Branson: Focus on big picture, not small detail

Billionaire businessman Richard Branson shared his insights into entrepreneurship, leadership, delegating and work-life balance in Dublin yesterday, writes Padraig Hoare from the Pendulum Summit.

Mr Branson was the headline guest speaker at the Pendulum Summit, which is attracting 7,000 delegates over two days at the Convention Centre Dublin.

Mr Branson spoke of how he began a mail order record business almost 50 years ago, before building world-recognised brands within the Virgin Group.

He said growing a reputation as well as a brand meant “zealously promoting it, and then doing your best to protect it”.

“We’re not a Google or Facebook in terms of wealth, but we are in the top 10 best-known businesses in the world,” he said.

Mr Branson said many entrepreneurs failed because they tended to get caught up in the minutiae of business rather than looking at the big picture.

He said his preference was to promote within rather than look for an outsider to enhance a business, and that he tended to avoid criticising employees.

“People flourish when praised while the faintest criticism can be very damaging,” he said.

Meanwhile one of the UK’s most recognisable businesswomen has warned Brexit will lead to “five to seven years” of serious difficulties for British business.

Michelle Mone, the founder of the Ultimo lingerie company who was made a UK peer in 2015, was speaking after her appearance at the summit where she reflected upon her rise from being born into poverty in Glasgow to being recognised for her brand all over the world.

She told the audience that “the less money you have, the more creative you become”, saying she launched her Ultimo bra line with just £500.

Speaking afterwards, she said: “Regarding Brexit, there is a hell of a lot of work to be done. I did say that if it does happen, which is has, it is going to take five to seven years to all calm down. There is so much to do — if you think about a nasty divorce, it can take years to sort it out. You’re talking about the UK here.

She added: “I do believe it will be good in many years to come, but the whole transition period and nasty divorce will take time. Business needs stability and we need to know how trade is going to work, what we are going to keep when it comes to legislation of the EU. We’ve got to go through every single law and decide. That will take many, many years.”

Ms Mone was appointed by the British Government in 2015 to review entrepreneurship and small business with a special focus on deprived areas — which led to criticism from some quarters about her suitability.

“When you’re a woman, younger and the rest of it, you get criticised but I’ve got thick skin. As long as you do a good job, and I believe I did do a good job giving up 52 days of my time, I really put a lot of effort into that review.

“HSBC are now opening up business centres in these areas so it did make a difference.”

Ms Mone and Mr Branson were part of the annual two-day event fronted by former Irish rugby international Frankie Sheahan.

Mr Sheahan’s wife Norma Sheahan and his brother Jonathan Sheahan are directors of the company behind the event.

Mr Sheahan, who won 29 rugby caps for Ireland as a hooker, stepped down from the company as director in 2017 but continues to be involved in its day-to-day operations.

Other speakers yesterday included entertainer Keith Barry and business growth and sales expert Jack Daly.

Former Facebook executive officer and now chief executive and founder of Zuckerberg Media, Randi Zuckerberg is due to speak today, along with serial entrepreneur and former UK Dragons’ Den investor James Caan. Other speakers today include Jo Malone and former Irish rugby international captain Paul O’Connell.

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