Business wisdom starts with asking the right questions, and an executive like Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, is unlikely to entertain foolish ones when agreeing to a LinkedIn interview.
So congratulations are in order for Cheryl Ayres, a student in American Sentinel University’s online MBA degree program and American Sentinel’s webmaster. Her’s was one of only four questions selected that Branson answered in a recent LinkedIn interview. Her question was: “If you lost it all what would you do first to recover?” Here is Branson’s answer:
You have to define what success is. I’ve spent a lifetime creating things that hopefully I think can make a difference to other people’s lives. I’ve genuinely never set about to think of myself as a businessman. If I lost it at all I’m sure I’d want to carry on creating. Most of my time is now spent creating not-for-profit ventures like The Elders or Carbon War Room or Center for Disease Control or trying to protect species. That’s where I get my main satisfaction from. And somehow, even if I didn’t have any money, I’d continue to do that.
It may be that the question was sparked in part by a recent challenge she faced in a business simulation class. Here’s how she described it:
Course participants are partnered up and together you control a company throughout eight rounds. My partner and I had varying degrees of comfort with technology, we were in different time zones and had varied schedule demands, so there was considerable effort required to develop a work schedule.
Additionally, neither my partner or I had experience in a production facility. Our initial trial round results came back alright, so we felt fairly confident when we submitted our first round. On the Sunday night following our first submission I logged in to see our results and I was absolutely heartsick. What a disaster. Our products were out of position, we had lots of inventory left over, our stock had dropped over 75% and we required an emergency loan. I think I was still in shock the next day and the doubts of what I was doing in this program started up.
Our professor did mention several times that this course would be one of the toughest. At that moment though it felt more like a test – and I didn’t do well at all.
Cheryl took a short break on social media, seeking some inspiration. It came in the form of a Twitter post from LinkedIn’s executive editor, who sought questions for Branson. What she sent was an echo of her own concerns. But she hadn’t really needed Branson’s insight, as she came to the same point herself: keep plugging away.
Cheryl and her partner kept working and managed to turn the disaster around, while learning a lot about themselves. Congratulations Cheryl, on your double success. Doubtless, armed with the education you’re receiving, you’ll see many more in the future.