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on December 22, 2008
"...enjoy your life. You only get one."

If you have read previous Sir Richard Branson's books; you have read most of it already. However, this book, "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur", Sir Richard Branson focused solely on the business side of his life. Actually, all his life is about business! Unlike other business book writers, he has the first-hand experience in Virgin. In this book, he covered lots of topics. A quote from the book "So all I can do for you now (and I firmly believe that this is all anyone can honestly do) is map the territory I've seen. The good news is, I've covered a lot of territory."

Contents

- Introduction

- People: Find Good People - Set Them Free

In this chapter, he generally wrote about the culture in Virgin.

- Brand: Flying the Flag

Richard Branson wrote exclusively on Virgin Blue in Australia and how he fought hard to beat the competition and established the Virgin brand there.

- Delivery: Special Delivery

Among other things, he started the chapter with Virgin Trains and how it reshaped the industry in UK. He moved onto how he run Virgin Records and how he started Virgin Mobile in UK and in the US.

- Learning from Mistakes and Setbacks: Damage Report

Failure to acquire the bank, Northern Rock, is the focus of this chapter. Richard Branson is also subjected to mistake and he wrote on how to bounce back.

- Innovation: A Driver for Business

Virgin Galactic is going to be huge and tell me after you read this chapter that you don't want to travel into space!

- Entrepreneurs and Leadership: Holding on and Letting Go

He wrote about his experience with Nelson Mandela and how he set up Global Elders to tackle the humanity issues around the world.

- Social Responsibility: Just Business

This chapter is fantastically inspiring. He separated it into two parts. The first is about his activities to relieve Africa from HIV and Aids. He also wrote about Bill Gates and how they shared philanthropy to make the difference in the world. The other part is the climate change issue. You heard it all before but instead of pouring fear to you, Richard Branson offers you hope.

- Epilogue: Success

...

This book is not written as an autobiography. I think of an ideal business book and I'll compare Business Stripped Bare to it; a book that is easy to read, distinct, practical, credible, insightful, and provides great reading experience.

Ease of Understanding: 8/10: Richard Branson wrote it in plain language and make the readers follow him easily. The drawback of the book is that sometimes, the issues jump back and forth from mobile to records to airline to health clubs to finance and so on! Anyway, the part on Virgin Galactic (the rocket science) is not rocket-scientifically difficult to understand!

Distinction: 7/10: Although his life experience is one of its kind, there are other books on this already namely "Losing My Virginity" and "Screw It, Let's Do It" by... Richard Branson...! However, the way he explained the general ideas of people, innovation, brand, etc (the usual business terms) through his experience is unlike those typical business books that litter these contents with figures, theories, graphs, models, metaphors and so forth.

Practicality: 5/10: Richard Branson offers no solid steps to encourage people, enrich brand, turbocharge delivery, foster leadership, and so on. He believes that everyone has his/her own story and way. He did not say that following him is the best approach to business but he made you think of your own. However, his general comments (with his experience as the credentials) are valuable and you cannot really dispute them.

Credibility: 10/10: His ideas are proven; people, brand, delivery, leadership, and so on. He made it work. Where is the better place to find the idea of business and entrepreneurship other than the words of one of the greatest global entrepreneurs?

Insight: 7/10: Although Richard Branson do not describe the ideas of innovation, brand, people, social responsibility with academic researches and scientific findings, he wrote it from his experience which is more valuable than most researches. Not that researches are insignificant but his life should be taught as a module in business schools. But if you already read his other books, this book will offer you only few new contents.

Reading Experience: 10/10: This book is like a journey into one of the most adventurous businessmen in the world. Like he said, the book (his life) covers a lot of territory. If you like reading other people's life, there is no better person to read than Richard Branson. This book is like an adventure that it starts out with serious business contents with sparks of excitement and ends with good causes and social responsibility that we can make a difference not on but to Earth.

Overall: 7.8/10: This book is encouraging; it encourages you to go out and start a business. This book is motivating, it motivates you to make your business exciting. This book is inspiring; it inspires you to make you business meaningful and virtuous. This book will not make you want to be Richard Branson but it will make you want to have a great business life. This autobiographical business book is for everyone who loves business. If you have read Richard Branson's book before, do not expect it to be something totally new. If you have not, I don't see a reason why shouldn't you give it a try.
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on November 27, 2008
Having attended high school with Richard Branson's first wife, and being an admirer of his "Virgin" empire and adventurous spirit, I try to read everything I can on him. This book is filled with detailed information on his latest Virgin experiences - sometimes it gets a bit too tedious, and Branson tends to "toot his own horn" on occasion. I think it's the kind of book you read in parts, and since the chapters are rather long, a reader may have to "cut the tale" down to shorter segments. I will say this- a few years ago, I invited an Virgin Atlantic official to speak to a foreign language class on how to utilize another language in a career. She did an excellent job in her presentation and also treated the students to "virgin" gift bags. I wrote to Mr.Branson in praise of his employee, and he immediately sent me a "thank you" note for supplying this onformation to him. I was forever impressed.. !!
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on October 20, 2014
[Cut down version of by review on big-lies]

