A New York minute
Wow, what a whirlwind trip to New York City. I touched down on Monday to check out the soon-to-open Virgin Hotels property, which sits right in the heart of Manhattan. It’s a true work of art, with 40 floors and a glass geometric façade that reflects the light and the sights of the city.
I’ve always loved New York, but to see the Virgin logo shining brightly on such a beautiful building just off Broadway, and to see its sweeping views of Times Square, the Empire State Building, the East River and downtown Manhattan was something else.
It was also brilliant to catch up with the team who have brought the hotel to life, and are setting a whole new standard of what a luxury hotel can be. The energy and ideas they have brought to the project have really raised the bar – from pet-friendly rooms to a rooftop pool club and a sky loft with 30ft glass walls on three sides. I enjoyed a Q&A with the team, and to hear their suggestions for how the hotel could run. It was wonderful to see so many engaged, energetic and thoughtful people in the room, and it left me feeling assured the hotel is in the best possible hands. It was also interesting to see how the New Yorkers brew their tea. I think I’ll stick to English Breakfast from here on in!
After a day spent with the team, I joined the premiere of BRANSON – HBO’s documentary series about my life. It was great to meet the team and chat to the director, Chris Smith. It reminded me why it’s so important to share your stories (warts and all) so other people can learn from the highs and the lows of your life. I’m also very excited to say the first episode is available in the US today on HBO and HBO Max (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) and will air in the UK on December 4 (through Sky Documentaries and Now TV) and in Australia on December 2 (on Binge).
While in New York, I also visited the LinkedIn team at the Empire State Building for a live audio Q&A with Dan Roth – LinkedIn’s Editor-In-Chief. We covered a lot of ground during the conversation – discussing everything from the new stories in my updated autobiography (Finding My Virginity), to the importance of hiring the right people. Bringing the right people into your business cannot be underestimated, especially at a senior leadership level. At Virgin, we look to hire people who praise instead of criticise and who have great character traits. At the end of the day, you can teach people skills but you can’t create personalities. We also spoke about flexible working and how I’ve encouraged it throughout my career. When Virgin was growing in the 80s, I lived and worked on a houseboat with my two (then) toddlers running rings around me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. We also spoke about some of the toughest moments of my career and how I’ve learnt to deal with times of intense stress.
On the last day of my trip I joined Steven Bartlett on his podcast, The Diary of a CEO. Steven has such an inspiring entrepreneurial story himself, as a university dropout who went on to launch one of the UK’s fastest growing companies by the age of 29! It was great looking back on how he got his start too – I’m proud to say with some support from Virgin along the way. I’m excited to share the podcast with you all, so stay tuned for the episode to launch on December 12.
These busy three days went by in a New York minute, but I’ve left feeling so excited for the team at Virgin Hotels, and so inspired by the other wonderful people I met in Manhattan. I hope you all enjoy watching BRANSON and reading Finding My Virginity, and I hope you learn something from them too.
Until next time, New York!