His parents…

We grew up talking as friends to our parents. As children we discussed dad’s legal cases, and argued about pornography and whether drugs should be legalized long before any of knew what we were really talking about. My [parents always encouraged us to have our own opinions and rarely gave us advice unless we asked for it.

On his dyslexia…

My dyslexia was a problem throughout my school life… … Perhaps my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read.

On stupid IQ tests…

I found it was only when I was using real numbers to solve real problems that math made any sense to me. … … Inside the classroom I was a complete dunce at math. I once did an IQ test in which the questions seem absurd. I couldn’t focus on any odd the mathematical problems and I think that I scored about ZERO. I worry about all the people who have been classified as stupid by these kinds of tests. Little do they know that often these IQ tests have been dreamt up by academicians who are absolutely useless at dealing with the practicalities of the outside world. I loved doing real business pans – even if rabbits did get the better of me!

Student…

Of course, we wanted to make money on Student too – we needed money to survive. But we saw it much more as a creative enterprise than a money-making one. Later it became apparent to me that business could be a creative enterprise in itself. If you publish a magazine, you’re trying to create something that is original, that stands out from the crowd that will last and hopefully, serve some useful purpose. Above all, you want to create something you are proud of.

How the name Virgin came about….

‘Slipped Disc’ was one of the favorite suggestions. We toyed with it for a while, until one of the girls leant forward: ‘I know’, she said. ‘What about “Virgin”? We’re complete virgins in business!” ‘And there aren’t many virgins left around here’, laughed one of the girls. ‘It would be nice to have one here in name if nothing else.’ ‘Great’, I decided on the spot. ‘it’s Virgin!’

being in prison… for a night…

That night was one of the best ever. I have always enjoyed breaking the rules, whether they were school rules or accepted conventions such as that no 17 year old can edit a national magazine. As a 20 year old I had lived entirely on my own terms, following my own instincts. But to be in prison meant that all that freedom was taken away.

After leaving Iraq…

My last sight of the Iraqi soldiers was of them gathering together and starting to pull open the red Virgin packs we had given them. We may well have been the first westerners they have ever met. They knew that the second lot would arrive soon, roaring overhead and firing missiles.

On adventures… dare devil acts…

I am often asked why I go in for record-breaking challenges with either powerboats r hot-air balloons. People point out that, with success, money and a happy family, I should stop putting myself and them at risk and enjoy what I am so lucky to have. This is obvious truth, and part of me wholeheartedly agrees with it. I love life; I love my family and I am horrified by the idea of being killed and leaving Joan without a husband and holly and sam without a father. But another part of me is driven to try new adventures and I still find that I want to push myself to my limits.

Growth of virgin

By 1986, Virgin had become one of Britain’s largest private companies, with some 4000 employees. For the year ended in July 1986, Virgin had sales of 189 million compared with 19 million for the previous year… … In many ways going public was an attractive option: it would enable Virgin to raise money which we could invest in new subsidiaries; it would swell our balance sheet and use our expanded capital base to borrow more if we wished; it would enable me to issue shares, which they could easily trade … …

Mid-life crises??

One month ago I was doing an interview with Vanity Fair and was at all0time low. I’d seemed to have run out of purpose in my life. I’d proved myself to myself in many areas. I’d just turned forty. I was seeking new challenge. I was considering selling up everything expect for the airline. Getting smaller. Being able to focus on the business venture that I loved. But also to have the time to try to se my business skills to tackle issues that I felt I could help, such as in attacking the cigarette companies, cervical cancer…etc. I’d felt I would get better satisfaction in this way and would not be wasting the next 40 years of my life just running companies, getting bigger – a repeat of the first 40 years!

Love of ballooning…

I love ballooning. It is one of the most peaceful things I have ever done and makes me feel completely immersed in nature. Apart from the times when you fire the burner, which can frighten horses and cows and… you feel absolutely separate from the rest of the world. Nobody can telephone you; nobody can interfere with your flight; you are free. A balloon is one of the most natural forms of transport…I once flew over a haystack and found 2 stark-naked lovers curled up on the top, out of sight from everybody expect me!

The vision of Virgin…

The more frequently I am asked about my vision for Virgin’s future. I tend either to avoid this question or to will give a different version the next time I am asked. My vision for Virgin has never been rigid and changes constantly, like the company itself. I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen.

Priorities of Virgin…

Despite employing around 40,000 people, Virgin is not a big group – it’s a brand made up of lots of small companies. Our priorities are the opposite of our large competitors’. Convention dictates that a company should look after its shareholders first, its customers next and last of all worry about its employees. Virgin does the opposite. For us, our employees matter most. It just seems common sense to me that if you start off with a happy, well-motivated workforce, you’re much more likely to have happy customers. And in due course the resulting profits will make you shareholders happy.

Giving back to the community…

What I’d always thought was that Virgin should be more than just a money-making machine, and that virgin has the wealth of a small ation, we should use that wealth to tackle social issues more than we had in the past. Companies do have a responsibility to tackle them. Bill Gates, over the last few years, has invested enormous amounts of money trying to develop vaccines to stamp out deadly diseases. Despite the difficult time he’s had, and the bad press Microsoft has received, he’s given an awful lot back to the community; He’s a tremendous example to all other entrepreneurs.

On brand name and reputations…

One of the things I’ve learned over my years in business is that, once you have a great product, it is essential to protect its reputation with vigilance. It’s not just a question of getting it into the marketplace. As a result, every day I receive a bundle of press cuttings… … Most companies don’t’ acknowledge the press and have a tiny press office tucked away out of sight. It an inaccurate story appears in the press and is allowed to run for more than one issue of the paper, it becomes fact. Then, every time your product is mentioned, this same story will be repeated.

The last paragraph…

At the outset, each of those individual ventures was a step into the unknown for the company – a bit like the loss of one’s virginity. But, unlike losing your virginity, in whatever would you make for yourself, you can keep embracing the new and the different over and over again. That’s what I have always wanted for Virgin and whether it’s achieved by judgment or luck, I wouldn’t have it any other way.