Promptness of Action: A Lesson From Richard Branson
Richard Branson has the nickname “Dr Yes” among his staff members at Virgin due to the fact that whenever he is presented with a question, request, or a problem — his automatic reply is always a positive one rather than a negative one.
His philosophy is that it is important to find reasons to do something rather than not to do it. If something looks like a good idea and there is an opportunity to learn, the best thing to do is to just do it. His motto really is: ‘Screw it. Let’s just do it.’
Whenever he is asked at what time a particular thing should be done, his automatic reply is always, “As soon as possible”. When boat builder, Ted Tolemann asked him to sponsor a powerboat event in order to win back the Blue Riband for Britain, he ”accepted the offer at once”. When asked when preparations should be made for the competition, his answer was, “Immediately”.
Promptness of action has always been part of his character, and his penchant for being on time stems from a lesson his father taught him when he was a young man: He was late to a gathering one day, keeping his father and his friends waiting for longer than appropriate. When he did arrive, his father made him stand in front of everyone and publicly taught him the importance of valuing other people’s time. Branson said he has not been late ever since — at least not when it is something he could control.
The entrepreneur has been photographed on several occasions running through the streets of London or New York to make haste for meetings. On one occasion, he ran 15 blocks through New York’s summer heat and traffic to meet someone for an interview on climate change.
He made it a few minutes just before his slot. “I was sweaty,” he says, “but I wasn’t late!”
He believes that poor punctuality is incredibly disrespectful, and that It is irrelevant whether you’re a celebrity, a carpenter, a politician, or a painter: we all have but 24 hours in a day, and no one’s time is particularly more important than another's’.
“It is important to ensure that you will be there when you say you will be there,” he says. “This may feel like an old-fashioned tip to give, but it has served me well for five decades in business.”
His advice for if you find yourself running behind due to factors completely out of your control? Call ahead and apologize: “It shows you are serious, and it shows you are organized. But, most importantly, it shows you are respectful of other people’s time.”