Advice from Richard Branson: give your employees freedom

By Jack Preston of Virgin

Richard Branson

You won’t come across many people who have never had a boss. The thought of not having someone to answer to at work is a peculiar one for most people, however for Richard Branson it’s a natural state of affairs.”Having always worked for myself, I’ve never had to play by anyone else’s rules, and I wouldn’t want to. This attitude has shaped my approach to management since Virgin’s early days, when I decided to grant our employees many of the same freedoms that I enjoy,” wrote the Virgin Group Founder in a recent blog.

Without a rule book to adhere to or a rigid company policy to bear in mind, Branson and his Virgin staff have managed to shake up countless industries over the years. A company defined by a ‘Screw it, let’s do it’ attitude towards tough decisions, Virgin has seen its refreshing outlook pay dividends and win the faith of consumers.

“Today the Virgin Group is made up of dozens of companies headed by CEOs and managers who have the freedom to run their businesses as they see fit. This philosophy goes against the usual rules of business and may seem unmanageable, but it has turned out to be one of the keys to our success,” explained Branson. Who went on to highlight how this played out for one of the Virgin Group’s newest companies in 2012.

“Our newest business, the global touring company Virgin Live, had a great launch for this reason. Although the Virgin brand is well respected within the music industry given our roots we had no history of promoting global tours. However, our small, enthusiastic team at Virgin Live beat competition from giants within the industry and won the right to promote The Rolling Stones’ 50 & Counting series of shows. This was a very proud moment for us: If you are going to enter this business, there really isn’t a bigger or better way to show your intentions.

“Before their show at London’s O2 Arena, I caught up with Mick Jagger to have a word and take a few photos with him and my family. After we were chatting he jokingly asked me if I was going to disappear, because ‘That’s what all the other promoters do.’ I had no intention of doing so. ‘I’ll be seeing you down the front,’ I told him.

“My family and I watched the show standing in front of our seats near the stage. It was a fantastic night – they put on a marvelous show. Why anyone would have passed up the opportunity to see it is beyond me. I thought later that Mick’s question showed why we had won the contract: Our employees love what they do and throw themselves into the work, so they achieve much more than anyone would expect.”

Men want freedom, women want security. Give it to them, and life is easy.

Jeremiah Josey

Ricardo Semler on Compensation

Employers began hiring workers by the hour during the Industrial Revolution. Their reasons were simple and rapacious. Say you ran out of cotton thread at 11:30 in the morning. If you paid people by the hour, you could stop the looms, send everyone home, and pay only for the hours actually worked.

You couldn’t do such a thing today? The law probably wouldn’t let you. The unions certainly wouldn’t let you. Your own self-interest would argue strongly against it. Yet the system lives on. The distinction between wage-earning workers and salaried employees is alive but not well, nearly universal but perfectly silly. The new clerk who lives at home and doesn’t know hot to boil an egg starts on a monthly salary, but the chief lathe operator who’s been with the company 38 years and is a master sergeant in the army reserve still gets paid by the hour.

At Semco, we eliminated Frederick Winslow Taylor’s segmentation and specialization of work. We ended the wage analyst’s hundred years of solitude. We did away with hourly pay and now give everyone a monthly salary.

Jeremiah Josey

Drop the facade, cut to the chase…

My wife and I wandered into the new 360 mall here in Kuwait today, as you do in Kuwait – visit malls.  The 360 mall is a very beautiful place, pleasant surroundings with lots of water features and plants and pretty shops with pretty people.  It’s a pretty place to be.  We wandered into the cinema area and found that Michael Moore had released a new film: Capitalism, A Love Story.  So we went in to see it.

Yet again Michael has done an excellent job pushing, poking and assembling a whole host of stories circulating the recent collapse of the western finance system (yes it was a collapse: the government bailouts just reset the counters, pushing repayment of the collapse onto future generations for decades to come).

A strong secondary theme running through the movie is that of the democratic workplace.  The juxtaposition is very nice.

I totally recommend a veiwing or three.

BTW, “Dead Peasants Insurance” : want to feel like a real commodity with your employer? Dig around at your work and if you find such a thing exists then send details to Mike Myers.

Jeremiah Josey