Skip to content

👨‍🔧 "The Secret to Big Leaps"

Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman

Photo by Kid Circus / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Reid Hoffman
Guest: Sir Richard Branson
Category: Biz & Tech | 👨‍🔧 Founder Stories

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[8:23] “[My first venture started when] the Vietnamese war was going on. Like a lot of young people, we thought it was a travesty of justice. […] And so I decided actually to start a magazine to campaign against it. […] I started on the magazine from the school phone box, and at 15, the headmaster said to me that I either had to stay at school and do my schoolwork or leave school and do the magazine. And so I said goodbye to him. And the magazine became quite successful. And then we sold about 100,000 copies an issue.”

[9:36] “When I started, I was 15, I was dyslexic. And I needed people better than me to be around. One of the advantages of being dyslexic is I became a great delegator. And when I talk to various people who are starting up in business, the most important thing I can tell them is to delegate, find somebody better than yourself to do the day-to-day running. Make sure that you can find time to think about the bigger picture, make sure you can find time to firefight with the various companies that have problems. A lot of people are scared of delegating, they're scared that somebody else will take their job. They want to hang on to everything themselves. But by delegating, we've been able to build many, many different organizations over the years.”

[10:45] “One day somebody said to me, "Look, music is horrendously expensive, and why don't you consider starting a music company?" And so we started Virgin Records. […] We didn't have any records, but once the orders came in, we then went and bought them from record shops and tried to get a discount. And then handed leaflets outside concerts. And because we didn't buy the records up front, we got the cash flow to fund it in that way. And Virgin Records was born.”

[12:11] “A young artist came to me with a tape, and he was only 15 years old himself. And I found the tape hauntingly beautiful. We didn't have a record company. So we went to the eight record companies to try to get somebody to put it out, none of them would put it out. […] So we decided to start a record company, and Tubular Bells was the name of the album, and Mike Oldfield was the artist. And it sold millions of copies. […] And on the back of that, we were able to build the largest independent record company in the world, and ultimately, to sign people like the Rolling Stones and Janet Jackson and Genesis and Peter Gabriel and the Sex Pistols and so on and so on.”

[14:31] “Thirty-five years ago, when we started [Virgin Atlantic], the big carriers were dreadful. You were lucky if you had a lump of chicken dumped in your lap, and there was no entertainment. And very, very surly crew generally. And on one of those flights coming to the Virgin Islands, I got bumped, which is a sort of typical thing that airlines did in those days. And so I hired a plane and filled it up with all the people who had been bumped and called it Virgin Airlines as a joke. […] And we arrived in the BVI, and during that flight, I just thought, "Airlines do bump people, maybe I should ring up Boeing the next day." Which I did, and asked if they had any secondhand 747s for sale.”

[19:32] “If you're going into the airline business, make sure that the people running it are going to make sure it's a very safe airline. And you get the best technical people on board. But then on the planes themselves, you don't need the cabin crew to spend 20 or 30 years flying on other people's airlines. Go look for people who are really excited about the job and train them, and make sure that they perform in a fun way. And because they're proud of the company they'll excel at what they're doing.”

[32:49] “I was offered by Gorbachev (last president of the Soviet Union) a ride to be actually the first citizen to go into space on one of his spaceships. I mean, he rang me up to offer me that, and then his people rang back and told me the price. And I remember thinking for $50 million for a ticket to space, and to be tied up in Russia for 18 months. […] One day, maybe we could start our own space line. And once I thought we had the wherewithal to start our own space line, I remember going to the registry office, and registering Virgin Galactic Airways. I also registered Virgin Intergalactic Airways, just because I'm an optimist. […] I thought it would take six to eight years to achieve [setting up a space company]. It's nearly 18 years later. We've had our downs, we've had our ups, but we're on the verge, I think, of being able to bring a lot of people's dreams to reality. And I think if you can create a company that brings people's dreams to reality, it's likely to be successful.”

[35:11] “I'm a great believer in diversification. Diversification has saved us on many occasions in the 55 years since I've been in business. If we were still in record shops, we would have been bust. If we were still in record companies, we may well have been bust. And so by evolving all the time, that's kept the Virgin brand alive and well and healthy.”

[38:53] “[T]he great thing about Virgin is because we've been involved in so many different kinds of businesses. One can pull together a whole eclectic group of people who are superb before they even start with a new company. But then also bring in one or two wizened souls to steer the ship. And one of the advantages of being able to build lots of different organizations in lots of different areas is the learning process, you just learn ... Every new business we start I'm learning a whole lot about a whole new sector of life that is fascinating.”

Rating: 🍎🍎🍎🍎

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 42 min | 🗓️ 02/23/2021
✅ Time saved: 40 min