As part of this online conference, we are supposed to answer questions about small business and entrepreneurship. But I'll get to that later because I want to talk about the night and about Richard Branson. But you don't want to read 3000 words right now, so I'll break it into smaller posts over the next few days.
First off, I got to meet some really cool people. Stacy and Di-Ann from community centric were smart and tons of fun. And Anita was super sharp. Our Amex hosts, Thomas and Lexi, were really trying to do something new and different, so of course I talked about business all day with these various people and now my mind is overstimulated and I can't sleep.
Now for the event. Pre-show we got to back stage with the press. The good? A reporter asked him many of the same questions you had suggested. Branson commented that people "shouldn't be embarrassed by failure." When asked if he or Donald Trump was the better promoter, he wasn't sure, but acknowledged that Trump's tv show had fared much better.
The bad? I didn't get to ask Branson a question. I positioned myself poorly. But Anita got to shake his hand, and asked him if he ever read blogs. He said he doesn't think he ever has. He should be blogging though, because he has plenty of interesting things to say.
Branson went out into the crowd to meet some people before the show began, which also belongs in the "bad" section because a big crowd formed around him and made it tough to get to the bar.
The event began with Branson talking about dropping out of school at 15 to start a magazine called "Student." It was all about the war in Vietnam and it was amazing to hear him talk about how he sold advertising in advance so that he could pay the printing costs. He was very resourceful. In what may have been the most controversial point of the night, he made some negative comments about the war in Iraq that led to some supportive clapping and a few not so supportive things yelled at the stage.
What were the money quotes? Branson said he was never interested in being a business owner or entrepreneur, but just wanted to "do things he could be proud of."
He noted that it is "much easier now with 300 businesses than it was with one business." When asked about branding he pointed out that "a brand is only as good as your products." And finally, he said something that is very close to my own beliefs, that "business is all about life." Exactly. That is why business is so important.
And one of my favorite quotes of the night was Branson on the risk of entrepreneurship. "If you don't take risks you won't achieve anything." I think I shouted "Amen" at that point.
That's all for now. I'll talk tomorrow about what Branson looks for in business opportunities, and mention some other interesting things that happened at the event. If you were there, feel free to add your own perspective on the night in the comments section.
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