Sir Richard Branson at SHRM11-A Prequel

Its fun to be anticipating one of the brightest stars in the world of business this afternoon at the SHRM conference.  As a Brit I do have memories of his growing empire, which started with a simple student magazine and moved into music via a record label and record stores, all under the now ubiquitous Virgin brand.

But Branson is more than a businessman; he is a veritable dare-devil, having popularized extreme activities like flying around the world in a hot air balloon.  Branson epitomizes that can-do spirit, for example he always bounced back when some risky sporting activity or another failed, as it did now and then. He seems to have the belief that failure is never an option.  When I think of him I think of the values statement of the best client I ever had, Liechtenstein-based Hilti Group:  it includes the word courage.  At Hilti, working without courage will severely limit your career and can get you fired, such is its importance to them, and this is one of the reasons they are so successful. Branson has lived his entire life with courage.  I feel sure that this is far more important to him than the amount of money he has collected to make him one of the richest men in theUK.

Branson’s Virgin brand includes an incredible 400 companies, including transportation such as the airline Virgin Atlantic, which I have never flown, and Virgin Trains, on which I have traveled, very comfortably.  Branson took an old and curvy train line from London to Glasgow and used state of the art Italian designed trains called Pendolino (meaning the “hanging” one), which can lean over when going through these curves without slowing down;  the result is a much faster ride to cities in the north of England and beyond.  It is typical Branson innovation.

I’m looking forward to what he has to say about the future; his home country is in the grip of a deep retrenchment of its profligate spending ways and is surrounded by a Europe not in much better shape.  Oil prices hammer his airline and its competition.  Its an interesting time to be hearing his thoughts.

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