Business should be a force for good. Thoughts from Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson has long been a hero of mine and so it was a great pleasure to see him live in Melbourne at the 21st Century Financial Education Summit last night.  What a lovely man and how humble and approachable.  He spoke about  many facets of his life and business career and always with an undertone of hope and expectation that every small business owner can achieve the great things he has.  With a little luck, a lot of determination and the vision to see their dreams unfold.  Here are some key themes that resonated with me from his 60 minutes on stage:

  • Lead with your heart.  Do what exites you and what you feel passionate about.
  • Get out and give it a try.  Take on a challenge and give it your best shot.
  • A business is really just a group of people.  A great leader will  motivate people to achieve great things.  Motivate people, praise people, inspire people… don’t criticise people.  Treat everyone well, from the switchboard operator (he hastened to add that such roles don’t exist anymore but we get his point) to the senior executives.
  • Small is beautiful.  Keep your business structured in a way that allows for smaller teams as it grows, so that people don’t lose themselves.
  • Learn to delegate, hire people better than yourself.   And once delegated, don’t second guess them.  Give them freedom, don’t expect them to do things the way you would.
  • Put your people first, your customers second and your shareholders third.  If your people are happy and proud, your business will thrive and the rest will follow. People leave companies out of frustration not for money.
  • Business should be a force for good.   My favourite of Sir Peter’s messages.  As entrepreneurs we know how to solve problems and as such are in a better position right now that politicians to make the changes that need to be made.  If businesses focus on making a difference we have all the resources we need to solve the world’s problem.

Check out to see the good Sir Richard is making in the world.

Richard Branson truly is a man of vision and boldness.  His Virgin Galactic Airlines project to see everyday folk (well those with $200,000 to spend on a ticket anyway!) experience space travel is testimony to his attitude to life.

As he himself summed up, “in life it is more fun to say yes than to say no!”

Thank you Sir Richard for a truly inspirational appearance at the Melbourne event, for vision, your passion and your contribution to our world.  And also for wearing an All Blacks shirt to a conference audience of 2,000 Australians!  A man of courage and humour indeed.

When is the best time to plan your exit?

This will be a short blog post.  The answer is NOW!

If you haven’t already, make it the first thing you do tomorrow…. answer this question, how and when is your business going to pay you back for all your hard work?

The foundation of The Liber8 Factor, and the premise of the book I’m working on now is that a business should be planned with greatness in mind.  Your business must have a life beyond you and the time to plan for it is sooner rather than later.

I’m keen to work with more businesses on clarifying and planning for this.  Email me if you’d like to talk about it –

Sexy machine, sexy business, sexy model… it’s a winner!

I love great business models.  Here’s a simple one, yet technically so right on many different levels.

It’s Nespresso, maker of coffee machines.  My mum in UK has one and I fell in love with the taste of the coffee and the simplicity of the making of said coffee every morning when staying with my mum for a month recently.  Believe me, the cafe culture we enjoy in good ol’ Wellington NZ has not yet reached Milton Keynes.  The coffee in all cafes is …. blah!  As I said to mother one morning after my run, “the best coffee on this trip so far is found every morning in your kitchen”.  God bless the Nespresso machine.

So I decided to buy one upon my return to NZ and found myself searching on the internet.  This is when I realised I love this business.  Here’s why:

1.  Great product – the machine range are simple, look great and meet a growing need for home made cafe style coffee.

2.  Once you buy the machine you are hooked for the life of the machine into buying the coffee capsules that go with the machine.  Unlike other coffee machines you can’t just use any coffee beans … you have to use the Nespresso capsules.  So this machine comes with a built in ‘back end’.  My favourite business strategy.  Much like buying a printer … you pay a bit for the machine itself, and then continue to pay for the ink that fits the machine.  Clever!

3. The company has built a capsule collection and recycling system into their business model.  Your used capsules are collected when the new ones are delivered (you order them online) and the aluminium re-used.  Environmentally friendly too.  I like this!

4. The company has a sustainablity program which works with small farmers in coffee growing countries to help them improve the sustainability and productivity of their farms, while maintaining the highest quality coffee.  A company with a caring, make a difference philosophy that sees it make a difference to the world.  Liking this.

5.  The company is global and provides the same experience in all countries it operates in via the internet… it’s systemised, well thought through and well implemented.

6.  The brand shows through when you visit their website – it’s slick and their commitment to caring about the customer, the planet and the production of their coffee is obvious.

7. They’ve got George Clooney featuring in their ad campaign.  How could coffee ever look sexier???????? Brilliant.  Sold to the lady dreaming of a George Clooney moment over my gluten free muesli.

Take a look

You might not want to buy their machine and their coffee, but you can admire the business model.  It ticks my boxes anyway.  A great role model for businesses looking to grow with a sustainable and caring business.

Now which machine shall I order… what do you think George?

