A former colleague of Richard Branson has revealed why the Virgin Group founder insisted on everyone standing during large meetings.
Huntley Ritter was president of branded entertainment at Virgin Produced, Virgin Group’s TV and entertainment arm, between 2011 and 2016.
Speaking to Business Insider about his experience of Branson, Ritter — a former Hollywood actor who is now CEO of interactive advertising firm USeek — said he always focused on maximizing efficiency. This included getting the most out of big meetings.
“He wasn’t a big fan of meetings,” Ritter said. “He did not like meetings; he did not like conference rooms. His thing was that if he was going to be stuck in a conference-type meeting, he wanted everyone to stand.
“It’s genius. If you’re standing, you’re not going to chit-chat for too long, and you’re not going to have long, drawn-out conversations. He always just seemed to be more focused on, ‘What are we trying to achieve? What’s the result?'”
Branson is not the only billionaire to despise big meetings. Elon Musk famously told Tesla staff to get rid of meetings with large groups of people and encouraged staff to walk out if they’re not adding value. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a “two-pizza rule”: Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed the entire group.
Ritter said: “What I noticed is that Branson’s very big on challenging the status quo. The first time I met him, and through all the first years I worked on campaigns… his whole mantra was ‘screw it – let’s do it.’
“What he means by that is: all the naysayers; all the people who are telling you that you can’t do it; all the people that say this won’t work; all the people who think is weird or whatever — he’s just like ‘well, f–k it. Let’s just do it. If we fail, we fail, and we try again.”
Branson influenced Ritter’s post-Virgin career as a tech entrepreneur
As well as being USeek’s CEO, Ritter is also the company’s founder, having set it up straight after leaving Virgin in 2016. It produces technology for turning adverts into interactive, game-like experiences. He boasts clients such as T-Mobile, GoPro, and Universal Studios.
He says Branson has “absolutely” been an influence on his own entrepreneurial style. “What Branson did remarkably well — which probably influences every person that’s gone on from a Virgin experience — is he set a cadence of culture and achievement and the possibility of achievement with little nuggets,” Ritter said.
“I catch myself, maybe not saying ‘screw it – let’s do it,’ but taking that approach. Living and being a part of that culture is not being afraid to ask questions; not being afraid to say, ‘Hey — I don’t know what you’re talking about. Can you please break this down in common English for me? I don’t get what you’re saying.’
Ritter added that Branson was able to instil this ‘screw it — let’s do it’ mantra throughout the numerous companies that comprise Virgin Group.
“Branson set that pace and culture, and he did a really good job to transfer that from a brand level down into all the different companies,” he said.
“[What] I think about all the time as an entrepreneur is, ‘How do you do that? How do you impose that into the culture of a brand where people tell stories about it?’ That’s the difference between entrepreneurs and legends.”