationship between risk and opportunity and a commitment to excellence in service. Branson introduces us to many of the people who influenced his business methods—e.g., Freddie Laker, who pioneered cheap, no-frills trans-Atlantic passenger flights. Branson writes that Laker helped him outmaneuver British Airways and provided “another piece of guidance that would change my approach to business forever, and with it, the way we set about taking Virgin brand down hundreds of new and diverse global alleyways.” Laker also provided the essence of Branson's public relations mantra when he told him, “get your arse out there. Be visible, take risks, get creative, make yourself heard and take the fight to them before they bring it to you.” Of course, the PR initiative wouldn’t mean much without the company's brandwide commitment to excellence in service, highlighted by the examples of such startups as Virgin Hotels. Branson takes no prisoners when discussing recruitment, training and empowerment of his employees, as well as how leadership standards are set.
Mostly entertaining autobiography beats out the usual business textbook approach.