Monday, 29 October 2007

Drunken Pilots

You may have heard from the BBC here that one of my pilots on Virgin Atlantic was arrested for being drunk just before the flight was going to take off to Miami.

This is wholly unacceptable. Per company policy, we removed the entire flight crew and replaced them all. It was before noon! We never allow pilots to drink on the flight deck before noon; that's just a sign of alcoholism.

That said, Virgin hires flight crew with style. It's the way we keep the Virgin brand alive. We hire the fittest birds (and blokes, for that matter) as flight attendants, and only the best pilots and biggest party animals for the flight deck. Sometimes this kind of thing happens.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Friday, 26 October 2007

Dealing with Critics - Jim Cramer is an arse

So on Jim Cramer's website you can find this nugget of business wisdom:

No! I don't like him [Virgin President Richard Branson] , I don't like his stocks. ... This guy, Branson, he may be cool. The babes may like him. But in my department, the money department, stay away.

Well, first of all at least he does recognise my success with style and women. But he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about with money.

And I'm not the only one to think so... my advisors pointed me to this website of the CXO Advisory Group. They said:

In summary, Jim Cramer's stock market calls since May 2000 have low consistency and average accuracy.

In other words, it's really not a huge surprise that a standard Wall Street guy wouldn't like me. While he probably worked very hard for his University degree, did his time doing analysis of business and all the rest (rarely getting a shag), he really hasn't done anything with his life. Of course he'd be jealous of the billionaire that skipped University, actually built businesses from the ground up and ran them. Jim Cramer just doesn't understand reality. Oh, well.... too bad for him. He's just telling people to stay away from very profitable growing businesses!

Maybe if he apologises I'll introduce him to some of Virgin's flight attendants.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Come ski with Virgin!

Virgin Limited Edition is my company that runs my resorts around the world. They run my personal paradise, Necker Island. Additionally, they run my African Game Lodge, my London rooftop gardens, and my Moroccan Kasbah. But I was missing something important...

In January, my new resort will open: a ski lodge in Verbier, Switzerland!

We're keeping it low-key for now, but you can read the announcement here.

Yes, it's pricey... it's sadly not for the middle-class or pensioners at £35k-£60k per week (though you do get to have 18 people with you!). For 99% of the population, Virgin Holidays will take care of your every need. But for the very wealthy, they can pay for the extra experience that we at Virgin can provide.

Perhaps you'll even see me there from time to time, relaxing with my family!

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Kyla was wronged, Virgin America set it right

Kyla Ebbert is a wonderful young woman, who was banned by Southwest Airlines from flying because she of inappropriate dress. WHAT?!? Luckily she was finally allowed to fly, but it became a huge news story in the US. Do you think she was dressed inappropriately? Here's what she was wearing that day:

Well, I thought she was actually a beautiful young lady, who was a student and putting herself through school by working at Hooters. So when we opened our San Francisco to Las Vegas route on Virgin America, I invited her to take part.

And wow, did she look spectacular. Here are some photos:

So do you think she's fit enough to be a flight attendant for our airline? (See history here and here.) I certainly think so. She's currently thinking about it.

I mean, this is what she looks like in her off time with friends! (Kyla's on the left.)

Full story here and here.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

To Northern Rock customers...

I say... Virgin's coming.

You've been sacrificed by poor thinking and poor management of the current company. You've obviously worried about the credit crisis. But worry no longer, Virgin is on it's way.

Now, the deal's not done, and some bureaucrat could still stick his oar in and muck things up. But my advisors and I have pulled in an all-star consortium of investors to save the institution and re-brand it as Virgin Money. (Well, and sack all the managers that f**ked up.)

More details here.

This is what I get done during my strategic thinking time. And yes... you're welcome.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Monday, 22 October 2007

Thinking about the recent postal strike...

Ahhh... it's good to have a good weekend away from blogging. There's nothing quite like doing some strategic thinking on my hammock, away from my advisors that always try and put a sheen of respectability on my businesses. Well, respectability and reality... I'm not a details man.

You may have heard that Royal Mail here in the UK was on strike recently, for quite a number of days. That reminded me of how my Virgin empire really got started.

A long time ago, I was selling albums by post. (That's mail, for you Americans.) Then Royal Mail decided to strike, though that strike was for a LOT longer. Perhaps my greatest ability is to take adversity and turn it into a new and higher level of success. At that time, I was sitting on a stock of albums I couldn't ship, yet I had bills to pay. How was I going to get the music into the hands of people that wanted it?

Simple... I opened a store. I was young and nobody in London would have ever signed a lease with me, so I found a guy that had space above his store and hired it from him directly. Because we set up the shop as I wanted it as a music lover (you could actually listen to music in the store!), everyone wanted in, and it saved my business. Not only that, it set the stage for Virgin Megastores, my record label, and more. It worked out beautifully.

