An Unlikely Encounter with Sir Richard Branson

Do you bear in mind as a toddler being prompted with the query, “Who
do you most admire?” Aside from my dad and mom, naturally, my function mannequin was Sir Richard
Branson, British billionaire, entrepreneur and enterprise mogul who within the Seventies
based the Virgin Group. In the present day Virgin controls greater than 400 corporations in
varied fields.

In a roundabout way or one other, we’ve all been touched by Virgin. I’ll
begin. Each day I tune in to Virgin Radio right here in Beirut, which launched a
good decade in the past and has simply led its friends in music and content material programming.
I’ve flown on Virgin Atlantic (and Virgin America) numerously. We regularly store
for our electronics wants at Virgin Megastore, which boasts a community of
branches all through Lebanon.

Arguably, most individuals know of Sir Richard, maybe by
certainly one of his many books. My good friend as soon as mailed me “Screw It, Let’s Do It” (2006),
which he picked up at an airport, leafed by ravenously on his flight, and
was satisfied I’d admire. I did. And I’ve held on to it through the years,
awe-inspired by the artistic entrepreneurial juices that emboldened Branson
from a younger age.

However by no means did I ever count on to fulfill him in particular person and entertain
a dialog with him! Enable me to set the scene.

On Monday, September 5, 2022, my children and I had simply stepped off a 10-hour transatlantic
flight from Los Angeles to London, the place we had been connecting to the
second leg of our journey, destined for Beirut. We had been making our manner by the
labyrinthine halls of Heathrow airport and had simply handed by the safety
verify on our approach to the gate.

Standing on a horizontal escalator (or conveyor belt, as I like
to check with them), I instantly acknowledged Sir Richard strolling to the facet on a carpeted flooring, with solely a tennis bag and tennis racket slung over his
shoulder. He was not flanked by any safety attachment or throngs of followers as
one may count on. Actually, he was striding ever so calmly, accompanied by one
Virgin Atlantic workforce member and his spouse, a couple of steps behind. Because the transferring
walkway aligned us, I confidently referred to as out, “Sir Richard, how are you?”

Persevering with to stroll, he turned to look my manner, smiled and reciprocated
the pleasantries. I had one youngster on both facet of me, firmly clasped in both hand. I discussed to him that we simply received off a Virgin Atlantic flight from LA
and had been connecting to Beirut. He smiled fondly, inquiring as as to if “they
handled us nicely on board?” Positive, I had a couple of feedback and options, however one must be practical and wise: this wasn’t a strategic suppose tank session. I needed to
preserve it quick and candy earlier than my seconds ran out. “Sure, certainly,” I replied, “all the pieces
was fantastic.”

The transferring sidewalk ended, so my children and I stepped off. At
that instantaneous, I seized the chance to request an image with Sir Richard.
Not of me, after all, however of my two boys subsequent to the magnate. He fortunately agreed
and in a refined gesture of modesty, stooped to be at their degree for the picture.
That they had no concept who they had been posing with, however at some point they may cherish that
priceless snapshot.

Sir Richard Branson paused a second to take a photograph with Stephen (middle) and Alex at London Heathrow
We had been strolling towards our gate to Beirut whereas Sir Richard headed to his, destined for Bridgetown

Just a few steps later, we arrived to his gate, which was
Bridgetown (in Barbados, as I later discovered). We exchanged goodbyes
and went our separate methods as I floated on a cloud by the remaining
stretch to our gate.

A deluge of ideas flooded my thoughts. First, how unbelievable
is that this businessman who opts to fly commercially when he could possibly be zipping
all over the world in a non-public jet? And even then, somewhat than prepare for a
non-public golf cart to shuttle him to his gate, he walks and topics himself to
the headache-inducing airport expertise like the remainder of us run-of-the-mill

Sir Richard in actuality is strictly who I’d envisioned he’d be all
these years: approachable, pleasant, real, down-to-earth (in distinction to his
house enterprise Virgin Galactic!). Somebody who doesn’t exploit his fame to
bypass the principles society is ruled by. Somebody who, as a savvy businessman,
understands the crucial to see issues by the client’s eyes, so he
walks of their footwear every day.

I bear in mind after I completed grad college and was critically
pondering which corporations I’d be eager on working for, Virgin was at all times on the
forefront of my thoughts. Admittedly I knew I wouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with
Sir Richard himself, but it surely appeared readily obvious that the corporate material and
tradition had been a mirrored image of his personal spirit. I by no means did apply, as a result of life
took me in a distinct path. However I nonetheless dream of working alongside
somebody who’s so passionately dedicated to furthering the human race and whose faultless status few can maintain a candle to.

Sir Richard, in case you’re studying this (I do know, I do know, that
want is far-fetched!), it was an indescribable honor assembly you, and I hope in opposition to
hope that our paths cross once more.

An unforgettable second that I’ll cherish a lifetime

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