Virgin territory

richard branson 2Almost four decades after buying his own piece of Caribbean paradise, Sir Richard Branson is one of the region’s most famous residents, entrepreneurs and ambassadors. A keen kitesurfer and sailor, the 65-year-old is known too for his philanthropy which has extended to supporting Antiguan cricketers. Here the British billionaire businessman – who prefers to describe himself as a “tie-loathing adventurer and trouble-maker” – speaks exclusively to Luxury Locations The Magazine.

• What do you love most about the Caribbean?
It has to be Necker Island. It is a beautiful jewel in the British Virgin Islands and the place my family and I call home.

• Have you ever been to Antigua?
Yes I have been to Antigua. It is a fantastic country and one I visited when Virgin sponsored the Antigua Hawksbills cricket team.

• What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project always amazes me. A setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.

• What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I normally wake up around 5am and answer my emails. I try to always do some exercise too in the morning and will normally go to either the gym, play a game of tennis or go kitesurfing.

• What’s your proudest achievement/biggest regret?
My proudest achievement is becoming a husband, a father and now a grandfather to three wonderful grandchildren.

• What’s the most important advice you’d give somebody starting a new business?
Here are my top five ‘secrets’:
Number one: Enjoy what you’re doing. Starting a business is a huge amount of hard work, requiring a great deal of time; you had better enjoy it.
Number two: Create something that stands out. Whether you have a product, a service or a brand, it is not easy to start a company and to survive and thrive in the modern world. In fact, you’ve got to do something radically different to make a mark today.
Number three: Create something that everybody who works for you is really proud of. Businesses generally consist of a group of people, and they are your biggest assets.
Number four: Be a good leader. As a leader you have to be a really good listener. You need to know your own mind but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice.
Number five: Be visible. A good leader does not get stuck behind a desk. I’ve never worked in an office – I’ve always worked from home – but I get out and about, meeting people. It seems I am travelling all the time but I always have a notebook in my back pocket to jot down questions, concerns or good ideas.

• Environmental sensitivities have long played a role in your business ventures. What would you say to encourage more people to help protect our planet?
It’s really in our hands whether our children and their children inherit the same world. I believe business can be at the heart of the solution to our environmental problem and think customers should demand businesses adopt green measures or invest towards a greener future.  

• What do you do to relax?
I find exercise helps me relax a lot; if I’m on Necker I usually go kitesurfing.

• What’s your all-time favourite album?
Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’.

virgin 20092384366• Tell us one thing people don’t know about you?
People may find it very hard to believe but I was very shy when I was a young man.

• Who do you most admire and why?
I have long admired Nelson Mandela. He had amazing courage and conviction overcoming a corrupt political system. Nelson Mandela’s life story is one of those great examples of truth being even stranger than fiction.

• You have already left a tremendous legacy – what would be the one thing you would most like people to remember you for?
To have created one of the most respected and admired companies in the world. Also through our foundation Virgin Unite, to have encourage and inspired people to believe that they can make a real difference – all they need is the confidence to get out there and give it a go.

by Gemma Handy