Lessons from Sir Richard Branson’s visit to Oslo

Lessons rom Sir Richard Branson on Leadership and Sustainability

No need to introduce Sir Richard Branson.

He founded the Virgin Group in 1970 and today the conglomerate is involved in hundreds of industries. He also formed Virgin Unite in 2004. It’s a foundation where overheads are totally covered by the Virgin group and the Branson Family, so that 100% of donations go direct to the initiatives they create or support. And those initiatives cover:

  • Changing business for good – We believe business can be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.
  • Market solutions to address climate change and conserve our natural resources – We believe businesses have a big part to play in creating opportunities from the challenges we face.
  • The power of entrepreneurs – We help early stage entrepreneurs build credible business plans for growth that have a positive impact in the world.
  • Human dignity – We work to protect every human’s basic rights and freedoms through shining a spotlight on issues that we feel are unacceptable.

In that spirit, Sir Richard Branson gave us the honor of participating in the Responsibility Works Conference in Oslo in December 2016. I was very excited to see him live for the first time in my life, on the stage of a 1,400 seat theater in Oslo, just like a Rock Star.

What’s a good leader according to Sir Richard Branson?

The speaking session was quite casually set up, just like a coffee chat with a table and two chairs. Interviewer Nassima Dzair kicked-off by asking why he’s always got a smile on his face and what’s a good leader. Here are the first two and a half minutes video taped on my phone so you can appreciate his British accent too.


For those who would rather read, here are the most inspirational quotes from Sir Richard Branson about leadership:

Learning and listening:

I’m always smiling because I love people. I love learning from people.

As a leader you need to be a very good listener.

Everyday I learn something that hopefully I can put to use the next day.

As he walks the talk, here is what he learned from Norway.

Praising and not criticizing

A leader is somebody who is there to bring out the best of people.

The leaders that we look for at Virgin are good at praising people, not criticizing people.

People, when they’ve done wrong, they know they’ve done wrong, they don’t need you to jump down their throat.

You need to treat people like flowers.

More inspirational quotes from Sir Richard Branson


From Space we don't see borders, we see the Earth's resources

About Sustainability and Responsibility

A lot of the debate was about the cost of doing things in a sustainable way when financial results and profit is still the main performance indicator of a company. Unilever was often mentioned, in particularly around how they are dropping quarterly financial updates to focus more on the longer term.

This shift in mindset and how a companies should be evaluated is captured in Sir Richard Branson’s quotes below:

Gain respect from your employees and public not from maximizing profit but by caring for people and the environment

If you have an idea that’s going to make people´s lives better, to make them smile, to transform their lives – then you have a business

About conflicts and climate change (and that’s probably my favorite):

From Space we don’t see borders, we see the Earth’s resources


About branding:

Humor is an important part of promoting your brand

We all know how Virgin’s cheekiness has been a key driver for their high brand awareness, impact and creating an emotional connection. It’s been a real inspiration for Internet brands I worked for in the past.

Below, Sir Richard Branson reminded us of that time when British Airways was sponsoring London Eye but “couldn’t get it up” …

Sir Richard Branson's lessons on branding


Lessons we learned for our own business

Over the course of the conference many large corporations provided examples on how they approach Responsibility i.e. respect for the environment, respect to employees, giving back to charities or to help developing countries etc…

I must say I was quite surprised and proud that despite our very lean company structure, we are already quite advanced on two fronts:

1. Employees unmatched flexibility

At OneStepCheckout we value flexibility a lot. All but one team member have a family including small children and in a country like Norway, family and health is your #1 priority. Taking the kids to the doctor is no longer a source of stress. Attending your child’s Christmas breakfast at school is highly encouraged. Picking up your children from school everyday before 4.30pm: no problem.

Back to Richard Branson, read on his blog how, with hindsight, family is what’s putting a smile on his face.

How about the other team member who doesn’t have children? He is very special too. He’s a digital nomad, moving countries frequently and experiencing very different cultures and lifestyles, while helping our customers with their technical questions. Have you read about the incredible life of Madis, our support manager? Since we last wrote about him, he moved to Salvatore de Bahia, Brazil! Stay tuned for more vibrant and exotic tales from that part of the world!

Last but not least: attending the legendary Magento Imagine Conference in Las Vegas? No worries! We sent half of the team last year and doing it again this year in 2017.

Happy team members make motivated and productive ones.

2. Giving back to developing countries

We believe in economic development. Since 2009, our company has been lending micro loans to small businesses through Kiva. It makes sense for everyone involved in eCommerce. Here’s why and how you can contribute via Team Magento. Micro-loans help individuals and their communities not just develop economically but above all gain a sense of dignity through work. It makes those individuals “Heroes” according to Kalen Jordan, founder of Commerce Hero, who recently launched an Uber type of service to find the right Magento Developers.



As of December 2016 we made 255 loans.


Lastly, I’d like to share the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals with you. We can’t address everything but individually or with our team or company we can contribute the right way to the global effort.

United Nations sustainability development goals 2016

Another way you can contribute to a lot of those goals is to offer Cherry Checkout on your online store. Your customers will make a donation to the charity of your choice and get a chance to win back the value of their basket. They simply shop, play and do good! It doesn’t cost anything to you as a merchant. All is covered by the donations. It’s also a great way to differentiate from your competitors as according to a the 2015 CSR Global study: “given similar price and quality, 90% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause”.

How about you? We’d love to hear about your approach to Responsibility? Hit us up on our social media channels to share your views, experience and ideas.

Thien-Lan WeberAbout Thien-Lan Weber

Thien-Lan is the Chief Marketing Officer at OneStepCheckout. She's a Marketing expert with 20 years experience across Europe and Asia Pacific including Accenture, Clarins, Johnson & Johnson, eBay and PayPal.

Thien-Lan loves connecting people and helping retailers get the most out of eCommerce. As such, she recently joined the board of ExtDN (Extension Developer Network).

She grew up in Paris, holds a Master of Science in Management from HEC Paris and is back to France after 16 years living in different parts of the worlds, the latest destination being Oslo where she joined OneStepCheckout.