- Why do I start businesses? After five decades, the answer is still the same today as it was the day I started my first company: to make a positive difference to people's lives. I believe all businesses need to have this desire in their DNA in order to ultimately be successful.
- Virgin Airlines
Sadly, not every business shares this viewpoint (I’m sure you can think of a few without me having to name them). Those companies that put profit before people will ultimately be found out.
Take the airline industry. We have created three beloved airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and Virgin America, which have all been fuelled by a belief that passengers deserve better. Passengers deserve choice, they deserve courtesy, and they deserve care. They deserve innovation, they deserve respect, and they deserve an amazing experience. They do not deserve to be treated like numbers on a balance sheet, and cattle in a cabin.
We pride ourselves on heartfelt service. Allowing your team the freedom to be themselves is key to achieving that. By putting to many processes and procedures in place, staff can be hindered when they need to make judgement calls, based upon their experience, their humanity and the company culture. Across our hotels, our trains, our health clubs, our banks – all across the Virgin Group – we give our teams the latitude to make decisions based on common sense, not outdated rule books. It simply comes down to giving your staff the right tools to do their job, then trusting them to do the right thing.
When positive, heartfelt values are instilled in your team, they will be empowered, they will feel appreciated and know they are part of a bigger mission than just making money. This will come across in the way they treat your customers, who in turn will prove to be more loyal to your brand and service. And, in the end, this will reflect positively on your profits too.
Richard Branson surprises two Virgin Mobile Australia customers in Sydney
Every company and every business leader makes mistakes – I’ve made more than my fair share and I know I’ll make more. But what’s important is how you react and how you learn from your mistakes. If you face your mistakes head on, move fast and have built a strong company culture, you can recover from any setback.
If your business is not built upon people and purpose, you will only ever be papering over the cracks. If your business believes in supporting and growing its people, they will thrive and customers will come back over and over again.
Ultimately, if your business is truly committed to changing business for good, then eventually it will.