Could you solve things faster by thinking bigger? Richard Branson is a master of this – even when he doesn’t have the money.

That’s how Virgin Airlines started. As Richard recalls: “In ’79, when Joan, my fiancee and I were on a holiday in the British Virgin Islands, we were trying to catch a flight to Puerto Rico; but the local Puerto Rican scheduled flight was cancelled. The airport terminal was full of stranded passengers.”

Most people would complain or wait for another day to fly. Not Richard: “I made a few calls to charter companies and agreed to charter a plane for $2000 to Puerto Rico.”

“Cheekily leaving out Joan’s and my name, I divided the price by the remaining number of passengers, borrowed a blackboard and wrote: VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 one way to BVI. I went out round all the passengers who had been bumped and I filled up my first plane.”

After launching Virgin Atlantic, he continued to think bigger to solve his challenges. Eight years after launching, in 1992 Richard needed to raise $10 million for seat-back video screen, so Virgin Atlantic could compete in the market.

The problem was, there was a global recession on, so all attempts to raise the money had been unsuccessful.

As a last resort, Richard called Phil Conduit, CEO of Boeing, and said he wanted to buy ten new Boeing 747-400s, but would like Boeing to throw in seat-back videos on all seats as a condition of purchase.

He then repeated the process with Airbus. Both companies – who were also suffering from the same global recession – welcomed the new orders and quickly agreed.

Afterwards, Richard said, “We discovered that it was easier to get $4 billion credit to buy eighteen new aircraft than it was to get $10 million credit for the seat-back video sets.”

Whether it’s a $39 seat or a $10 million credit, Richard solves his problems from above, not below. To get to the top of the mountain, you don’t need to climb if you can parachute in.

What’s your biggest challenge?

How can you get others to solve it by solving their (bigger) problem first?

Leave a Reply