Sir Richard Branson

Thinking Strategically (yesterday’s blog), in more prosaic terms is about seeing the big picture. What’s your big picture? For Richard Branson, it was customer service. He built the Virgin Group, a collection of seemingly unrelated businesses by targeting businesses where things were not being run well by other people.

From his first entrepreneurial venture at the age of 16 to his current big picture idea of Virgin Galactic, Branson has seen niches where others have chosen not to go or as in the case of Virgin Airways, where he was frustrated by current service levels. He founded Virgin Records because no one would produce and release  Mike Oldfield’s hypnotic Tubular Bells. He founded Virgin Atlantic because American Airlines canceled a flight to the Virgin Islands.

“There is no point in going into a business unless you can make a radical difference in other people’s lives,” Branson says. “To me, it’s like painting a picture: You have to get all the colors right and all the little nuances right to create the perfect picture, or the perfect company. I know that there’s need for Virgin to come in and attack a marketplace, because I know that I’m frustrated by having to experience bad service in that particular marketplace.” (

So frustration leads to big picture leads to another company. If you look at all of his business startups, he was attacking markets where he saw some combination of substandard quality mixed with high cost or slow service. For Branson, the big picture is all about changing the current paradigm of Quality, Cost, and Speed.