Neil's Heroes: Richard Branson

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 31, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

Click here to watch the interview

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: We begin on this book release eve with one of my favorites and a frequent visitor to this show, Richard Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic (search) empire spans the globe. A remarkable accomplishment for a man, I kid you not, once given up on in school as an idiot and whose teachers claimed would never amount to anything. That was then, billionaire Sir Richard Branson is now.

I caught up with him recently when I was at the White House. I asked Branson about his key to success. He echoed what he told me in his book, it’s about being real and not being a jerk.

Click here to read a 'More Than Money' chapter excerpt


SIR RICHARD BRANSON, CHMN. & CEO, VIRGIN GROUP: The people who become really successful in life are people who look for the best in people. And then people will die for you, and they’ll do anything to make sure that you know what you are doing is successful. If you mistreat people, then at the first opportunity they’ll put the knife in your back and it’s not good business sense.

CAVUTO: You know, knowing from your past and you had all sorts of problems in school, and looking where you are now, I know when your company first started out even reading a balance sheet was difficult for you, but your gut was always right. And that is what you value in bringing people, you are not afraid of bringing people who are smarter than you, who have better business skill sets. But in the end you were pretty comfortable who you were, why is that important, do you think?

BRANSON: Yes. I mean, a lot of the businesses I went into were because, you know, my gut feeling was that I could do it better than other people, and I was frustrated flying on other people’s airlines. So 20 years ago we set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and we created the kind of airline that I would like to travel on and other people would like to travel on. We didn’t get the accountants in because they most likely would have none given us lots of reasons not to do it. But if your gut feeling is that you can create the best, there is always a market for the best. And you know, being dyslexic (search), I wouldn’t have understood their figures any way, so that seemed to be the best way.

CAVUTO: But, you know, a lot of those with educational learning disabilities, have kind of looked to you and say, see mom, see dad, I can become a billionaire like Richard Branson, but in our society, whether it’s the British society, American society, any society, Richard, we tend to look down at them. How do we change that?

BRANSON: Well, there are lots of people who have had learning disabilities, who have been very, very successful, Churchill, myself, people, you know, who head up big financial institutions in America, who have managed to battle their way through it. And so, you know, it is important for people who have got dyslexia and other problems that they know that they don’t have to feel down in the dumps and they can look up to people who have been successful.

And you know, it depends on what the definition of success is. I think the other thing is they don’t necessarily have to become a millionaire or a billionaire. They should just get satisfaction from a particular aspect of life that they are good at. And they could be anything, from knitting to skiing to whatever. I mean, they just try to concentrate on what you are comfortable with and put aside the things that you are uncomfortable with.

CAVUTO: You know, I’m indulging your patience here, but one of the things I’ve recently written about are those with dyslexia and learning disabilities, is that they are far more empathetic and sympathetic, and as a result, far more caring bosses, do you think that is a consistent theme?

BRANSON: Yes. And I suspect if you had learning difficulties yourself, you are not going to, you know, have a sort of know-all attitude over your employees, and therefore, you know, you are likely to listen much better than, you know, if you are just too clever for your own good. So I suspect that somebody who has struggled a bit themselves will be more understanding than somebody who hasn’t struggled.


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