Richard Branson: what your office says about your business

This week’s dose of business advice from Richard Branson sees him discuss how the building in which your company is based can impact your ability to lead...

"Success in business is all about people, people, people. Your team is your biggest competitive advantage, no matter what industry you’re in, which is why it’s so important that business leaders look after their people," writes the Virgin Group founder.

"The ability to motivate and inspire is a critical skill that every modern-day leader should strive for - you have to be very effective at praising staff and bringing out the best in them. The way I see it, employees are like flowers: If you water them and give them ample sunlight, they flourish. If you praise people and give them opportunities, they flourish."

Virgin’s current Future Visions project, which has seen Richard Branson convene some of the world’s finest minds in order to predict what the next 20 years in business will look like, has recently been focusing on role that buildings will play in creating the right atmosphere for teams to flourish in.

As cognitive neuroscientist, Araceli Camargo, explains: "Buildings are a crucial player in innovation, whether it is your basement or an office, most of our work, ideas and collaborations happen within buildings. Therefore, understanding how buildings affect us is a crucial step in the innovation cycle."

This approach is something that Branson himself tries to implement across the Virgin Group, which has always stayed away from the traditional or corporate office setup.

"We seek to motivate staff members and keep them continuously engaged by providing them with well-designed, environmentally sound offices that offer plenty of natural light, by giving them stimulating tasks to work on and by making sure that their health and wellbeing is taken care of. We know that a happy and healthy employee is a successful one - and a successful employee builds a successful business," notes Branson.

"But even more crucial: Business leaders must be great listeners. Your top-floor corner office might offer some wonderful views, but if you’re not getting out of that office on a regular basis, you won’t have a proper understanding of what’s going on in your company."

Richard Branson and staff in a meeting at the Battleship

Once you have the physical aspects of your business in place, it will enable you to focus on the softer aspects of leadership, with the Virgin Group founder constantly striving for smooth collaboration across all of the Virgin businesses and people.

"A good leader should be visible, accessible and approachable. She should get out there, listen to people, take notes on what they tell her and help to drive solutions that quash any anxieties that may arise.

"Since the very beginning, our team at Virgin has placed a firm emphasis on “we” rather than “I”. Our businesses are focused on breaking down the silos that can inhibit or stifle collaborative team efforts that drive innovation.

"We also believe that innovation should not be solely reserved for so-called creatives or leaders with titles - it’s for everyone. We tend to value everyone’s opinions and ideas, and we’ve found that employees who are working on the front lines every day or dealing with our products or services first-hand are often best placed to suggest improvements and come up with solutions to problems."

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