Richard Branson On the Business of Life

Entrepreneurs are innately curious people, which must be why I receive mail from readers around the world asking all manner of questions abo
September 17, 2010

Entrepreneurs are innately curious people, which must be why I receive mail from readers around the world asking all manner of questions about my career and my personal life, and not just looking for advice on starting up new businesses and managing mature ones. With my focus on fun at work, the boundary between work and life does tend to blur a little! So just recently, an interviewer asked me a great many short questions about both; our most interesting exchanges follow.

 

Q: What's the first thing you think of when you wake up?

 

A: Like most people, I think about the time!

 

Q: Which single word gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

A: "No," in my wife's Glaswegian accent.

 

Q: What do you have for breakfast?

 

A: I have a fruit salad and muesli. When I spoil myself I have kippers.

 

Q: Marmite! Love it or hate it?

 

A: I love Marmite! I recommend it as a drink made with hot water.

 

Q: Favorite television program?

 

A: I love anything to do with nature, things like "Planet Earth."

 

Q: Which is your favorite band?

 

A: It has to be the Sex Pistols. They made a big difference for Virgin.

 

Q: Which was the first record you bought?

 

A: Vey embarrassingly, I think it was Cliff Richard's "Summer 

Holiday."

 

Q: Appetizer or dessert?

 

A: It's not very healthy, but I'd have to go for dessert.

 

Q: Best meal ever?

 

A: I love a Greek restaurant called Halepi in Notting Hill Gate. Great 

atmosphere.

 

Q: Best country you have visited?

 

A: Australia. Love the people - a wonderful, vibrant country.

 

Q: Favorite country?

 

A: Great Britain. It's been kind to me over the years. I've got lots and 

lots of friends here.

 

Q: Any place left that you'd like to visit?

 

A: South America. Brazil and Argentina sound wonderful.

 

Q: Three most adventurous things you have done so far?

 

A: Boating, ballooning and kite surfing. Space adventures to come!

 

Q: If you could meet a legend dead or alive, who would it be?

 

A: Sir Francis Drake. I'd love to have been an explorer of that caliber.

 

Q: Who is your mentor?

 

A: My parents. They've been a tremendously positive influence.

 

Q: What is the greatest piece of wisdom you've ever heard?

 

A: To look for the best in people.

 

Q: What have you studied?

 

A: Most of my learning has been since I left school. It's been an 

education of life. I love to read a lot. I've been involved in many 

different things, so have learnt a lot that way.

 

Q: The last book you read?

 

A: "The War of the World." You can see the misery that wars have 

bestowed. We all have to do as much as we can to make sure they are a 

thing of the past.

 

Q: Favorite song?

 

A: "My Way." Another connection there.

 

Q: Has anyone ever mistaken you for somebody else?

 

A: Quite often. Once, a little girl came up to me and said, "You look 

just like that Richard Branson bloke." And I nodded and said thank 

you. She then said, "You should go sign up for one of those look-alike 

agencies. You might not make as much money as him, but you would 

make a fortune!"

 

Q: If you were given $60 to start a business, how would you do it?

 

A: If I was still well known, I'd sign the dollars and sell each of them 

for $20. I would then sign the $20 and sell them for $40, etc.

 

Q: Is there anything you'd like to change about yourself?

 

A: It'd have to be my age. To go backwards instead of forwards.

 

Q: What do you love and hate?

 

A: I love the closeness of our family. And I hate not being able to 

spend every day with them.

 

Q: What makes you cry?

 

A: I cry at happy and sad things. My children always bring a box of 

Kleenex to the cinema!

 

Q: What makes you laugh?

 

A: I'm lucky. I laugh all the time. I love life, I love people, love a good 

joke.

 

Q: What's contributed most to your success?

 

A: All the people at Virgin have made it what it is today.

 

Q: The key to success in three words please?

 

A: People. People. People.

 

Q: Who is your best mate?

