“If you treat people well then they will want to come in contact with you again…” – Sir Richard Branson
Salesforce.com Founder Marc Benioff sat down with Richard Branson for a “fireside” chat in front of an audience of 90,000 registered attendees. Dreamforce Conference, In this interview, Branson generously gave advice about entrepreneurship and leadership in technology.
For those just starting off on the entrepreneurial path, Branson dared them to dream, to dream big, and then to start, figuring the rest out as they go. When taking this path, he mentioned it is very important for a person to always have a back-up plan for when things don’t go as hoped. To generate viable business ideas, Branson suggested that people look at the market for some product or service that they want and can’t find, then find a way to fill that gap. If one person wants this product or service, chances are that many other people do too. Similarly, Branson also suggested that a person can simply look at the products and services currently on the market and formulate ideas on how to improve them through innovation. Ideas generated in these ways generally have great inherent business potential.
Branson is huge on delegating and suggests that if a person own more than one business, then it is imperative that they delegate the management of the others. He is of the mind that one person can’t successfully manage more than one business. Branson suggested always hiring managers that “are better than you”, and then to not be afraid to let them fail. He stressed that managers should be given the “freedom to make mistakes” and learn, without getting in trouble for the problems that will inevitably occur along the road.
Over his 45 years of entrepreneurship, Branson has a great deal of experience employing people that are “like family”. He discussed the touchy subject of what a business owner should do if they have a critically under-performing manager who happens to also be a very close personal friend. Rather than let the whole ship sink, Branson said that it is imperative that the business owner accept the fact that things aren’t working out, call a discussion with this manager, reposition them if possible, or possibly just let them go. For a business owner to avoid doing so is to harm his business and to also lose the respect of his other employees.
Branson spoke on leadership in the technology sector and the importance of treating people kindly, no matter who they are. While noting that there are some harsh leaders that have been successful in tech, he stressed these cases are exceptions to the rule. He underscored the basic concept that, if you treat people well then they will want to come in contact with you again, but if you don’t then they will avoid you in the future, hence no further business. To those they lead, a leader’s critical comments can hit them like a sledgehammer, therefore leaders have to be very careful about the harsh words that they might use.
Co-authored by Lillian Pierson