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Sir Richard Branson: Smart Phone? I Prefer a Brilliant Assistant 2013.04.02

April 02, 2013 - I couldn't get through the workday without my assistant, Helen. While gadgets like smartphones and tablets certainly do have a huge positive impact upon my working life, it is the people around me who really make the difference. Helen is my memory. She travels the world with me, is delightful to have around, and is extremely adaptable and sociable wherever we find ourselves. With so much going on with my mind, having an extra memory is important. Before I ask her to do something, she can read my mind and know what it is I am thinking before I ask.

Sir Richard Branson and Helen, a Brilliant Assistant.
Courtesy of Virgin, Richard's Blog / Enigma Magazine

April 02, 2013

By Sir Richard Branson
Founder of Virgin Group

I couldn’t get through the workday without my assistant, Helen.

While gadgets like smartphones and tablets certainly do have a huge positive impact upon my working life, it is the people around me who really make the difference.

Helen is my memory.

She travels the world with me, is delightful to have around, and is extremely adaptable and sociable wherever we find ourselves.

With so much going on with my mind, having an extra memory is important.
Before I ask her to do something, she can read my mind and know what it is I am thinking before I ask.

There are some people who seem to be able to do everything themselves.

I am a great believer in the art of delegation and in sharing the load to make everyone more productive.

Having an assistant who is completely in the loop with our activities means we can keep up with everything.

In this photo released by Virgin America Airlines, Sir Richard Branson relaxes at the new sustainable Terminal Two (T2) at San Francisco International Airport, April 6, 2011 in San Francisco.
The Terminal is slated to be the first LEED ® Gold-certified terminal in the U.S. and offers features intended to improve the typical airport experience, like a stress-free “Recompose” lounge post-security, free wireless and plugs throughout, living room-like gate spaces and “moodlighting” that reflects Virgin America’s own signature cabin lighting.
The only airline headquartered at SFO, Virgin America’s growth stimulated the project and informed the T2 design process from the earliest stages.
Courtesy of Virgin America / Bob Riha, Jr.
People often ask how I am able to keep on top of businesses in dozens of different countries and industries.
Well, having an assistant who is on the ball 24/7 is one of the main ways it is possible.

We are a moving office.

I don’t believe in sitting in an office all day, so there is no reason for one’s assistant to have to sit in an office either.

This makes Helen’s job a lot more fun too.

I find dictating emails is an excellent time-saving method, and by dictating she also knows what is going on and can be 100% in touch.

We do an awful lot of traveling and my assistant can smooth the journeys through, helping with the nitty-gritty details and logistics that would otherwise be a distraction.

This frees up time for me to think about the bigger picture.

Many people are using technology to make assistants a thing of the past.

However, for those businesspersons in a position to do so, they may be missing a lot by going it alone.

Assistants are a great sounding board for new thoughts and spark lots of fresh ideas.
Plus, business travel can be pretty mundane sometimes and having company is very good for people.

Sir Richard Branson inside the Virgin office, the U.S.
Courtesy of Virgin, Richard's Blog
Before Helen I was lucky enough to have Nicki, a wonderful assistant who has stayed in the Virgin family, where she does sterling work for our foundation Virgin Unite.

Back in the beginning I had Penni, a remarkable lady who travelled with me for 28 years.

Sometimes I feel that assistants work harder than the people they are working for and show unbelievable diligence.

They really do become part of the family, and I count my assistants among my greatest friends too.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

One day offices will be a thing of the past

March 04, 2013

By Sir Richard Branson

The debate about remote working has raged for the past week following Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's opposition to her staff working from home.

Now Michael Bloomberg has said he's always thought working from home is 'one of the dumber ideas I've ever heard'.

I have enormous respect for Michael Bloomberg and have rarely disagreed with anything he has done or said.

However, on this occasion I disagree completely.

Many employees who work from home are extremely diligent, get their job done, and get to spend more time with their families.

They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance.

To force everybody to work in offices is old school thinking.

He has always worked out of an office and it has worked extremely well for him.

I have always worked from home so I CAN spend more time with my family.

Both approaches have been effective for us and the organisations we lead.

Sir Richard Branson
Courtesy of Virgin, Richard's Blog
While we can disagree on this issue, I have nothing but admiration for both Marissa Mayer and Michael Bloomberg, they are both extremely talented people who are very good at what they do and have proved successful.

The key for me is that in today's world I do not think it is effective or productive to force your employees one way or another.

Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce.

In 30 years time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.

Do you agree that offices will one day be a thing of the past?

If your company allows flexible work options, tell us how it's been successful or could be improved.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Give people the freedom of where to work

February 25, 2013

By Sir Richard Branson

To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other.

A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.

It is the art of delegation, which has served Virgin and many other companies well over the years.

We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen.

Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.

Sir Richard Branson
Courtesy of Virgin, Richard's Blog
So it was perplexing to see Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer tell employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities.

This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.

If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.

Working life isn't 9-5 any more.

The world is connected.

Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Source: Virgin, Richard's Blog


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