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Branson in Australia: ‘Delegate… and party a lot!’

Trevor Treharne

Branson in Sydney at the World Business Forum yesterday. Credit: AAP

Self-made billionaire Richard Branson spoke at the World Business Forum in Sydney yesterday, and encouraged the delegates to party their way to success.

Branson, who is famous for building the Virgin Group of businesses, mixed hilarious anecdotes with accessible inspiration during the closing section of the forum.

Vital to his advice was the importance of delegating and ensuring you have time for a party.

“Early in life I had to learn the art of delegation,” said Branson.

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“If you don’t, you’ll just end up being a manager, not a true entrepreneur.

“I would go in, set up a company then go back to my houseboat and make sure someone else was there to run it. It has worked pretty well.

“If you’re building a company I recommend if you want a decent life try to put yourself out of business and find someone better than yourself to run it on a day to day basis.

“Retreat from the building because people want to deal with the top person. That way you can think about the bigger picture and how to take the company forward into new areas,” he said.

Tie-hating Branson cuts off the tie of facilitator Alex Christou. Source: AAP.

To achieve this aim Branson said it is important to promote from within the company if you can.

“Often the right people are right under your nose,” he said.

“Too often people get experts from outside but right in their own company there could be someone who if given the chance will really excel.

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“The cleaning lady in one division ended up running all our studios. The watersports person on Nekker Island ended up running the whole island.”

Branson said that for him, the best businesses come out of frustration.

“I started my first venture at 15 years old. The Vietnam war was going on and it was an unjust war. Many young people wanted to campaign against it and we wanted a voice about the education system, which we felt was flawed,” he said.

Branson explained that he had a desire to do something, so he left school and started a magazine.

“Ever since whenever I come across a situation where there is that frustration I have thought let me see if I can put this right,” he said.

“I was flying from Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands when I was 28.

“I’d been away from home for three weeks and I had a gorgeous lady waiting and American Airlines announced they wouldn’t fly until the next morning because of demand.

“So I went to the back of the airport, borrowed a blackboard and scribbled “Virgin Airlines $39 one way’ and I managed to fill up my first flight!”

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Branson said that is thepeople that unite the Virgin companies, and parties are important in this process.

“So many different things make for a happy company and, sometimes it is little things that count,” he said.

“We took over a chunk of Britain’s rail network and the first thing we did was invite all 10,000 staff and their partners and kids and put on the biggest festival in Oxford over six days.

“I shook hands with everyone when they came in. They were completely transformed – they created the best rail network in the world and now instead of nine million travelling on that network we have 35 million.

“Parties are important!” Branson added.