The final part of the night was the most interesting. One of the things Branson talked about near the end was the importance of employees, saying that he puts employees first, customers second and shareholders third. It sounds sacreligious, but he explained it well. The best way to have happy shareholders is to have happy customers, and the best way to have happy customers is to have happy employees.
Then there was this chunk of interesting wisdom, about being the best.
And I think the — the thing to learn from that is the best — you know, the best never — never — never disappear. The best clubs are still here 21 years later, the best hotels, the best airlines, and so it is actually worthwhile not listening to the accountants sometimes. I mean accountants forever have said, you know, if you'd take out the bar in your plane you can put another six seats in…
But without the bar in the plane, would people want to fly Virgin?
After the interview we moved to the Q&A session. Audience members had suggested questions before the event. The best questions were selected and those audience members were put together in a special seating area. When it came time for audience questions though, Branson decided just to let people stand up and ask what they wanted, throwing the theater into a bit of chaos.
You would think the chaos made for a bad event, but on the contrary, it made it memorable, and somehow seemed to "fit" an evening with Richard Branson.
My favorite questions came from a 17 year old who asked "What has kept you going?" Branson responded "I just love life. I mean, you know, I love every second of it. I love people." I think you need that to be successful. The young man followed up with "can I have a job?" Priceless.
Branson didn't really have a good answer for the question of when to cut your losses and call it a day. Granted this is a tough issue, and entrepreneurs are supposed to perservere, but sometimes you have to stop. When the question was asked, I was hoping for a flash of insight that didn't come.
The Money Quotes
so I think there�s nothing � nothing wrong with a formal education as long as you don�t let it stunt you if you want to become an entrepreneur when you actually go out and you are willing to take risk and you are willing to fall flat on your face and you are willing, you know, to have the embarrassment of actually going bankrupt.
Overall it was an excellent night, and I learned a lot. The most surprising thing is that I think Richard Branson is an introvert.
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