It is not often that an entrepreneur gets an invitation to hang out on Necker Island for a whole day with Richard Branson. I would like to specially thank Mai Tai for making this fun and invaluable experience happen. In this article, I would like to share my personal take-aways to meet with Richard Branson and share what I learned about the Virgin Group Founder.
Necker Island and First Impressions
I met Richard Branson on his private island, Necker Island, and was floored with how beautiful it was. To meet the only entrepreneur that has built eight separate billion-dollar companies including, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Express, each in a unique industry was incredible itself, but to get to know him in the paradise of the British Virgin Islands was even better than I could have ever imagined.
Almost every inspired entrepreneur knows Richard Branson as an industry leader and visionary, but I was even luckier to get to know him as a person. My first impression of Richard Branson was that he enjoys every moment and every move he makes. He smiles all the time and lives by his saying, “Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.” Richard Branson spends lots of time each year on Necker Island because he wants to enjoy his life and be with his family. He loves the ocean and nature which was plain to see when we went out on his boat. We hung out together, went out on the ocean, had dinner and in those moments I could really see that he enjoys and appreciates every moment.
Richard Branson’s Habit for Success
While I hung out with Branson on his island, I saw that he always carried a physical notebook everywhere he went. It was only when he was playing tennis and out on the water that he didn’t have it with him. I remembered reading an article before about Branson’s secret to success - Richard Branson never goes anywhere without a physical notebook, so that he can write down things that other people say and remember them. It’s his secret business weapon, he says, as it also leads to new business ideas as he goes. Branson has said, “I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas (or more importantly, other people's) as soon as they came to me.” I feel honored to have been able to observe Branson and see what habits have led to his success.
How Richard Branson Inspires Me
There’s one quote from Branson that really stands out to me. He said, "My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them ... from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it."
You can tell from talking with Richard Branson that he is a guy who is full of ambition and energy. We talked about work, but also had fun. I really got to see his personality and attitude. It gave me a great outlook into what has made the visionary so successful. What may surprise some people is how physically and mentally active Branson is. He even seemed more active than a lot of young people which makes it clear that he lives a passionate and driven life.
Branson’s airline, Virgin America, is known for its customer service and brand new facility, but besides this, what’s impressive is their great selection of music. It reminded me of the Helix Cuff and how music is one of its major form factors. It was interesting to realize that both Virgin and Ashley Chloe recognize how powerful and important music is.
Just from seeing Virgin America’s in-flight video, you can feel the difference of Virgin America’s entertainment experience compared to that of other airlines. Helix Cuff, high quality Bluetooth headphones, innovates the headphone experience in a similar way to Virgin America’s innovation of the flying experience. Ashley Chloe and Virgin America share a fun and innovative personality, so it was cool getting to hang out and learn from someone with a similar company culture.
Richard Branson and the Helix Cuff
I was thrilled to have the chance to introduce the Helix Cuff to Richard Branson and his wife Joan. Branson said, ”I love the Helix Cuff. My wife also loves it.” The Helix Cuff’s sleek design and bold colors really stood out to them. Richard’s wife even said, “This is perfect for Virgin!” We’re excited to see just where the Helix Cuff will go next.
There is so much to learn from Branson as an entrepreneur, but there were a few things that stood out to me. According to Branson, entrepreneurs need to be good self-motivators. Branson advises, “It’s important to understand what your main motivation is so that you can focus your efforts on reaching those goals. Then structure your job – perhaps by delegating some work – so that you can spend as much time as possible turning this energy to your company’s advantage.” He really emphasizes that money shouldn’t be a main motivator and that if it is, you shouldn’t be in business at all.
I believe that being an entrepreneur means making the impossible, possible and innovating no matter where you start from. It was really interesting to see how Branson shared this ideal. He says, “... In life you’ve got to dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You then have to catch up with them. You can make what people believe is impossible possible if you set big enough targets. Flying from New York to Australia in, say, two hours. Can we do it in our lifetimes? I’m determined to try. If you don’t dream, nothing happens. And we like to dream big.” We’re dreaming big at Ashley Chloe by seeking to change the headphone user experience and move headphones into new spaces. We’re taking headphones out of a traditional perspective and into new spaces in wearable and fashion tech to make an impact on people’s day to day living. Richard Branson is an inspiration to us with his big dreams and even bigger achievements.
In your first year of running a business, your only goal should be surviving. Branson has said this again and again and I 100% agree. Before you go big with your company, you need to give it everything you’ve got and get through that first year. Branson has proven this theory many times with his numerous businesses.
When examining investors, Branson suggests that you ask yourself, “Will this person or group give us the space and time we need to build a great business?” A “dictatorial financial partner” can ruin the spirit and enthusiasm of entrepreneurs, so ensure that your investor is someone who will let you run your company without getting in the way or questioning every decision you make. Similarly, I believe that you need to raise the right capital from the right investor. Investors can bring valuable assets to a company in addition to funds and it’s critical to pay attention to what they have to offer. The most important partnership you have is the one with your staff. Branson says that if you get that right, your chances of success are much higher and I couldn’t agree more.
Richard Branson continues to bring innovation to the startup world. In September 2014, Branson announced his investment in the drone company, 3D Robotics, stating, "It's amazing to see what a little flying object with a GoPro attached can do. Before they came along the alternative was an expensive helicopter and crew. I'm really excited about the potential 3D Robotics sees in drones. They can do a lot of good in the world, and I hope this affordable technology will give many more people the chance to see our beautiful planet from such a powerful perspective."
Two years later, we can’t help but wonder if wearables might be the next big thing in Branson’s portfolio. Branson has a habit of entering industries and transforming them completely, kind of like what Ashley Chloe is looking to do with the Helix Cuff.
On Valentine’s Day, I saw a public post Richard Branson made about his appreciation for the love of his wife, Joan. I was so touched by this and was honored to have hung out with Branson and his wife on Necker Island and to witness their love first-hand. Meeting Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands was an incredible moment in my life and I am so thankful for the many things I’ve learned from him.
Are you an upcoming entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments what your best piece of advice is for fellow startups.