I’ve been away from my computer for 5 days so haven’t had the chance to share the sadness I’ve been feeling at the death of Steve Jobs.  Only a few weeks ago I listed Apple as one of my top 5 favourite businesses of all time.  I refer to Apple a lot in my mentoring programme and in the book I’m currently writing.  Steve Jobs represented the absolute best of the best when it comes to entrepreneurship.  A start up business in a garage to the leading company in the world.  The Apple journey ticks every box for ideal business planning and implementation.  Starting with a revolutionary approach with a clear vision and company values of leading the way and challenging boundaries all the way. 

What I love most about Apple is that this company has single handedly changed the way we exist.  Computers, music, phones.. our way of relating with each other and the world will never be the same.  Thanks to one man who led a company that changed the world.  He led it right to the end… his own end.  But not ours.  Steve Jobs built a company that will live on long after he is gone.  The culture, the brand and the vision is so strong you just know it will not stop transforming our world, even though its intrepid leader has moved on.

We are blessed to have Apple in our lives for a while to come.  And we should be thankful to a man who made it all possible.

Thank you Steve Jobs.  I never met you and so haven’t earned the right to call you Steve.  But had you been English, I like to think the Knighthood would have been granted to you by now for your service to humanity. For being a role model to entrepreneurs everywhere.

Rest in peace Sir Steve x

Womentrepreneurs… the double edged sword we wield

Having been interested in an article recently posted on Facebook about the lack of women seeking and gaining investment capital, I feel inspired to make a commentary on some characteristics that can both make and break women in business.  I’ve coined the phrase ‘womentrepreneurs’ as merging words to make new ones is such a trend these days (think Brangelina and the Jolie-Pitt rainbow brood by way of example).  I work a lot with female small business owners and I know that we are all our own blessings and our own worst enemies.  So here’s my summary of what we do very well and where we let ourselves down in the world of business.  I’ve listed 5 qualites we are blessed with and the dangers these traits can present.  Please forgive me for the generalisations.  Of course these traits do not apply to all women so if as a woman reading this you feel you have to disagree, go for it.  As I say, I work with women in business a great deal so it is with some confidence that I can say the following fits most of us, if not all.

1. Women worry more.

Pros – See my previous blog on The Worry Factor in business.  Worry can be a good thing in business as it is usually what prevents major mistakes being made.

Cons – Worry can easily become fear and prevent action.  Business involves risk taking.  An unwillingness to take risks can slow growth and keep a womentrepreneur locked in a smaller game than her male counterparts are playing.  Using worry as a motivator to take action is a great skill for a womentrepreneur to cultivate.

2. Women are great multi-taskers

Pros – Women can get an awful lot done in a day. They can and do take on all aspects of a business from sales and marketing to customer service to admin.  They can switch quickly and efficiently from one task to the next and keep the quality pretty high across the board.  This can save a lot of extra cost in the early days of a business.

Cons – The downside is that women are more likely to spend time on non-income generating tasks than men and may be less willing to out-source administrative tasks that they feel they can do themselves.  Being spread too thin takes energy away from the all important focus on sales a young business desperately needs.  A willingness to let go and focus on income generating activities is a must.

3.  Womentrepreneurs tend to have less of an ego.

Pros – women make decisions based on research and applied logic, are more likely to assess a situation for all of its merits and problems before jumping in.  Ego driven decisions often lead to costly errors in judgement.

Cons – a lack of ego can also become a lack of confidence, especially when a woman is operating in a male dominated industry where ego is driving the culture of the industry.  Finding a way to hold your own and present yourself and your business with confidence is critical for all womentrepreneurs.

4. Women have a greater share of the empathy chip

Pros – The ability to see another’s perspective can be a very useful tool in business, especially when handling difficult issues with staff or clients.  Empathy can dissolve potentially explosive situations.

Cons – Too much empathy can make us soft.  Sometimes you need to be hard and risk not being liked.  Wanting every one to be happy could take the edge off our leadership position.  Using empathy to your advantage, to win over clients and build a loyal team is a great strategy.  Just be willing and able to make the hard calls when it counts.

5.  Women are intuitive and able to trust their gut

Pros – A woman’s gut feel is incredibly strong and should be trusted in most cases.  Women are in touch with an emotional response to a person or a situation that instinctively tells them what to do.  Women who trust their intuition and have the courage of their convictions can make a formidable force in business.

Cons – Intuition and gut feel come from an emotional space which means women can be prone to making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.  Emotion can be a dangerous thing in business, especially in negotiations.  Nerves of steel can beat an emotional attachment to an outcome any day.  So womentrepreneurs… go with your gut, keep your emotions in check… and be willing to walk away from a deal that isn’t good enough.

It’s true for all people in any situation really – our biggest strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses.  The power comes from knowing this and maximising the star qualities whilst minimising their potentially negative mirror image.

I should add though that I am the biggest fan of women in business.  Yes because I am one, but also because women are so good at so many things.  We care about other women in business, we support each other, we network and send business to our sisters whenever we can, we are committed to our education and never too proud to say what we don’t know and seek the advice of those who do know.  It is always a privilege and joy for me to mentor a womentrepreneur, the ability to laugh at ourselves and with others being one of my favourite traits.  Go women!