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Business Stripped Bare

March 21, 2010

Filed under: entertainment,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:30

Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur is written by British industrialist Sir Richard Branson. He is responsible for launching 360 companies under the Virgin brand over the past more than 30 years. At the time of the book’s publication (copyright 2008), the Virgin Group was valued at an estimated 12 billion British pounds. In today’s dollars, that’s more than $18 billion. Not bad for a guy who left school at age 16 and never attended college. He is the 261st richest individual worldwide, according to Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires.

I met Branson, sort of, at SolidWorks World 2009 in Orlando, Florida. He spoke to those attending the event in a keynote session and then answered questions at a press conference that I attended. The guy comes across as being genuine and humble, both in person and in the book. That’s when I got a copy of Business Stripped Bare, compliments of Branson himself, and I finally got around to reading it.

Like a dose of Ambien, some books put me to sleep. Not this one. It is anything but dry and had my attention from start to finish. The writing is excellent, to Branson and his editor’s credit. He writes in first person and shares intriguing, often gripping, stories and anecdotes about his business dealings and some of the astonishing people he has met.

Branson talks mostly about his companies, nearly all of which are relatively small. He said he never wants to run a large corporation. Branson takes risks and often uses his natural instincts to make important business decisions. As one would expect, Branson presents most of his Virgin companies, employees, and culture in a favorable light, yet he did not come across as boastful in the book. The 330 pages convinced me that his companies offer some of the best products and services that money can buy.

Not all is rosy at Branson’s companies, however. Last Thursday, I read a USA Today article about some very unhappy passengers aboard a Virgin America flight from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK. The flight circled New York for two hours due to bad weather and then was diverted to Newburgh, New York. After landing, the 126 passengers were kept on board for 4.5 hours, and then the flight was canceled. Passengers were livid and said they were treated rudely by the flight crew.

Overall, I believe Branson and the Virgin Group are top notch. His recent work on attacking HIV/Aids and climate change is noteworthy and he’s done a remarkable job creating the Virgin brand. He offers helpful words of advice to entrepreneurs and is a source of inspiration when encountering challenges and taking risks. I found the book entertaining and stimulating. Get it and read it. You’ll be glad you did.