 

A: I have two special friends, both named Andy. We've had a lot of 

laughs over the years.

 

Q: If you had 60 minutes left, how would you spend it?

 

A: With my family.

 

Q: Anything you wanted to do by 60?

 

A: I'd like some grandchildren, as would my wife. Fingers crossed!

 

Q: Anything you still need?

 

A: The answer to that has to be no.

 

Q: What motivates you to carry on?

 

A: I love learning. I love people. I love making a difference. I don't 

think I'll stop until I drop.

 

Q: What drives you crazy?

 

A: Negativity. People who look for the worst in people. People always 

gossiping about other people.

 

Q: Are you stressed?

 

A: No. I try hard to overcome challenges and if I fail, I pick myself up 

quickly.

 

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

 

A: Very little keeps me awake at night.

 

Q: What is your biggest fear?

 

A: Like a lot of people, I fear illness in our family or with friends.

 

Q: Why are you always smiling?

 

A: I have got a lot to smile about!

 

Q: Are you ticklish?

 

A: I'm the most ticklish person I know.

 

Q: What brings you happiness?

 

A: Achieving things that one can be proud of. And good feedback 

from people as a result.

 

Q: Is there anything you'd change about yourself?

 

A: It'd have to be my age. To go backwards instead of forwards.

 

Q: Which one of the seven dwarves would you be?

 

A: I think it would have to be Happy!

 

Q: If you had to be an animal, what would it be and why?

 

A: It'd be a tiger. Sadly there aren't many left in the world, but the more 

there can be the merrier.

 

Q: Has there been an event that changed your life?

 

A: Meeting Nelson Mandela, just an incredible individual. I'm very 

privileged to know him well now.

 

Q: Ever thought about running for political office?

 

A: I don't think you can mix business and politics so I'd have to give up 

Virgin and I enjoy it too much. I can campaign a lot of political issues 

without actually becoming a politician.

 

Q: What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever done?

 

A: Ruby Wax and I were in Mallorca and a couple asked to take a 

photo. Ruby and I put our arms round each other, smiled, and the 

couple said, "No, we want you to take a picture of us."

 

Q: What's your most prized personal, material possession?

 

A: Necker Island. I managed to find it when I was 26.

 

Q: Who would you most like to stay with you on Necker Island?

 

A: The 60,000 people that work for Virgin! Sadly, the island is rather 

small, but you never know.

 

Q: If you could be a super hero, who would it be?

 

A: Bond ... James Bond.

 

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life?

 

A: Robert Pattinson from "Twilight." He's English … and he's young!

 

Q: If you were not you, who would you want to be and why?

 

A: I'd love to start again, and be my grandson when he's born.

 

Q: If you could be reincarnated who would you be?

 

A: Based on the pictures I've seen of Cleopatra, Mark Anthony would 

be quite nice.

 

Q: Anybody you're still in awe of?

 

A: The Dalai Lama.

 

Q: Ever thought about running for political office?

 

A: I don't think you can mix business and politics, so I'd have to give 

up Virgin and I enjoy it too much. I can campaign a lot of political issues without actually becoming a politician.

 

Q: What is your favorite sport?

 

A: Kite surfing. It's unusual. We've got the best conditions for it on 

Necker.

 

Q: Did running the London Marathon hurt you as much as it did me?

 

A: I was lucky. I managed to find the time to rain. The last 2 miles 

were very hard but the crowd carried everybody along. I highly 

recommend it.

 

Q: Three words to describe the Virgin brand?

 

A: A challenger brand.

 

Q: Anything left for you to achieve?

 

A: One of the most exciting things we're involved in is the Elders. 

Trying to ensure that conflicts are a thing of the past. It'd be wonderful 

if the Elders could do some fantastic things.

 

Q: Is there anything you'd have done differently?

 

A: No. I've had an absolute blast.

 

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to BransonQuestions @ Entrepreneur.com. Please include your name and country in your question.