In my revisionist view, which will escape most ordinary readers, a weakness of Branson, from the point of truth, though not necessarily money-making, is his failure to speak out about Jewish and other concealed corruptions and assumptions. He says 'communism and socialism are no longer taken seriously because they simply don't work. ... They are disastrous though well-meaning systems that have ruined hundreds of millions of lives.' Of course, 'Communism' was not well-meaning, but a Jewish system in which non-Jews were regarded as disposable. And national socialism did work—it was, and is, attacked precisely because it worked. Broadly, Branson supports nationalisation of banks, but not removal of Jewish privilege. Branson's public image has always been 'politically correct' and he joins a dishonourable crew—Kissinger's Peace Prize, the Iraq War young woman liar, Obama's ridiculous Peace Prize, 9/11 and Climate Change actors and liars, liars on sundry rights. His laughable praise for Obama/Soetero. The implausible projects: Prof Yunus' Grameen bank 'lifting whole communities out of poverty .. African companies poised for rapid growth.. every year 5% of Grameen borrowers move out of poverty'.

The book ends with Kipling's If; and possibly Branson genuinely can keep his head when all around are losing theirs. I hope he can come up with something more stellar in future.
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I picked this up half-price at Copenhagen airport, and I liked it so much I have ordered Screw It, Let's Do It (Expanded Edition): 14 Lessons on Making It to the Top While Having Fun & Staying Green.

I must note that normally I would reduce one star--Virgin Books evidently has no clue--or no interest--in using the many Amazon tools provided to publishers (I am one) and therefore we are not seeing so little as a Table of Contents and the Index (always huge for me in evaluating a non-fiction book for possible purchase) or even better, "Look Inside the Book," which is no harder than uploading the book pdf via Amazon Advantage. Bad dog.

Here are my fly-leaf notes.

1) Updated and post the financial melt-down, where to the author's enormous credit, he has been leading voice for castigating the bankers for failing to protect against the downside. He glosses over the failure of government and the blatant corruption of the American Congress, but he is on target generally.

2) Early on (this is the first book by this author I have read) I begin to see the brilliance of the "many small better than one big" approach to business, and I absolutely smile with delight throughout the book as I read about specific Virgin organizations getting to 200-300 people, and being split with the deputies being given their own shop--talk about inspiring leadership and incentive to excel, this is it!

3) Early on and throughout the book I am introduced to a man who is unique for having created EIGHT new industry leaders from scratch that each earn over a billion a year, but who had also--and this may be a big part of his righteous righteousness--been people friendly and planet friendly from the first.

4) Business as creation rather than profit is exactly right, and the author does not speak of but clearly embraces "triple bottom-line" and true cost or ecological economics and natural capitalism. His own term that I like very much is Gaia Capitalism, which is vastly superior to Bill Gate's "Creative Capitalism" that has not actually used the full power of Microsoft and Gates' money, they are just playing around with hit and miss projects.

5) His priorities are clear: people, the brand, why delivery is vital, what we learn from mistakes and setbacks, and using innovation as a driver. I am actually reminded of Geneen, the head of ITT in its day, read about him in Geneen. (Made ITT into the most successful conglomerate in history) who said famously "find the best, pay them 10% above the industry standard, and (in a separate comment) let them make mistakes they will remember."

6) The author is on to something important when he writes about the importance of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship as part of something much larger than any one company. His specific experience with Africa is most helpful and also very credible.

7) Ethics is huge with this man and his benevolent global enterprise.

8) Some of his basic rules of thumb include avoid taking on someone else's legacy, which resonates with me as a fan of Buckminster Fuller, who said that instead of trying to reform a broken system, create something new that displaces it. "Virgin" was selected by the author as a concept associated with start from scratch "pure" and I really see the value of that as a brand amidst all the corruption that comes with the The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System,Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism [SHOCK DOCTRINE 7D] to name just a few of the many books I have reviewed (see Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, click on the menu for <Capitalsm (Good and Bad)> (108 books), and also Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth (28 books). I've tried for years to help Amazon improve but Bezos is walled in and/or simply does not listen.

9) I am impressed by the author's discussion of other models for business "families" such as the US financial model with equity holdings, the Korean families model with central holding, and the Japanese families holding with cross-over stock shares.

10) I read with interest that no Virgin company goes bankrupt, and I like this very much, it is so very different from the American model well-described in The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.

11) I like the author's discussion of "ruthless is bad" because ruthless has consequences, and his emphasis on treating others decently shines throughout the book. I am *especially impressed* by the manner in which key people can be released by Virgin with best wishes to a new personal opportunity, and then welcomed back with open arms years later when the "fit" is again right for both the individual and Virgin. See my reviews of 74 books under Best Practices in Management at Phi Beta Iota.

