Skimming pebbles

Have you ever stood by a lake and thrown a pebble; skimming it so it bounces across the water, and creates ripples on the surface? I love watching the rings flow out, and move and affect everything in their radius. Skimming pebbles is one of my favourite pastimes, literally – often find me rock in hand, down by the sea side with my children or grand children – and figuratively, in the way I like to lead in business.

Richard Branson Tens Sunglasses Necker Island

Richard Branson Tens Sunglasses Necker Island

Skimming pebbles is a great analogy for leadership in business. I am the kind of person who comes up with an idea, talks about it and waits to watch the wonderful reaction it causes. More often than not, talking about your idea can attract fantastic people with a shared passion and the skills and talents to make it come to life.

It's no secret that I wasn't the most academic student. Dyslexia held me back from focusing on school work and achieving good grades. But I quickly learned that if I flanked myself with people that complemented my weaknesses, I could work with them towards greater achievements.

Richard Branson young school class

Over the past 50 years, I have used this as my model for doing business - simply put: I like to throw a pebble into the water and let the ripples go out and find fantastic people to do the things I cannot. 

In the very early days, I entrusted my fresh-out-of-university cousin, Simon Draper, to take the lead on buying music for the company. While I had always appreciated music, Simon lived for it. He didn't just casually enjoy an album, he understood it. Simon's taste in music became the single most critical element of the Virgin ethos. Our record shops were not just stores, but arbiters of taste. Simon's keen ear for talent, shown by his appreciation for Mike Oldfield, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Culture Club, The Rolling Stones and many, many more, eventually led us to create Virgin Records - without which we could have never started or propelled Virgin Atlantic.


While the Virgin Group has always been my vision, a number of people have significantly influenced the journey along the way. There are far too many to name-check, however over the course of my career I have worked hand-in-hand with many inspired minds to bring innovative ideas to life. And I'm not alone... Many of the world's most powerful and successful people do the same. Every leader has a team.

Their actions and behaviours resonate with us and subconsciously influence our everyday choices. It's therefore incredibly important to surround yourself with people who complement you, aid your self-development, and most importantly allow you to shine.


Finding the spotlight isn't about standing in it. There's so much to be gained from working with a collective of people who support each other to achieve great things.

I might not be the best person at doing every job in business, but I have become a great pebble skimmer!


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