View Full Version : Richard Branson: It's always worth the challenge

11th Dec 2003, 00:14
Thurs "The Australian"

Richard Branson: It's always worth the challenge
December 11, 2003

We have all heard countless examples of champions who recount stories of how they were told by the establishment or by so-called experts in their field that something can't be accomplished.

Edmund Hillary probably heard many times "that mountain can't be climbed". Or when Tiger Woods is told "no male golfer can win a grand slam", I'm sure that motivates him to work even harder. And when Virgin was told that at 34 I couldn't create and operate a profitable transatlantic airline from scratch, it motivated us to get the airline up and running in just six months.

Today, Virgin Atlantic is the second largest long-haul international airline operating services out of London, flying to 21 destinations all over the world from Shanghai to the Caribbean and soon to Sydney. Being unafraid of failure is one the most important qualities of a champion.

My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them - an interest that was, perhaps, fuelled by my grandmother telling me at the age of 99: "You have one go in life, so make the most of it."

Whether I succeed or fail in meeting the challenge is immaterial - it's the effort and the opportunity that drive me. Through effort and risk, success is still waiting around the corner. But while champions aren't afraid of failure, they're truly made when they learn the art of turning failure into success.

The only time I could ever be compared to Jonny Wilkinson is when we were both four and I hazard a guess that neither of us could kick a football. He's a champion now because he learned how to do it. Innate talent and skill are certainly important, and so is hard work and perseverance.

My recipe for success has always been to understand my limitations and to surround myself with brilliant people who can pick up where I leave off. And, most importantly, to have fun on the journey. One definition of a champion is somebody who can empower people's ideas in order to fuel success.

It is no secret that I have always attributed the success of the Virgin Group and its brands to the people who work for our company. We have always had a policy of hiring good motivators over good businesspeople.

We always look for executives who put their people first and themselves last. So, in many ways, champions are selfless. They're also quick to put their faith in others. When a flight attendant approached me a few years ago with an idea to start a wedding business, I told her to do it, and I even wore a wedding dress to help her promote it.

When Brett Godfrey approached us with a business plan for a low-cost Australian airline - written on the back of a beer coaster - we provided the finance and the optimism and sent him to Brisbane to get on with the job.

Here was a success story waiting to happen - a brilliant business mind with a specific interest in customer service. All he needed was support and financing.

And that has been the case with many other special minds I've been lucky enough to know. Even the Sex Pistols were brilliant minds in their own way - people underestimate their ability to communicate a social message through their music. I saw that they had something special and decided to back them, and they went on to change the way we looked at rock music.

Australians must examine ways to support brilliance and bring it to the fore - particularly in the realm of business. Australia plays well above its weight in producing brilliant minds. From the superb research skills of Howard Florey to the creative genius of Baz Luhrmann, Australia has stunned the world with its contributions to all fields of endeavour.

Australia's great challenge is to harness that brilliance as a force for good in business. Can Australia encourage its young people towards a new spirit of entrepreneurialism and the embracing of risk to create economic benefit for the future? Can we teach Aussie children that Godfrey is a good role model -- a man who has, through a simple set of very brilliant ideas first sketched on the back of some beer coasters, created thousands of jobs for his fellow Australians, and an investment vehicle to create wealth for many hundreds of thousands of his countrymen?

Can we create an educational and cultural environment where young Australians understand that it's OK to take a risk and invest in their own enterprise and vision? Can we assist them to create the jobs and wealth of tomorrow? I hope to use my ongoing investment in, and love affair with, Australia as a way of encouraging that new entrepreneurial spirit.

Richard Branson is life president of Virgin Blue and chairman of Virgin Group. This is an extract from his address to the Centre for the Mind Award Ceremony in Sydney yesterday.


Buster Hyman
11th Dec 2003, 06:37
a man who has, through a simple set of very brilliant ideas(to undercut & erode established working conditions negotiated in good faith) first sketched on the back of some beer coasters, created thousands of jobs for his fellow Australians(at the cost of at least 16,000 other fellow Australians) , and an investment vehicle to create wealth for many hundreds of thousands of his countrymen(and particularly one hairy Englishman!)

Gawd bless 'im!:rolleyes:

Buster Hyman
11th Dec 2003, 07:19
Never mind me shitsy! Just a bit grumpy today, didn't take my anti-anger pills!;)

Yes, I will concede he made some valid points earlier in the article, I guess I just didn't like that particular paragraph. Bransons a hard nut in business, as Mike Oldfield would testify, but he's done well for himself & you can't argue against that.


11th Dec 2003, 07:54
What sour grapes. Exactly WHAT would someone in aviation have to do to get your approval?

RB had zilch to do with Ansett's demise...that was well handled by their greedy pilots and inept management as is now accepted by all. And anyway....remember that if Sir Reg himself hadn't nailed ANA to the wall you'd never have had an Ansett for the pilots and management etc to fritter away.

