Never judge an entrepreneur by their shoes

You can tell a lot by looking at a person’s shoes, so goes the old saying. With that in mind, it would be interesting to know how the rest of Kevin Plank’s afternoon turned out yesterday; having swapped shoes with him during the middle of our appearance at Virgin Atlantic’s latest Business is an adventure event.

As I sat there listening to Kevin speak about the positive impact Under Armour trainers have had on the careers of so many great sportsmen and women, it seemed like as good a time as any to put his words to the test – especially when they were in Virgin red!

Alongside Kevin, it was great to hear the thoughts of Sheila Johnson of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Donna Harris of 1776 on the rise of entrepreneurialism in Washington, D.C. Virgin Atlantic have been flying to the American capital for 20 years now and it’s fair to say the city has changed quite a bit in that period of time. It’s always been a place where people who want to change the world go, however nowadays plenty are choosing to do that through business as well as politics.

The city’s footprint on the world is a large one and while you wouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon, it certainly might be altering. D.C. is quickly becoming a world leader for businesses in the education sector, energy industry and for companies who want to help people make a positive difference in the lives of others. The three local start-ups who joined us on stage – Edbacker, GoodWorld and Ethical Electric - are all testament to that.

One of the things that the start-ups were keen to know more about is how those of us who had run businesses for considerable periods of time went about creating a strong company culture. What’s interesting is how different our leadership styles appear to be, yet they have all resulted in the same thing - successful companies with happy, motivated teams.

While I’ve always been a big advocate of delegating work in order to be able to concentrate on the next project, Kevin still enjoys being involved with the day to day workings and fine details. And while Sheila may wish to search externally for people to fill new positions and improve her businesses, at Virgin we’ve always focused on promoting internal talent whenever possible. There’s no doubt that there’s more than one way to run a good business - it’s down to finding the solution that works for you, your team and your industry.

So next time you meet an entrepreneur don’t, judge them by their shoes. Oh and if you come across Kevin Plank, do tell him how comfortable his shoes are. A perfect fit. Looks like we share more than just a passion for business!

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