By Mark Creedon
What flying with Richard Branson taught me and what you can learn from it too
I was due to fly to Melbourne a couple of years ago.
There was nothing surprising in that, I have been flying between Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne every week for a couple of years.
Wow hasn’t covid changed all of that!
I normally flew Business class, so that I can get work done, and given the amount of flying I was doing, the cost difference was quite small.
This time though the cost difference was huge, so I decided to fly Economy.
Guess who jumped on, sat in business, AND spoke to every person in business class that day?
Yep, Richard Branson himself. And that there ladies and gentlemen is my experience of flying with Sir Richard.
The interesting thing though is what he had to say (or what parts of it that I was privy to sitting back in Economy!) From his announcement to the whole plane, came three great takeaways that you can apply in your business.
Sir Richard took to the PA and thanked everyone on the plane.
He thanked his team traveling with him, he thanked the pilots and all the flight crew, and then he thanked all the passengers.
It wasn’t just some rehearsed generic thanks though. He thanked the pilots by name. He named each and every member of the crew and thanked them not just by name but also shared a very small amount of personal knowledge about each of them.
I have no doubt that they all would have felt quite special.
He also thanked the passengers, not by name of course but he made sure that no matter where you were sitting on the plane that you felt like he was speaking to you.
He thanked them for their business, and he singled out the regular flyers, thanking them for their loyalty.
It is a skill, to be able to make people feel special in a group message but it is a skill you can learn if you practice!
What Richard did here was to understand that the biggest stakeholders in his business were his team and his clients, and he found a way to thank them for working together.
He took time with his team.
During the flight, there were lots of selfies with him and the cabin crew.
He spoke to each of them, by name, and he took the time to make each of them feel valued.
When the plane landed, he let his team step off first. He was telling them how important they are.
Daniel Pink in his breakthrough book ‘Drive’ said that an essential ingredient in a successful workplace was a sense of belonging and being valued.
Branson not only took time with the team but made them feel like they were all a part of one large family.
I also noticed that as he left the plane and walked through the airport, he spoke with all the Virgin team as he went.
He took time. There was no rush.
So, he thanked, and he acknowledged and, in the process, made each of his team feel special.
In the process of thanking the passengers, he made this great acknowledgment.
Rather than simply thanking passengers for flying with Virgin, he acknowledged that they had a choice.
“There are two airlines you could have chosen for this flight, and I want to acknowledge that you have chosen us over Qantas,” he said.
It was just that one step further than just a thank you and it was clever.
You see, in most cases, your clients have chosen you over the competition. Acknowledging that they had that option can be very powerful.
When I look back on the flight, I regret the fact that I didn’t get to sit next to Sir Richard, but I appreciate the simple business lessons he reminded me of that day.
Have a think about your business and ask yourself these simple questions:
When did I last take some time to thank my team and my clients for their support?
When did I last help my team feels valued and a part of a bigger team?
It is worth remembering here that your team doesn’t just include those actually working with you. It includes contractors, suppliers, alliances, and partners.
Finally, when did you last acknowledge that your clients have a choice of who they do business with?
The great news is that you can take steps right now to achieve each of the lessons from Sir Richard.
Well… go on then!
Mark Creedon is the founder of Business Accelerator mastermind by Metropole and business coach to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – helping them build a true business, not a job.
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