Thursday, October 9, 2008

Richard Branson Shares His Thoughts About the Quest for Wealth

Over the next several days, I’m going to share some interview excerpts from Lili Fournier’s new PBS DVD – Quest for Success. We will learn about what some of the participants think about the quest for success and the quest for wealth. Visit each day throughout the week to learn about what another participant in Quest for Success thinks about this topic. I’ll share thoughts from Richard Branson, Marci Shimoff, Jack Assaraff, Jack Canfield and Desmond Tutu.

Sir Richard Branson About the Quest for Wealth

LILI: Can we talk about the Quest for Wealth, and what that means. The world itself looks at wealth in monetary terms. So what is your interpretation of what that is we’re looking for? And if you could incorporate the Quest for Wealth in your answer, that would be great.

RICHARD: Well I think that a Quest for Wealth, per say, is not a particularly satisfying thing to do. But having a quest or quests is very satisfying. And if the by-product of those quests is that wealth is created, and you use that wealth productively, that’s satisfying. And in my own particular case, I originally wanted to start a magazine. When I was 15 years old, I wanted to put the world right. And the Vietnamese war raging, and I wanted to do my little bit to stop it. And in order for that magazine to survive, I had to become an entrepreneur. I had to become a businessman—I had to worry about the paper manufacturing and the distribution, the marketing and so on. And the end result was that it became successful. I could then set about to challenging myself to make a difference in other areas. I love music, so I found a particular band that I loved the music of, and we couldn’t find anybody else to put them out, so I decided to form a record company. Now, the end product of forming that record company, the product of signing bands like the Rolling Stones, Genesis and Janet Jackson, was wealth. But that was not where I got my satisfaction. I got my satisfaction from creating a great record company that I was proud of.

LILI: So, the old adage of follow your bliss, follow your passion, is what’s been leading you, really, all along.

RICHARD: Yes, and I think that the most successful people are the people who do not sit down and think, how can I make a fortune? It’s people who have a passion for something, for instance when I moved into the airline business I hated flying o n other people’s airlines, and I felt I could do it better. If I was looking for wealth from doing it, everybody would have advised me that I was mad. But my reason for doing it was creating the kind of airline that I’d like to fly. As it turned out, I created Virgin Atlantic that I liked to fly and other people liked to fly, and 20 years later it’s enormously successful. We’ve managed to sell 49% of it to airlines that are worth billions of dollars, and we’ve made good money from it. But if I’d actually gone into it because I thought I was going to make good money, I don’t think I would’ve made a penny.

LILI: Well, you’re doing things contrary to people’s opinions. And that’s part of the secret to your success. Now entering the marketplace with Virgin America, I’m not sure exactly what you’re calling it, and everybody’s saying, what?

RICHARD: I think the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who do things contrary to opinion. The standard business school advice is stick to your onions, don’t do anything to stray from that. Or Nike stick with shoes, Microsoft stick with computers. Coca-cola stick with soft drinks. At Virgin we love the idea of becoming a way of life brand, of challenging businesses in other areas. And we love doing that, it’s more challenging, we learn a lot more. We meet a lot of people. And contrary to advice in business school, I actually think it makes a lot of sense. Because music shops was one of the first things we did. I doubt there’s a great future in music shops with Ipods and other methods of getting your music. So if we just did music shops, we wouldn’t survive. But because we’ve moved into things like mobile phones, where a lot of kids’ spending power is going…if one business is suffering from a lot of competition, or new technology, another one of our businesses can do well.

Sir Richard Branson Bio -

Sir Richard Branson is best known for his Virgin brand of over 360 companies. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records. With his flamboyant and competitive style, Branson's Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways. An inveterate adventurer, his current passions include Virgin Mobile and the upcoming Virgin Galactic. Sir Richard is a noted philanthropist and member of the Clinton Global Initiative, who has devoted billions of dollars to reviving the ecology.

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