The suggestion to name a mail order business ‘Virgin’ was done in causal fashion – true to the nature of a man who would later transform this into a global brand of mega proportions. In his book ‘Losing my virginity’ global entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson provides a setting of how the name was conceived. He writes: “we decided to come up with another name for the mail order business; a name that would be eye-catching, that could stand alone and not appeal just to students. We sat around in the church crypt trying to choose a good one. ‘Slipped Disc’ was one of the favourite suggestions. We toyed with it for a while, until one of the girls leant forward: ‘I know,’ she said. ‘What about ‘Virgin?’ We’re complete virgins at business’. ‘And there aren’t many virgins left around here,’ laughed one of the other girls. ‘It would be nice to have one here in name if nothing else’. ‘Great’, I decided on the spot. ‘It’s Virgin’”. And the rest is history. Sir Richard became the headline attraction to this year’s Global Expo and didn’t leave his trade mark back in England, his home country. Drifting in an hour late to address Botswana’s leading cream of business, budding entrepreneurs, senior executives and government officials – he didn’t have a tie on but was smart causal with a T-shirt and a pair of khaki pants.
Cut the tie
In fact if he had a pair scissors near he would have demonstrated with a few of the leading executives how they have cut 50 000 ties in one of his operations. To him comfort matters more than anything and it is this ideal that he emphasised in his address. “We should encourage our people to dress as comfortable as they want. We shouldn’t impose a tie on the next generation. Treat employees as mature people who can perform to the best of their abilities in a relaxed and comfortable way that suits them. Highly motivated people can achieve anything.” His interpretation of circumstances and general take on life accentuates more the values of freedom and enjoying every task at hand. He has unleashed to the world a Virgin brand that operates almost in every space and has scored success in most.
In a presentation moderated by De Beers Group’s Pat Dambe, Branson held most in awe in his presentation and the easiness he exhibited and proclaims as a defining principle of his life. For example towards the end of his discussion he surprised the audience by proclaiming that in some of his businesses he has convicts working as head of security. “Some would come to work at weekends and go back when it ends,” he said, highlighting his belief in giving people a second chance. He is also a member of the Global Drugs Commission and has studied extensively the issue of drugs and their abuse. His view is that people who take drugs should not be treated as criminals. “Drugs use should be treated as a health problem,” he declares, insisting that many people that are imprisoned for this deserve reprieve. He advised Botswana to increase its tourism value by adding another offering that can attract people that come here to visit the Delta to stay longer. “But most importantly is it important to keep and protect that which is special about your tourism offering,” he advises. In a corporate setting he is the kind that prefers to promote from within instead of bringing new staff in; he considers bringing new faces a demotivating step towards a loyal team of employees. Being the disrupter he is, he has not hesitated to take some of the cleaners from the lower ranks to give them executive positions that they have grown to excel in. People to him should learn on the job. A space traveller, he encouraged members of the audience to fly with him in his next expedition but only a few lifted their hands. He confirmed having raised the subject with President Ian Khama – an ardent flyer – in their earlier meeting.