Richard Branson is always telling us that he surrounds himself with great people. Why?
All entrepreneurs have a vision, goal, something that drives their ideas; something that they want to achieve, succeed at, be, do. And in this article we’ll explore why our chances of success are multiplied if we share that vision with someone else.
Many of the world’s best-known and most successful leaders have a collaborator or collaborators – Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Larry Page and Sergey Brin all come immediately to mind. Working closely with people who are motivated by the same goals and lit by the same fires can lead to unique partnerships and compelling results.
Richard Branson has often repeated that his success is largely due to the inspirational minds with whom he works, but I would take this assertion just a little further and venture that it is a direct result of Branson’s talent for recognising talent in other people and putting it to good use. Many managers and even business owners are actually afraid of talent, creativity and especially originality. They don’t want to listen and can get quite creative themselves discrediting it, or simply won’t accept its existence. Branson, however, is always on the lookout for exceptional people by his own admission, and has cited this as a key reason for his exceptional success.
And they don’t have to be famous thinkers, business coaches or mentors – just passionate people who love what they’re doing, do it well and are eager to learn, learn, learn. An early collaborator was Branson’s own cousin, Simon Draper, whose taste in music became the single most critical element of the ethos of Virgin Music. It was his input in the business that transformed their record shops from ordinary stores into arbiters of musical taste.
Great collaborators have a combination of unique qualities in common – accept nothing less:
Your ideal collaborator is probably very close to you in personality, temperament, outlook and interests*. I work well with my sister, for example. We offer between us a complimentary set of practical skills, and have a unique chemistry, shared interests, ambitions and goals. (The same jokes tickle us and we both love classic cars.)
On top of this, we are nicely tuned in to each other’s values, commitment to deliver excellence, and ways of working. Commitment is often overlooked by many entrepreneurs in the search for other qualities, but it for me it would be a key requirement in a collaborator. Practical skills can be taught, but personal observation and experience both within and outside formal employment have taught me that dedication and perseverance are elusive qualities, not easily come by.
Many people in business focus on what they imagine to be best for themselves, without considering the bigger picture. And they’re proud of it. But this is a mistake. Although we cannot always visualise it easily, paying attention to the benefits and opportunities that we can generate on behalf of strategic connections as well as ourselves can return surprising dividends**. I truly believe that solipsist people score endless home goals as they try to press all the advantages for themselves, often pursuing a reckless path of deceit, betrayal, greed, abandonment and desperate self-preservation which eventually catches up with them as their reputation dissolves. So when you’re looking for someone to partner with, pick someone whom you know you can trust to look out for your business interests as though they were their own; and reward them as best as you can for it.
The people with whom we choose to work also influence us in many subtle ways, the extent of which we are sometimes not even aware of. I also believe that if we are willing and receptive, the right collaborators can transform our outlook, mindset, attitude, measures of success and failure, and enhance our self-development significantly. Do you think you could spot your perfect collaborator?
*Joshua Wolf-Shenk’s Powers of Two
**Adam Grant’s Give and Take