So yes, Royal Mail going on strike wasn't that much fun here in the UK. But not every strike is bad news... if it hadn't happened, Virgin may have become very different from what it is today. (And I think we can safely agree that that would have been a very bad thing!)

Thursday, 18 October 2007

For my Freakonomics fans...

So for those of you that liked the book Freakonomics, I recently answered a few of their questions on where air travel is going to be going in the future. Here's my favourite quotes from me:

Where most people see mess, I see opportunity. Thirty years ago, when I was stranded at an airport, I chartered a plane, sold seats to other stranded passengers, and in effect started Virgin Atlantic Airways.

That's the way to really start a business!

Travelers who’ve had enough of commercial air travel actually have greater options in private aviation. [...] We’re doing our bit with Virgin Charter, an online marketplace for sellers to put up their flights and for buyers to find and book flights as easily, as if on Expedia. So, the way I see it, it’s a brilliant time to be in the air travel business.

Let's be honest... if you're not flying on Virgin America, it's just better to take a chartered jet. And now you can arrange that through Virgin!

And a little promotion of Virgin America, too:

Virgin America passengers are entertained with 25 movie options, TV, games, in-flight chatting, and music. They can order food whenever they want it. They have power to charge up computers and, by next year, will have WiFi access at their seats. And why not have a bit of fun with mood lighting and a soundtrack in the bathrooms?

Yes, modern airlines are great, but only if you're flying Virgin. (Did I mention our flight attendants?? That's right, I did.)

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Virgin Money USA

We've had Virgin Money in the UK for quite a while now, and we finally had an opportunity to create Virgin Money in the USA.

You can read a bit more about it in the AP article here.

In the UK, Virgin Money does a whole ton of things, like credit cards, loans, mortgages, insurance, etc. We're starting off small in the US, and Virgin Money USA will be a way of formalising loans between family and friends. It's a great service, and a much better way of keeping everyone safe but yet not charging the home-wrecking fees that banks charge for loans.

Living it Virgin-style! Now back to my hammock for some more strategic thinking...

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

More fans, part two...

Ahh.... There are some days I really love being me.

Hat tip

More fans...

So I had a little chat with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News recently. This is what she had to say:

I just met Sir Richard Branson - who wants to be called Richard, and not Sir. He is pretty amazing and fun.I am positive you would like him. Among other things, he owns two airlines and he joked that the easiest way to become a millionaire is to first be a billionaire and then buy an airline. Regretably you won’t see this interview but maybe in the future we can book him for our show at ten pm.

Well, Greta, I insist to the public that I be called Richard (and no Sir!). However, I still insist that my advisors call me Sir Dick. It's the way I keep a little respect after things like this happen.

Monday, 15 October 2007

That f**king HURT

I've always done stupid stunts for publicity; they're what I'm known for now so I can't stop doing them.

But the last one I did really f**king HURT!

I was promoting Virgin America now that we're flying to Vegas, so my advisors planned a stunt where I essentially jumped from the top of the Palms hotel/resort/casino. I was on a rope, but it was damn near free-fall until the end.

The problem was that the free-fall was right next to the wall, and so when I ended up brushing against the wall, it ripped my trousers and hand apart. I did at least manage to release the free Virgin America tickets I had in my hand, but I freaked out a little at the speed and I don't think anyone caught them.

All I have to say is that at least it was my arse that brushed up against the building. If it had been my face or bollocks there could have been major repercussions.

Anyway, I don't think I'll be doing any free-fall jumps next to buildings, only with parachutes. I have to go beat the s**t out of the guy who suggested this, now...

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Here's the video from the news channel in Vegas:

Billionaire Branson Hurt In Stunt - The funniest movie is here. Find it

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Yes, I do weddings

You've probably all seen me in drag... I think that got me more comments than any other publicity stunt I've ever done. That was for Virgin Brides, which unfortunately didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. (As I mentioned in my TED talk, we just couldn't get customers.)

But I do officiate weddings, like one I did on the inaugural Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas. It was great fun, and I really enjoyed so many lovely ladies on board the flight. I also did an interview, or two, but at least the interviews were with people that had already been to Vegas. Not like this girl...

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

My TED talk

So I went to the TED conference earlier this year, and they finally got around to posting the video.

I'm not a huge fan of giving a presentation, so that's why Chris went with the interview format. (It also gave me a bit more time with the audience, 30 minutes edited; when most presentations are less than 20 minutes.)

I'll let you judge for yourself what you think, but I think it went pretty well.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Estate Agents

Walking around London recently I realised how many estate agents there are in the UK. And from what I've heard from customers and friends, they're all s**t. They cost too much, they scam you, etc. The reason people haven't been so concerned recently is that the London housing market has been rocketing so fast that no one really cares.

I think this may be a ripe opportunity to finally start Virgin Estate Agents. A good estate agent with a honest customer focus could be a true winner in London and the UK. Now, I haven't talked this over with my advisors yet, so they may shoot it down for a very good reason. But I'll at least have them look into it...

What do you think?