I'll bet one thing...that when Sir Richard starts international operations he does it with a little more class that did the Ansett people who left a 747 sitting at Sydney on its nose.

Virgin have offered jobs to lots of people and, more to the point, brought affordable flying to many passengers much much less well of than we pilots are.

He is no doubt a self opinionated jerk...but sadly they're the people who get things done.

11th Dec 2003, 08:00

Branson keen to spread wings in other markets
Dec 11
Margreet Dietz | Bloomberg

Richard Branson, who turned a $10million investment in Virgin Blue into a discount airline valued at $2.8billion, says he's eyeing other Asian nations to replicate his carrier's success.

"We are in discussions with one or two people about either working with them on a low-cost airline they have already set up or setting up a low-cost airline," Sir Richard said. He predicted a decision in three to six months.

Sir Richard is entering a market in which discount carriers such as Malaysia's AirAsia are starting to flourish as governments relax traffic agreements to revive tourism after the outbreak of SARS.

He has also shortlisted five US cities as the base for a discount carrier called Virgin USA, prompting California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to lobby on behalf of Los Angeles.

The focus on new markets comes after Virgin Express in Europe cut its fleet to 13 aircraft from 23. Lowering fares amid rising competition caused profit at the airline to plunge 62 per cent to 1.7million ($2.8million) in the third quarter.

Mark Webb, an analyst at HSBC Securities in Hong Kong, said: "I would be hesitant to throw my hands up in the air just because Richard Branson said he might do something - he has had mixed success Any country with a large domestic market and leisure market provides prospects. There are already low-cost carriers in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines."

Sir Richard's company has earned about $750million from its investment in Virgin Blue, including $250million from the initial share sale on Monday. Its shares fell 0.4 per cent to $2.50 yesterday.

Potential partners in Asia may include Tony Fernandes, who plans to sell a third of AirAsia next year to raise as much as $300million. The Kuala Lumpur-based discount carrier plans to more than double its fleet of nine Boeing 737 aircraft to 20 by June.

Singapore Airlines has announced plans to set up low-cost Tiger Airways with two partners including Irelandia Investments, which is owned by the Ryan family, a stakeholder in Dublin-based discount airline Ryanair.

Thai Airways is also considering a discount unit and has approached Virgin Blue for advice.


Buster Hyman
11th Dec 2003, 09:21
Thanks elektra. It's very kind of you to rate my opinion so highly, however, it's not necessary. Nobody in aviation needs my approval.

Where to begin???

RB had zilch to do with Ansett's demise...Well, indirectly, you'd be silly to say DJ had no affect on AN's circumstances. I could say that he had a chance to buy AN & didn't. Got himself a jolly good look at the books though, may have helped him sleep a little easier.

greedy pilots and inept management ...Don't know about the pilots, sounds too much like an 89 comment so I won't go there. Have no problem with the inept management bit. They're the ones who got AN there, Sir Dick was the one who profited from it, amongst others. (No right or wrong with that in itself, just an observation.)

Sir Reg ...Yes, but I don't seem to recall Sir Reg "running off" with billions in profits. DJ, to me, is a hit & run job. He's made a quick profit & he's now relinquished a fair chunk of it to Patricks (a stevedoring company) & the Mum and Dad investors. He reminds me of Abeles sometimes.

international operations ...Ouch! Does VS024/02APR88 ring a bell? Regardless of the circumstances, $hit happens in aviation. I'm sure the CRM in both incidents were miles apart, but everyone walked away. I understand your point though.

jobs to lots of people ...So the deficit is approx 13,000 since AN's collapse. That's good huh?

affordable flying ...QF seems to match them most of the time I've looked. But QF staff will pay the price of matching DJ with potential redundancies and, again, a further reduction in jobs & conditions. You may refer to your greedy pilots quip at this point, but spare a thought for the workers at the other end of the scale. Some of which could not read or write English, but they managed to buy a home, raise their kids & get them an education that they lacked. I knew quite a few at Tulla & there are still some at QF.

self opinionated jerk...Now you're talking!;) You are quite correct. He does get things done, he pushes things through, he protests loudly when it doesn't go his way & he takes his bat & ball home with him when he loses.

Time will tell.:ok:

Next Generation
11th Dec 2003, 10:59
Buster Hyman

affordable flying ...QF seems to match them most of the time I've looked.

You wonderful person, you !!!!

Yes, QANTAS matches the prices now, not because they want to, but because they have to.

There, that's much nicer! :ok:


Buster Hyman
11th Dec 2003, 11:32
A bit harsh there Next Gen, try using both hands on the keyboard next time.

BTW, you should work at the UN with diplomacy like that!:hmm: