November 12, 2008
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Business Stripped Bare
Two autobiographies, 200 some companies, even a Simpsons parody, and there certainly seems enough Richard Branson to go around the world (hot-air balloon pun intended) these days. By any standards the Virgin CEO has little left to prove, and could rightly be focused on enjoying those looming golden years on his privately owned Caribbean island ($20,500 a night if you’re interested). But instead, he wrote book number three. Will his energy make you feel lazy? Sure. Just check the publisher--Virgin Books, of course.
The extensive scope of the Virgin name is well covered here--from cell phones to prospective ventures in space tourism--and Branson's own unparalleled business zeal is evident just inside the cover. A copy from his journal lists a smattering of "Last year's new projects:"
3. Ordered 5 new A380XX's - biggest plane in world
4. Opened game reserves in Africa
5. Bought 5 miles Mayorcan Coastline for new hotel.
And that's just three of the 23 entries on that list. But do the following pages offer a hint to the secret of loving what you do as much as this guy does?
Generally conversational and non-stylized, evidence of Branson's characteristic spitting-contest bravado is intact. He isn't shy to remind us that Virgin is "the only one of the top twenty [brands] that has diversified into a range of business activities, including airlines..." Or that it's the "fastest company in history to generate over one billion dollars in revenue." And while basically his business advice takes a common sense, everyman's approach ("We run our companies professionally ... But the way we make sure is to see that people are having fun"), the combo of swagger and documented success makes for equal parts guidebook and page-turner. In the cluttered world of nuts-and-bolts approaches to management, Branson's is like a breathe of fresh air.
Business Stripped Bare is an entertaining read, surprising in that despite Branson's larger-than-life life, his business advice is still approachable. Business, he reminds us, is simply about "creating things" and that "business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives, or it's simply not worth doing." Even if you won't find groundbreaking specifics in Branson's biography, it's a story that reminds us of the limitless potential of ambition mixed with a healthy ego.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.