Early on in my advertising and marketing career I had an amazingly fortuitous opportunity to pitch my services to an incredibly successful company and show it how to add value in a brand new marketplace it was about to enter.
The company was a young Virgin Atlantic, and I was literally in the right place at the right time to put my own fledgling business in the ring to offer my marketing skills and services.
My proposal was taken up and incredibly my little two man business, as it was at the time, was hired. Little did I know at the time that I’d end up spending time and having an awful lot of fun, sweat and even tears with Richard himself, along with his team of very bright and dynamic people for several years. It was a journey in itself, and one that I look back on now with more than a little pride and nostalgia, as well as a tinge of embarrassment.
Why, and what did I learn along the way? I guess it can be summed up as five key things…
1. The value of money
Keen as I was to secure the contract, Virgin knew the power of money a lot better than myself. We negotiated a monetary fee much lower than I’d expected, but which was sweetened by a lot of available airline travel. Why did I accept such terms? Knowing that I could use the tickets they offered along with cash, to fly around the world and attempt to impress a great many more clients internationally. It was only too easy to call up a prospect, tell them I’d fly halfway around the world to see them at their convenience, and arriving suitably refreshed from some Upper Class traveling. It worked for all of us, and was a real ‘win-win’. I learned to always fly because of that in business class seats, with carry on luggage, and have saved myself a load of time, stress and exhaustion taking such quick trips ever since.
2. The power of a good business brand
There’s no doubting how much the brand of Branson helped me open ever more doors. If you’re good enough for Virgin, then you’re good enough for anyone. Call it leverage, or what you will, but it worked. Having a strong business name on your CV is worth its weight in gold. Working with Branson’s brand was a solid door opener.
3. Never undersell yourself
I don’t believe that Virgin ever thought we did – as we both shared in a great working relationship and a deal that was mutually beneficial at that time. From the experience though I’ve learned since to quote my fees and rates for what I believe I’m worth. Backing that up with experience and feeling comfortable in knowing I could, and would, add value. Whilst I never saw Richard as a mentor, he definitively helped me see what I couldn’t see in myself at first. I’m comfortable in now knowing my worth and able to confidently price it appropriately.
4. You’re as valuable for as long as you allow yourself to be
I had to deliver work and add value every month in my consultancy to Virgin, yet the part I’m ultimately embarrassed about is having to admit that there did come a time when it all went a little to my head. When you stop trying as hard, and automatically start to become a little complacent and it all felt too comfortable. It didn’t happen for a long time, not for the first two years or so, but beyond that I frankly, drifted a little. It had started to feel a little too easy, and my wake-up call came when I’d definitely run my course, and the contract moved on. Now, I’m much more focused on every day, every assignment and every action I take. You only need to learn that lesson once.
5. Always seize the moment
I can look back on my time spent with Richard, the team and the Virgin brand now with an overall great affection, fond memories of some extraordinary things done and dozens of great lifetime stories. It’s a reminder to me to seize that moment all the time today. To constantly make every effort to deliver nothing short of conscious excellence.
So thanks Richard; I’m not sure I could have learned this stuff any other way.