If you aim higher than you expect, you could reach higher than you dreamed of.
When you don’t have any money, it is easy to feel limited in what you can achieve. However, we have often found the most creative ideas come when you don't have the luxury of big budgets.
A number of years ago, we wanted to try to get seatback videos into all of our Virgin Atlantic planes. We were particularly keen to get seatback videos in economy class, so that everybody could enjoy high quality entertainment while experiencing the excitement of flight.
No airline had ever launched seatback videos before and we started working with a couple of manufacturers to try to develop them.
While we had the ideas and the technology was becoming increasingly advanced, the cost was restrictive. Initial estimates suggested it was going to cost something like $10 million - money we simply did not have as a small challenger airline.
Undeterred, I went off and tried to borrow $10 million from everywhere I could think of. I couldn’t find any banks that would lend us it, which was bitterly disappointing. I was sitting down desperately trying to think how we could do it when I had a brainwave.
We didn't just want to introduce seatback video to expand our best-in-the-air services, we wanted to expand our whole airline. I picked up the phone to Boeing and asked: "Would you like to supply us with 12 new 747s?" They said they would be happy to do so.
I said the deal was theirs, as long as they agreed to include the seatback videos in every plane. They happily agreed. From failing to get a loan for $10 million, we managed to get a loan for $2.5 billion. We soon had brand new planes, beautiful seatback videos, and beat BA to the innovation by several years. For years every kid who had travelled Virgin would complain the whole flight if they ever flew with anyone else.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business leader or a customer, it’s important to keep your expectations high. Settling and compromising on standards doesn’t lead to innovation.