The office where I work has a bookshelf of assorted tech and business books donated by employees for other employees to check out and read. Since I’ve recently read some things about and by Richard Branson I was excited to see this book on the shelf. I immediately checked it out and started reading.
The fact that it’s an extended advertisement for both the Virgin brand and Sir Richard himself doesn’t diminish the charm, fun, and even utility of this book. If you’re looking for some in-depth business analysis and training then this isn’t the book for you. Branson covers only a few high-level points, and then backs them up with numerous stories of both success and failures through the years. It’s a frank, honest, and rather charming look at the Virgin brand and how Branson runs things.
Most compelling is the case Branson makes for ethical business practices, not to mention having fun with what you do. You know he believes what he’s telling you, and he seems to be able to back it up. Certainly Virgin is a successful company–or group of companies.
I also appreciate the fact that Branson puts his money where his mouth and morals are. I don’t agree with him entirely on some things, but at least he gets up off his butt and does something about it in a sensible, business-like way rather than just sitting back and lecturing everyone else about what they should do about it. I may not agree with him on Global Warming, for example, but I can’t fault his approach to doing something about it at all. True or not, a lot of good will come from his attempts to find alternatives and options.
One of the things that raised my curiosity about Branson in the first place is a report from someone who’s met him just how down-to-earth he is. This book does nothing to dispel that notion. Indeed, I came away from the book all the more interested in meeting the man someday. He seems genuine, and seems to genuinely like people. He is rich, and he feels no need to hide that or apologize for that, but he also doesn’t seem to let that come between him and people.
It’s an interesting bit of timing that within a few weeks of my reading this book his house on Necker Island burned down. In interviews it seems that what bothers him most about the loss is the photographs in his office and his business files. That seems to gel with what I’ve learned about him through the book. Richard Branson doesn’t worry much about work/life balance. For him they’re one and the same; he loves his work, and he loves the life his work makes possible.
“Business Stripped Bare” is a fun and interesting book. And though I can’t say I learned anything I hadn’t heard before about business, I can say that he made me rethink a few things about my own business and what could be done better there. I wanted to immediately apply the concepts.
More importantly, perhaps, I felt the call of entrepreneurship again. I want to be a Branson-style businessman. Someday I will, and I’ll be reaching for this book again about then.