Richard Branson of Virgin on business, specifically our business

Okay, so Mr. Branson didn’t actually talk about our business.  However, on this American Express sponsored site, he spouts on about business. There’s a ton of good stuff there if you take the time to click and view each one.  The one complaint I have is there’s no “Play All”.

Here’s some of my favorite quotes and how I feel they pertain to us:

“You need to pick an area where you can differentiate and stand out.”

This we sorta picked by happenstance.  John and I never really talked about creating a conference company.  A how-to-run-your-business consultancy: yes.  A company to help the hospitality service: yes. Etc., you get the point.  One thing we did do was pick an industry where we could differentiate and stand out.  Hopefully, we’re succeeding.

“You’ve just got to strive to create the kind of product that you personally would want to go on, make sure it’s the best in its field and then I think it should succeed.”

This we nailed hands down.  When I first approached John about the idea for doing a conference, my exact words were, “You know, we need a Flex conference. MAX is good and all, but we need a conference dedicated just to Flex and nothing else.”  From that, John and I built the type of show we would want to attend.  Our only regret: We still don’t get to attend the conference, since we gotta man the reg desk.  Though, if hundreds of others can attend and have a good time, that makes it easier to swallow. :)

“If you run one business well, you can really run any business.”

I think that’s why John and I managed to do well. We’ve dabbled in business before.  John had a consulting company and I did some independent consulting back in the day.  Not to mention that I was a paperboy in my youth (seriously, I learned some good stuff during that job).  I’ve also approached every job as a learning experience for my future businesses.  Watching and learning from my employers mistakes while taking note of the good things to copy.  John and I are avid readers of business material as well, so we had some idea about how we wanted to run a business before starting the biz.  We don’t agree on everything, but I think we both know how to put the company first and work off our strenghts and push the other to do better.

Our goal is to now build on the 360|Flex momentum and turn this into a great company.

“The best way of protecting [an idea] is to create something that is better than your rivals.”

I have to agree whole heartedly here.  If we can put on a conference with no experience, then surely others with no experience could too.  Not to mention, professional conference planners could enter our space as well.  The thing is that we have to be better than our rivals.  I think we are, but we can’t rest on our laurels.  We have to keep innovating and making sure 360|Flex is the best bang for the conference goers buck.

“The bosses should never go to the back and shut the door…I will make sure that I’m out and about and experiencing…I’ll talk to the [customers] and get their thoughts down…I’ll shake the customers hands…”

Again, John and I agree with this.  We’re always visible at our shows.  We try to shake our customers’ hands as they walk in and again as they leave on the last day.  We take note of every comment (good or bad) that customers give us.  We fight with each other to make sure those comments get acted upon.

We’re here for one purpose and one purpose only: to serve our customers.  With them we’re nothing and we realize that.  It’s sad that other companies treat their customers as a necessary nuisance.

“It’s the little touches that keep people talking. For instance, Ice Cream and Popcorn on Virgin Atlantic flights keeps kids and parents talking and it’s not very expensive.”

I think every show has had something special.  We try to put a little something in each show to make it different.  Sometimes its food.  Sometimes its swag.  Sometimes it’s awards.  There’s always going to be something special for our attendees and I think they know that.

“As long as you can get the right people to run the businesses, you can stretch your brand pretty incredibly.”

This one will be interesting.  We’re a long way off from this since John and I aren’t even full time.  However, John and I would like to get to the level where we can have the right people helping us in our business.  We had Ryan Stewart until Adobe stole him.  We’ve just never been able to recover since his departure, so we’re still on the hiring freeze.  :)

“With a committed team, you’re going to be able to deal with setbacks and then enjoy the good moments together.”

For this, I have to give mad props to the other half of the team: John.  When I was most down about the biz and was on the verge of giving up, John pulled me (and thus the company) back from the brink of a huge setback.  He did his best at a pep talk and then went potty.  This give me a few minutes to digest his words and by the time he came back, I was back on track.  That show later turned out to be our first profitable show.

And it’s been great sharing the good moments with him as well.  Standing with him as we presented Second Harvest with $7K is a moment I’ll never forget.

Well, that’s enough quotes I think.  Watch the series for more Branson goodness.  Also, mad props to American Express for putting on the series.  Sign up for the card if you like the vids.  We have a plum card ourselves.  Even though our spending habits freak out AMEX, they’re still our preferred card to use.

One Reply to “Richard Branson of Virgin on business, specifically our business”

  1. I've spent quite a bit of time reading business books in the past year (and quite a bit telling other people they need to read such books). This post made me think of two of them.

    You talk about picking an area and differentiating yourself. I recommend doing this for both 360|Conferences [the company] and 360|Flex [One 'line' of conferences you put on]. What is the differentiator and how can you communicate that? Currently the 360|Flex site has no differentiating characteristic. A great book on this is Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall ( ).

    You also mentioned the goal is to turn 360|Conferences into a great company. For that, I'm reminded of the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. ( ). It is an in depth research study on different companies and why some excel over the long and others don't. Warning, though, although awesome information; it can be a bit dry. And no tech-specific companies are covered because at the time of publication none had been around enough to qualify–I think they looked at 30+ years of historical data.

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