Review: Business Stripped Bare–Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur

5 Star, Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Best Practices in Management, Biography & Memoirs, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Change & Innovation, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Disease & Health, Economics, Education (General), Environment (Solutions), Leadership, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Priorities, Survival & Sustainment, Technology (Bio-Mimicry, Clean), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Practical as Well
October 31, 2009
Richard Branson
I picked this up half-price at Copenhagen airport, and I liked it so much I have ordered Screw It, Let’s Do It (Expanded Edition): 14 Lessons on Making It to the Top While Having Fun & Staying Green.

I must note that normally I would reduce one star–Virgin Books evidently has no clue–or no interest–in using the many Amazon tools provided to publishers (I am one) and therefore we are not seeing so little as a Table of Contents and the Index (always huge for me in evaluating a non-fiction book for possible purchase) or even better, “Look Inside the Book,” which is no harder than uploading the book pdf via Amazon Advantage. Bad dog.

Here are my fly-leaf notes.

1) Updated and post the financial melt-down, where to the author’s enormous credit, he has been leading voice for castigating the bankers for failing to protect against the downside. He glosses over the failure of government and the blatant corruption of the American Congress, but he is on target generally.

2) Early on (this is the first book by this author I have read) I begin to see the brilliance of the “many small better than one big” approach to business, and I absolutely smile with delight throughout the book as I read about specific Virgin organizations getting to 200-300 people, and being split with the deputies being given their own shop–talk about inspiring leadership and incentive to excel, this is it!

3) Early on and throughout the book I am introduced to a man who is unique for having created EIGHT new industry leaders from scratch that each earn over a billion a year, but who had also–and this may be a big part of his righteous righteousness–been people friendly and planet friendly from the first.

4) Business as creation rather than profit is exactly right, and the author does not speak of but clearly embraces “triple bottom-line” and true cost or ecological economics and natural capitalism. His own term that I like very much is Gaia Capitalism, which is vastly superior to Bill Gate’s “Creative Capitalism” that has not actually used the full power of Microsoft and Gates’ money, they are just playing around with hit and miss projects.

5) His priorities are clear: people, the brand, why delivery is vital, what we learn from mistakes and setbacks, and using innovation as a driver. I am actually reminded of Geneen, the head of ITT in its day, read about him in Geneen. (Made ITT into the most successful conglomerate in history) who said famously “find the best, pay them 10% above the industry standard, and (in a separate comment) let them make mistakes they will remember.”

6) The author is on to something important when he writes about the importance of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship as part of something much larger than any one company. His specific experience with Africa is most helpful and also very credible.

7) Ethics is huge with this man and his benevolent global enterprise.

8) Some of his basic rules of thumb include avoid taking on someone else’s legacy, which resonates with me as a fan of Buckminster Fuller, who said that instead of trying to reform a broken system, create something new that displaces it. “Virgin” was selected by the author as a concept associated with start from scratch “pure” and I really see the value of that as a brand amidst all the corruption that comes with the The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism [SHOCK DOCTRINE 7D] to name just a few of the many books I have reviewed (see Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, click on the menu for <Capitalsm (Good and Bad)> (108 books), and also Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth (28 books). I’ve tried for years to help Amazon improve but Bezos is walled in and/or simply does not listen.

9) I am impressed by the author’s discussion of other models for business “families” such as the US financial model with equity holdings, the Korean families model with central holding, and the Japanese families holding with cross-over stock shares.

10) I read with interest that no Virgin company goes bankrupt, and I like this very much, it is so very different from the American model well-described in The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.

11) I like the author’s discussion of “ruthless is bad” because ruthless has consequences, and his emphasis on treating others decently shines throughout the book. I am *especially impressed* by the manner in which key people can be released by Virgin with best wishes to a new personal opportunity, and then welcomed back with open arms years later when the “fit” is again right for both the individual and Virgin. See my reviews of 74 books under Best Practices in Management at Phi Beta Iota.

Other notes:

a) Never do anything that keeps you from sleeping at night

b) Working to create jet fuel from algae

c) Started with thoughts of James Baldwin, specifically that war is between poverty and privilege, and that the West is collapsing under the weight of its own lies–I’m there, and that is why as a recovering spy I have been pressing for public intelligence, and why after reading C. K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits I decided to spend my last 20 years as intelligence officer to the poor, and funded Earth Intelligence Network in that direction.

d) I learn for the first time about the Elders, and this leads me to spend time on Virgin’s web sites, all at a very early stage of development.

e) I learn that HIV transmission from mother to baby can be stopped with medication to the mother six weeks prior to brith and an injection for the baby six weeks after birth. This is of course HUGE.

This book has stayed on my mind longer than most. This author is a moral capitalist, a leader, and a good soul.

See also:
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
Out of Poverty (EasyRead Large Edition): What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail

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