Dear Sir Richard (just kidding! You’ll always be just Richard to those around you),
I’m writing to you from 15 years in the future. You’re now 65-years-old, and while you’ve lived a happy and healthy life with no regrets, I have some advice for you.
Welcome to the 21st century. I don’t want to give away too much – or worry you – but the world as you know it is about to change. It’s a great time to be alive; however the human race is set to face so many new challenges. You’ve never gone into business to make money, but instead always wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives. It’s time to step things up, and do more. Over the next decade and a half you’ll realise just how much business can and should be a force for good.
Hone in on your passion points – animal conservation, human rights, conflict resolution, climate action, drug policy reform – and get thinking about ways in which you can make an impact in these spaces. You’ve met so many wonderful leaders and change-makers throughout your 40 years in business; reach out to them and galvanize them. It’s up to all of us to create the world we want to live in, and we can if governments, businesses and individuals work together.
If you need more incentive to act, think about your children. Holly and Sam are growing up in a very different world than you did. There’s no need to be concerned about them; they are the most amazing adults, and you and Joan are so proud of them. But if you lead by example, you’ll encourage them to find their passions too. Passionate people are happy people. The future needs passionate, happy and confident young leaders, willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for their convictions. Spend as much time with them as you can. The teenage years can be awkward, but if you’re present in their lives and stand by them, you’ll come through these years with two of the best allies and friends anyone could wish for.
Virgin has always been a ‘family’ business. You started things with your friends, who became your family. In years to come Holly and Sam will become great assets to the Virgin brand as well. Involve them now. Teach them the ins and outs. You will be amazed at the fresh insight they can provide you with and the value their young minds can add to the business. Plus life is more fun when you work with your family and friends.
On the business front, you may feel like you’ve achieved just about all there is to achieve, but let me tell you, there are so many more great things to come. The US, Latin America, Asia, Australia, the ocean, and even space – the sky is no longer the limit and the future will be so bright, if you continue to look for opportunities where others see challenges. Just remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, make sure you place purpose at the heart of your words and actions.