I've had my fair share of bosses over my career. Some were incredible, others were...well, let's say they were interesting. None of them even come close to being as unique, passionate and authentic as working with the Virgin man himself - Sir Richard Branson. As I prepare to leave Virgin Mobile Canada for the next stage in my career, I find myself reflecting on my role as Managing Director of Virgin Mobile Canada and trustee for Virgin Unite Canada and the amazing opportunity I've had working directly with Richard.
Not many people can say they've partied with a billionaire. I spent time with Richard inside and outside of the spotlight and even chatted with him as a friend. Richard is 100% genuine whether he's bringing together a group of world leaders or sitting down with a new Virgin employee. There's no one more real. The fun, young-at-heart adventurer isn't an act - it's all him.
I'm not afraid to expose my man crush on my former boss and here's why:
1. The joke's on you. Richard loves a good prank. He's the first to crack a joke and he'll be the first one to pull a prank on someone else. One time, while staying a hotel for an event in Vancouver, he answered the door "au natural" just to catch one of his team-members off guard. Talk about baring it all for a laugh! He dumped a bag of popcorn on my head once. It took an hour to get the butter out of my hair but it was worth the laughs.
2. He's up for anything. Richard is always up for a great new idea. If you've thought outside of the box, he'll be ready to bring it to life. His schedule is jam-packed with meetings, meet-and-greets, speaking engagements and stunts. Jump out of a helicopter into a room full of journalists for the launch of Virgin Festival in Toronto? Sign me up! Repel from bed sheets at Yonge-Dundas Square? Why not?! Dress up in a Super Man costume - not a problem. In fact, after losing a recent bet, he manned up and wore a flight attendant's uniform complete with fishnet stockings and red lipstick. Richard has more energy than anyone else in the room: working with him YOU are always more tired than he is by the time he gets out of the country.
3. He's got more Facebook friends than you do. No one has better connections than Richard and he loves meeting new people. Whenever he's traveling to another city or just walking down the street, even at the busiest times, he will always stop to chat with fans. Richard knows his friends are one of his biggest assets and so he continues to involve them in his various business and pro-social activities. Close friend and newest family member Kate Winslet is an active ambassador for Virgin Unite and Richard recently teamed up with friends like philanthropist Shari Arison and CEO of the United Nations Foundation Kathy Calvin to form The B Team; a global non-profit initiative that utilizes the power of business to create a positive impact for both people and the planet.
4. He uses the brand to give back. Richard is always looking to make the world a better place and get involved for a good cause. He knows that with his profile giving himself personally to a cause will make a difference, so he gets involved as much as he can. He and Matt Damon recently went on a toilet strike to bring awareness for clean water access. This kind of strike would be tough for anyone, but especially for someone whose view from the toilet overlooks the ocean at his home on Necker Island. He also prioritizes helping Virgin Unite and the RE*Generation movement. During one of his past trips to Montreal Richard took time to volunteer at Dans la Rue, a youth-serving shelter that helps at-risk and homeless youth in Montreal. He may not always flip his own burgers at home but you better believe that he busted out his BBQ'ing skills while getting to know all the young people in line.
5. Richard hearts his Virgin team. Richard has plenty of business experience but he acknowledges one important factor: his team. He loves spending time with his Virgin people from around the world and he admits that he learns the most about his businesses over beers with his staff than in any boardroom. Whenever someone asks him a question, he'll ask one right back. Nothing is off the table and everything is up for discussion. It's a great way to come up with fresh ideas for the business while getting to know his teammates at the same time.
If you didn't have a crush on Sir Richard Branson before I'm sure this tipped you over the edge. Richard is not like every boss; he follows his own path and plays it his own way. Whether he's talking to billionaire corporate executives, celebrities or a stranger he meets on his travels, he treats everyone the same. Richard is genuine and has a realness to him that makes him truly unique. He loves to bring his friends along for the ride. I'm going to miss Richard and the entire Virgin family dearly. Richard, if our paths cross again, I hope it's on Necker Island!