Richard Branson And Tony Hsieh On Business Lives, Leadership And Legacies

As inspiring as it is to see exciting new entrepreneurs bringing innovation and disruption to the business world, I’m always curious to know how some of the most successful and well-established entrepreneurs reflect on their business journeys. So I asked Virgin founder Richard Branson and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to spill a few beans…. Alison Coleman: Entrepreneurs: are they born or made? Richard Branson: “I believe that we are all born entrepreneurs, then some people forget how to be entrepreneurial as they grow up. Rather than making entrepreneurs, good mentors can help nurture the entrepreneurial skills that are often lying dormant beneath the surface. Tony Hsieh: “Made. It just takes 10,000 hours of practice.” Coleman: Biggest test of your leadership skills? Branson: “The biggest tests of my leadership came when I had to choose between selling our record company and saving our airline. It was heartbreaking to have to sell Virgin Records, especially for all of the wonderful people who worked there. But we knew it was the right thing to do, and happily both Records and Virgin Atlantic are thriving today.” Hsieh: “Being able to fire someone and still go grab a drink with them afterwards.”
Industrialist Richard Branson at the Time 100 Gala, May 3, 2010. Photo by David Shankbone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Coleman: Worst job you’ve ever had? Branson: “I’m fortunate enough to have only ever worked for myself – so I’ve always liked my boss! From selling Christmas trees to records, flying planes to spaceships, I’ve had a blast every step of the way.” Hsieh: “Nothing horrible, just jobs I was bored at because I wasn’t being entrepreneurial.” Coleman: How would your best friend or partner describe you? Branson: “Well that depends! Hopefully as a loving husband and father.” Hsieh: “Shy and quiet, until you get to know him.”
This is a picture of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Coleman: What’s your work-life balance ratio like, and how do you like to chill out during the ‘life’ part? Branson: “It is 100% work and play; there is no divide. I love relaxing with friends and family, and we play a lot of sport. From kite surfing to swimming, tennis to cycling, there’s nothing like some healthy competition to refresh the mind as well as the body.” Hsieh: “Rather than focus on work-life balance, I try to focus on work-life integration. At the end of the day, it’s all just ‘life’.” Coleman: What would you tell your 20-year-old self? Branson: “Have fun, cherish every moment of your youth and remember to think of others before yourself.” Hsieh: “Always be unapologetically true to yourself in business and in life.” Coleman: If you could turn the clock back ten years, what three things would you do differently? Branson: “I wouldn’t change a thing. Life is far too short to have regrets and I’ve had as much fun in the past decade as at any other point in my life.” Hsieh: “I’d roll out Zappos’ core values sooner.” Coleman: Which organisation, besides your own, do you most admire, and why? Branson: “Steve Jobs was the entrepreneur I most admired, despite our extremely different management styles. I only wish he was still with us to see what else he could achieve. Apple has transformed the landscape across many different industries; I love their disruptive attitude and attention to detail.” Hsieh: “Apple and In-N-Out Burger.” Coleman: What are your three business essentials for surviving economic recession? Branson: “1. If you spot an opportunity, go for it. Recessions are a great time to find gaps in the market. 2. Believe in yourself and your team. If the money stops coming in during a tough period, have trust in your services and your people that you are still on the right track. 3. Protect the downside. While I always encourage taking risks, you need to be aware of how much you have to lose. Balance both pros and cons, then take decisive action. Hsieh: “Invest in long-term things like culture, service, and brand in the good times because they will carry you through the bad times.” Coleman: What changes do you anticipate in your own and the wider business world in five years time and how will you respond? Branson: “Technology is changing every single sector and will continue to transform the business world for generations to come. As long as you focus upon your core values and services, keep producing great products and surround yourself with brilliant people, you will be as well prepared as anyone.” Hsieh: “The tech world and social media world will become more and more unpredictable. Rather than try to predict the future, build Zappos and Downtown Project for flexibility, adaptability, and speed.” Coleman: What would you like your business legacy to be? Branson: “Somebody who tried to make a positive difference to other people’s lives, and had a lot of fun along the way.” Hsieh: “Someone who inspires people to follow their passions and companies to develop strong company cultures.”
SourceAlison Coleman, , 15th July, 2014
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