Other notes:

a) Never do anything that keeps you from sleeping at night

b) Working to create jet fuel from algae

c) Started with thoughts of James Baldwin, specifically that war is between poverty and privilege, and that the West is collapsing under the weight of its own lies--I'm there, and that is why as a recovering spy I have been pressing for public intelligence, and why after reading C. K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits I decided to spend my last 20 years as intelligence officer to the poor, and funded Earth Intelligence Network in that direction.

d) I learn for the first time about the Elders, and this leads me to spend time on Virgin's web sites, all at a very early stage of development.

e) I learn that HIV transmission from mother to baby can be stopped with medication to the mother six weeks prior to brith and an injection for the baby six weeks after birth. This is of course HUGE.

This book has stayed on my mind longer than most. This author is a moral capitalist, a leader, and a good soul.

See also:
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
Out of Poverty (EasyRead Large Edition): What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
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on March 24, 2015
Outstanding. Such a wonderful collection of ideas, antitodes, lessons and big thoughts. Absolutely wonderful to know that I/we get to share the planet with a person like this. I would hope you would find relatable information on just about every page. To be honest, as good as the first 323 pages are the four pages of the Epilogue may be the most powerful.
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on March 29, 2010
I am a huge fan of Richard Branson's. There is no questioning his global success, charming nature and humanitarian ideals. He is not, however, a great writer.

I found it difficult to complete each chapter as the book reads more like a doting mother speaking of her beauty queen daughter than as a serious guide to building and managing a successful enterprise. Most stomach-turning was his description of what makes a Virgin employee so "special." You'd think Mother Teresa was "just the stuff" they require because "even the best isn't good enough for Virgin." Gag me.

I can't in good conscience give the book a one-star rating, but two stars is about all I can muster. I really wanted to love this book but just couldn't do it.

Richard Branson owes me a beer for my time. (And if you're reading this buddy, I'm serious.)
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on March 1, 2009
The book has some good advice, notwithstanding the fact that Sir Branson does like to pat himself on the back. I found the book hard to read because there was no logical flow. The book is a stream of consciousness of anecdotes. If you can get past the odd writing style (I couldn't), and are looking for a little history on Branson and some business tips then you might enjoy it.
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VINE VOICEon July 31, 2009
A great book to read for any entrepreneur or business manager. With great insight as well as humor, Richard Branson tell us his view of the business world, his many success stories and a few disappointments. It is an inspiring story but people like Mr.Branson are one in a billion. If the rest of us try to follow the act, we will quickly realize that none of it is as easy as it looks. As an entrepreneur I can very well admire and appreciate Mr.Branson's capabilites. But just like how a club tennis player can look with awe but cannot imitate, the elegance of the strokes which Federer plays with such ease, we need to realize that a Brenson act is one that would be practically impossible to be replicated by anyone else.

But the book offers good advice, though Mr.Branson still seems to be continuing to sell his brand through the book as well - especially in the first 200 pages. The last 100 pages are more fascinating as Mr.Branson moves away from the Virgin story and tells us the challenges the world is facing. His approach to solving the problems of humanity is very inspiring and he shows how all of us at any level can contribute in our own way. And no contribution is too small.
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on April 15, 2009
Instead of an extension of his own autobiography "Losing my virginity" and its condensed version "Screw it, Let's do it" which covered primarily his early years and personal adventures till his set up of Virgin Atlantic, the author deliberately made this book a business one that taught enterpreneurship and business management, with plenty of case studies of his own. The stories and lessons are by all means readable and helpful. However, the passion one can smell from his early work is no longer there. I guess the author had been so aware of the need to remain politically correct and to go after positive PR value when his business empire had grown to this scale and is still growing. No matter what, an excellent read. Highly recommended!

p.s.Below please find some of my favorite passages for your reference.

We thrive on ideas, but our day to day business is about delivery. Good delivery depends upon many things. Two of the most important elements are good communication and attention to detail. Neither of these essentials is difficult to understand or implement, so, naturally, they are often the first things we forget. pg 95
Most useful to you if you are reading this for business lessons - is this note: Staff desperate for someone to listen. pg98
I know that if I present an unready idea to experts such as Ernest and Young or McKinsey, they will advise me how much money I stand to lose. If I go to PricewaterhouseCoopers or KPMG with the same idea, they could well tell me how much I'm going to make. In neither case do I learn anything useful about my idea. pg159
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on October 7, 2013
This book wasn't as good as I wanted it to be after reading Losing my Virginity first, which is also by Sir Richard Branson. It does teach a lot about business though, especially how larger, international businesses are formed and ran. Having such aspirations as running my own business empire some day soon, I have to say that this is still a must read for anyone with similar goals in life as myself and Sir Richard Branson...
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