Richard Branson: Three rules of simplicity that every business should follow

Keeping things simple isn’t always easy when you’re building spaceships, transporting people across the Atlantic or supplying millions of homes with broadband. But that’s exactly what Richard Branson has managed to do at Virgin...

Here we take a look at the Virgin Group founder’s three top tips for ensuring that simplicity reigns supreme. As he recently explained: "The best solutions are the ones that break down and simplify a problem, making the solution obvious. Entrepreneurs who pin their hopes on complex ideas forget the age-old truism: Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

Image from

1. Avoid micro-management at all costs

"I recently flipped through the declassified 'Simple Sabotage Field Manual', published in 1944 by the US Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA. It lists numerous strategies that saboteurs in business environments can use to derail progress. Surprisingly, many of those tactics are being used in offices around the world today!

"For instance, the manual instructs saboteurs who have infiltrated organisations to "insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions".

"It also advocates for being extra cautious and advises that every decision be referred to committees. Managers are advised to "Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions... See that three people have to approve everything where one would do."

"These instructions might sound outdated, but they’re timeless."

2. Make your ideas fit on the back of an envelope

"These days, when somebody pitches me a business idea about doing something better in an established industry, I ask if a summary can fit on the back of an envelope. If it is too complex to be explained in just a few words, then it is unlikely that consumers will understand it, and even more unlikely that they will buy it."

Image from

3. Remove unnecessary barriers

"Years ago, Britain’s Office of Telecommunications came up with a plan to make the UK the first country in the world to allow mobile customers to keep their mobile phone number when they switched carriers. That simple step of removing that barrier of inconvenience to customers encouraged competition and deterred mobile phone companies from making switching operators a complicated or expensive process for consumers.

Image from

"This straightforward change led to a rise in innovation and disruption in the industry. Disruptive companies often do a similar job of reducing complexity in customers’ lives. So when you’re putting together your business plan, remember: Simplicity is bliss."

Do you have any tips for keeping things simple in business? Let us know below...


Our Companies

Quick Links