Book #61

Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson

In Business Stripped Bare, Sir Richard Branson shares the inside track on his life in business and reveals the incredible truth about his most risky, brilliant and audacious deals. Discover why Virgin tried to take on one of the world's biggest superbrands, how Virgin Mobile USA holds the record as the fastest company in history to generate revenues of over one billion dollars (faster than Microsoft, Google and Amazon) and how Richard is the only person in the world to have built eight billion-dollar companies from scratch in eight different sectors.

There were a few raised eyebrows when I announced this was what I was reading next. Despite being a non-fiction hater, I have a business degree, and I manage a team. I bought this book back in the university days, read a few pages, then left it to languish on my bookshelf, always favouring the excitement of the fiction world over business facts and advice. I should have stayed there.

Branson is one of the main men in business today. Virgin is one of the most diverse brands on the planet - he has his fingers in rail and air travel, banking, telephony, health and fitness, and even has his own branded vodka. This autobiography had lots (and lots) to say about how he managed it all, but instead of taking us under his wing and giving true business advice, he simply told us what he'd done, how brilliantly it had worked, and implored us to follow his lead.

Don't get me wrong, there is an entire chapter detailing mistakes made in the past, and how he learned from them. This is an excellent message, but the mistakes seemed to conveniently be the fault of something, or someone, else (such as, when a Virgin train derailed and killed a passenger, it was the fault of the rails, not the train), or mistakes that could easily be written off to experience and didn't exactly land Branson in a tonne of shit.

I was looking, in the main, for ways in which to empower employees to own their roles and take joy from them. Branson is a man of the people, and I was convinced his chapter on being exactly that would give me some, if not all, of the answers. Turns out all he suggests are completely common sense strategies that any manager worth their salt will already have employed. He gives no examples of times he's empowered and motivated his own staff, and instead boasts that they just manage to find the right people to work for Virgin. As though absolutely no lazy bellends have slipped through the net somewhere; they are all amazing entrepreneurs.

Let me be perfectly honest - I skipped most of this. Self-aggrandising, name-dropping, dull, heavy on the factual statistics, light on the business advice, and no doubt heavily ghostwritten, it was another nail in my non-fiction coffin.