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Monday, 8 October 2007

Losing My Virginity - a late review

So even though I published "Losing My Virginity" ages ago, it's still getting good reviews.

Check out TJ's site here for his review. Some of my favourite quotes are:

The story of setting up Virgin Atlantic along all those setbacks is equally telling - Branson managed to brush aside all obstacles with luck, determination and sheer desperation sometimes.


As the title puts it - a must read for every entrepreneur.

Now TJ doesn't put the traditional disclaimer on this; while it's certainly a must-read if you want to be successful, it certainly doesn't guarantee success, and it certainly doesn't guarantee that you'll become a multi-billionaire like me. (Let alone the island paradise.)

I succeeded because I knew a hit when I had one, and I knew if I wanted to have a lot of hits, I had to try a lot of different things. (I've never been that good at focusing.) In my particular case, I took bigger and bigger leaps and had more and more successes. Of course when you develop something like the Virgin style that always focuses on your customer you're always going to be better off.

If you're interested in the book, just click on the picture of the book in the left-hand column of this page, and you'll be taken to the page for it.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Friday, 5 October 2007

Why I love doing (some) interviews

I mentioned before the benefits of being the boss: getting interviewed by fit birds. (Some of them are even fit enough to work for my airlines! Just check out what they do on holiday.)

Well, I found another video from one of my inaugural Virgin America flights. Strangely enough, she was from Los Angeles and had never been to New York City! I can understand how some Americans don't travel much, but this was a fit bird who is a television presenter. How did this happen?

I obviously made some quips about her Virgin trip to New York, and explained that we'd take care of her because we were so experienced. (Little did she know how experienced!)

Please note that I paid careful attention to make eye contact instead of chest contact with her... I'm pretty good about only doing that when the camera's off.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

World Leadership

So I was in Darfur with Jimmy Carter, and it got a little tense. You can read about it in this AP article.

Jimmy's a great guy, but he was President and is also getting a little old. This means that he wants to get stuff done while he's still fairly spy, and when things don't go his way he gets angry.

Luckily, he does end up remembering that:

a- he's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and
b- he's got more power and influence politically than anyone in Darfur.

So I helped calm him down, and we all worked things out.

It's a sad situation in Darfur, and I hope you all take some time to learn a little bit more about it.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Yes, I am a hip boss

I'm one of the top two people that Liverpool people would like to work for, according to this article. Considering that the other guy is Liverpool's football team manager, which would mean they just want to be a professional footballer, that really just means I'm at the top of the pile!

Good for them. Though statistics say that no one from Liverpool will become the entrepreneur that I've become, I do like to serve as a good example. But I could be wrong... the same thing was probably said about music before the Beatles came along.

Yes, I am a hip boss, and I invite you to apply to any of my 275 Virgin companies to prove it!

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Fit Flight Attendants, part 2

One of the more popular posts here was when I wrote about our fit flight attendants. I can understand why; travelling is far more enjoyable when you've got a professional that not only does their job well but looks good doing it!

All of my airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Blue, Virgin Nigeria, Virgin Express) have strict unwritten policies to hire the most fit flight attendants (male and female) that we can.

One thing I can't guarantee you is that you'll enjoy the same pleasures of flight that I enjoyed when I was younger, but I can't guarantee you that it won't happen!

Still not convinced? Well, this is a photo of one of my flight attendants on her beach holiday. Enjoy.

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Inviting more journalists into my home

I've mentioned before how much I detest inviting idiots into my homes, particularly my Necker Island paradise.

Well, I recently had to invite a couple of coaches of journalists to my Oxfordshire home. Over a hundred of them showed up because, well, I'm Richard Branson. They want to see my house, check out the neighborhood, because they'll never be able to afford anything near me. (There's less risk in reporting news than making it, and clearly less reward.)

I managed to get a little revenge, though. The A40 had massive tailbacks, so they were sitting in those coaches for a VERY long time.

What were they doing there? Well, I finally got around to launching a television channel, called Virgin 1. We've got great new shows like The Riches, which stars Eddie Izzard. (How many tele stations in the US would feature a transvestite comedian? They don't have that Virgin-style, baby!) We're starting small, but we'll be beating Sky One and all of the other s**t channels here in the UK soon. I mean, if they just do live coverage of the V Festival they'll get huge ratings from that alone!

Warm regards,
Sir Dick

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

UK's Top Dad

I'm a bit gob-smacked at this honor, but after looking at the list I think it's probably about right. I was named as the bloke "most British people would believe would be the perfect dad."

Now, I know my kids love me, and not just because of our home on Necker Island. (Which is very cool and my favourite spot on earth, by the way.) I think I am a cool dad, and let's be honest... I started the only cool business in the UK! (What other businesses is the UK known for? Banks, trains, books? Again, the only cool examples of those are our Virgin banks, trains, and books.)

So thanks to everyone who voted for me. I'm having my advisors look into starting a Virgin Parenting Classes business... I see some potential here.