When it comes to people, trust your instincts

I was working on a deal many years ago that, for one reason or another, never got off the ground. During the process I found myself dealing with Rowan Gormley, who was working at a private equity firm. While the deal came to nothing, I was keen to get something out of it. Although the business opportunity wasn’t right for us, I thought that Rowan was.

To be a successful business leader you have to find people better than yourself to work with, and empower them to create great things. I saw that Rowan had the potential to be one of those people. Rather than wait around for the right role for him, or worry about qualifications, I seized the moment. I called him up and asked him to work for us. What’s more, I told him he could pick his own role.

Rowan told the story to Business Insider recently: “Richard just phoned me up and offered me a job. Which was weird, because at first I thought he was a friend pretending to be Richard Branson. When I asked, 'What do you want me to do?' He said, 'Oh, I don't know. Whatever you can do.'"

There is no point waiting around for the right moment and perfect opening to hire brilliant staff – you have to trust your instinct and put your trust in people. I felt confident Rowan would be an asset to the team, so said screw it, let’s do it. He went on to start our financial services company with Jayne-Anne Gadhia, which developed into the wonderful Virgin Money business still growing today.

Richard Branson and Virgin Direct

Now Rowan is an entrepreneur in his own right; he went on to found his own wine company, which became Virgin Wines. He then went out on to create another business, Naked Wines, which he merged with Majestic Wines. Now he is transforming that public company after tough recent times, with his focus on the people that made it great. He is a serial wine entrepreneur!

I’ve repeated the trick of recruiting people that I think will be an asset to the team from wherever I find them. It is also useful to get great people in advance. If you wait for an opening, you will only have those who come to interview to select from. If you are on the lookout all the time you will have many to choose from.  

Whether it is from a business meeting, a chance encounter or a formal hiring process, it is crucial to find the best people, then empower them to grow themselves as well as your business. Give them space to succeed, and give them support if they screw up. And always be on the look out for people who can help you along the way.



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