Connect with us

Leading

Why Volunteer Work Is Important for Business Leaders

Richard Branson answers a question about his volunteer work and the Virgin Group.

Richard Branson

Published

on

018

Q: You are spending a lot of time on your philanthropic ventures and volunteer work. Does this take time away from your job of steering the Virgin Group? Or does it help you to come up with new approaches to business problems?

A: When people ask me if a business can balance making a difference in people’s lives with making a profit for the company, the point that I always try to make is that the two are not exclusive.

Business leaders should not focus solely on earning money. They must remember that a healthy profit means that a community supports and appreciates the products and services a business offers, and also how that business is managed.

My work on initiatives fostered by our nonprofit foundation, Virgin Unite, such as The Elders and The Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship, have given me a different outlook. I have a broader perspective than I did in the 1970s, when my focus was mostly on our local community and our customers, but as Virgin grew and our efforts expanded, I began working on philanthropy projects alongside inspirational figures such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

And then the types of projects expanded, taking on everything from urging world leaders to end the drug wars, to providing mentoring opportunities to young entrepreneurs, so that now I also tend to think in terms of the global community.

Our work with Virgin Unite has given our companies a fantastic boost. Customers want to know that the company they’re dealing with has a moral compass and takes a socially responsible approach to doing business. An example of one of our initiatives that has gained people’s attention is our decision to invest profits from the Virgin transport businesses in researching clean fuels.

Using fuel derived from a renewable energy source to fly our planes would benefit everyone, and we can be sure that the technological breakthrough needed to make this happen will take place eventually, so we are striving to be the first to reach that goal.

My philanthropic ventures have also been good for our team: People want to work for a company they are proud of, one whose values they believe in. I like to think that our staff is as proud as I am about the good that our companies do. And a happy and motivated workforce is a productive one.

Many people assume that the only way a business can contribute to its local community is by donating to charity, but they’re mistaken.

A company that has a strong set of principles woven into its DNA will find many opportunities for making a difference. In South Africa, where unemployment and poverty are pressing issues, Virgin Active, our health-club business, saw that there was a need to support other local businesses.

So our branch in Soweto brought in partners: a hairdresser, DJs for the exercise classes, a car-washing business for the car park. Our successful venture thus provided the support and spark to help other businesses ramp up their operations.

If you are looking to change how you do business, the first step is to integrate great values into your business plan. Any company can do this, no matter what its size, location, or how long it has been in business.

Small businesses can make a difference locally, bigger companies can make a difference nationally, and even bigger companies can make a difference internationally. And look at every stage of your business, from manufacturing to disposal, and consider the impact on your community. Are you really making people’s lives better?

If you’re thinking about launching a business, consider the new opportunities offered by some of the environmental challenges that your community faces – what would happen if you were to find a solution? If your company offered a scalable solution to a problem like a local water shortage or waste disposal issues, you might help your community and others.

If you lead an established and successful company, why not address the bigger picture? One of the projects that Virgin Unite supports, The Carbon War Room, works with companies and industry organisations in many different sectors to decrease that sector’s carbon footprint.

We don’t condemn or single out businesses for their carbon outputs; our focus is on finding ways to eliminate market barriers to large-scale adoption of low-carbon solutions, like renewable fuels, so that sectors such as shipping and aviation can make more money while producing less pollution.

Philanthropic work undertaken not just by the CEO, but by any employee, is an asset to the group as a whole, bringing in new perspectives and relationships that the group wouldn’t otherwise have. So encourage your employees to contribute, off the job and on, and in time people in your community will learn that business can bring positive change. In the meantime I will also be urging my team at Virgin to “Screw business as usual.” It’s what we do best.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

Advertisement
Comments

Leading

How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee

Published

on

business-leadership

“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

Continue Reading

Leading

What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous

Published

on

business-leadership-advice

When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

Continue Reading

Leading

All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton

Published

on

mark-cuban
Prev1 of 5

There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

Prev1 of 5

Continue Reading

Trending

FREE E-BOOK: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sign up now for Entrepreneur's Daily Newsletters to Download​​