Its probably ridiculously obvious to state that I admire Richard Branson, but I do! I mentioned a blog post that he did last year to someone recently. The stand out from the post was how Branson used to go into a company once it had 100 staff, ask the MD who his two best staff members were and then he would take them and set up a whole new company!
Another important task is to make sure the companies don’t get too big too quickly. If anything, we have a bias to keep things smaller rather than larger. The feeling and the way that we run them, with delegation that we push down into the companies, is not a very corporate fashion. We tend to manage our businesses in a much more delegated style, where we empower the managements to manage.
The record company division was quite a good example. Where we had 100 people in a record company. I would go in and ask to see the deputy managing director, the deputy sales manager, the deputy marketing manager and say: “You are now the managing director, the marketing manager, the sales manager of a new company and you can take 50 people from this company and go to another building.”
Then when those two companies got to another 100 people each we did it again. In the Notting Hill Gate area we ended up having 18 different record companies. 18 different switchboards too, we didn’t try to save on central costs. With the combination of them put together, we had the biggest independent record company in the world – the fifth biggest overall.
I also really admired how he is so open about the fact that he knew what he didnt know and knew that he should surround himself with people who were better than him in certain areas. I think all too often we believe we have to be great at all aspects of our business and that it is a sign of weakness to admit that you arent. I think employers often don’t help this perception. I think knowing what you dont know is as important as knowing what you do.
I realised I couldn’t do everything myself. I had to learn the art of delegation and try to find people who are better than me to run the companies – that wasn’t that difficult!
Also, finding people who are more managerially-inclined rather than entrepreneurially-inclined was important. So from an early age I would always try to put myself out of business so I would be free to think about how to take the Virgin Group into a new era. One of the jobs was to find a great managing director for the Virgin Group, which I did in Stephen Murphy.
(see the original post here)