Nathan Chan, CEO of Foundr Magazine
Nathan Chan, CEO of Foundr Magazine on what he Learnt From Interviewing Richard Branson
In this weeks episode, Nathan goes through in detail the steps he took to interview Sir Richard Branson for a Foundr Magazine front cover story and what he learnt from the whole process.
- The key things Nathan took away from Interviewing Richard Branson
- How to get in touch with hard to reach people
- The secret strategy to convince influencers to be interviewed for your magazine / show
- Why this interview was game changing for Foundr Magazine
Full Transcription of the Podcast with Nathan Chan on his interview with Richard Branson
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of “The Foundr Podcast.” I’m Nathan Chan, your host, coming to you from Melbourne, Australia. Now, mixing this episode up a little bit, I know you guys liked…we got a lot of good feedback from these short, kind of just pearls of wisdom that I drop, and I’m finding, along the journey, while I’m in the trenches with you guys, you know, trying to build a successful business.
And what I’m gonna talk to you about today is what I’ve learnt from interviewing Richard Branson. Now, first things first, I…gonna start with how I’ve actually managed to get in touch with influencers like Richard Branson, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Barbara Corcoran, list goes on. How do I do it? The way that I do it is, a lot of these influencers, they have books, they have TV shows. They have a product or service that they’re just about to release, and they’re always looking for press. And I always look to serve first and ask a later with any relationship, any form of transaction from meeting somebody or a new kind of business relationships. I always serve first and ask later, and that’s exactly what I do.
So, Richard Branson has books. Tim Ferriss has a TV show that he launched. So, I’m always looking to serve first and ask later. A lot of these influencers, they have books, so you need to get in touch with the publisher that represents this book that is publishing it. And you wanna, you know…I come at it from the point of, we’re a magazine, we’re a media brand, we can give you press, we can get you book sale. And, you know, same thing with Tim’s show, you know, what’s the agency that’s representing him? A lot of these big startup companies, they all have PR agencies that represent them and they’re looking for press, and you can get an interview with the founder. That’s how I get a lot of the founders of big startups to be on “The Foundr Podcast.” So, that’s one little piece of advice that I learnt.
And, you know, when we got that interview with Richard Branson, that was a game-changer for the business. It was for Issue 8. I pitched for him to be on the front cove. And, you know, I had the contact for his head of PR and I remember calling him on the phone, pitching. Keep in mind, guys, I just started the magazine. I knew nothing about business apps, entrepreneurship, design, you name it. First six months…no, first four months in, I was pitching Richard Branson, and I knew that if I could get him on the front cover of the magazine, people would take us seriously. And I knew that he’s been on every single business magazine on the planet, why couldn’t he be on mine? So, just that in itself, getting in touch with his head of PR, pitching her, playing on the fact that his first business venture was actually a magazine, him saying, “Yes.”
Just that whole process of just getting that win on the board, it changed the game for me. Like, that’s one big thing that I learnt, guys, was just that one little win turned into a massive snowball effect. Because ever since that big win, to get Richard, it’s allowed us to get a whole ton of other influencers, you know, on the magazine, on the podcast, you name it. So, you know, that’s one big thing that was a game-changer for me, is if you really, really want something and put your mind to it, you can get it, and every “no” gets you closer to a “yes.”
So, what did I learn from that interview? Now, let’s be clear. It was an email interview, and I’m gonna go through some really important things that I learnt from him. The first one’s probably leadership, the importance of leadership. Now, I’m gonna read a passage from his answer. Now, when we asked him this amazing question, it was, “Leadership was once described by Sir Ernest Shackleton as lonely, a necessary solitude in order to be able to separate yourself when you need to make tough decisions. How do you balance this with your evident charisma and popularity among your staff? Do you ever have to take a step back from the fun in order to be the boss?” And Branson said, “I believe a good leader brings out the best in people by listening to them, trusting in them, believing in them, respecting them, and letting them have a go. When employees tell you about their good ideas for the business, don’t limit your response to asking questions, taking notes, and following up. If you can, ask those people to lead their projects and take responsibility for them. From those experiences, they’ll have built the confidence to take on more and you can take a further step back.”
Now, that little passage has been an absolute game-changer for me, guys, especially since the fact that I’ve actually recently had our first full-time staff member. And, you know, it’s so important, when you’re building a startup, when you’re building any sort of business, that you really tackle this leadership stuff and have a focus on it. It’s something that I’m focusing on at the moment because it’s so important, because those first early-stage hires can make or break your business. It’s very, very costly if you make a bad hire. It’s very, very costly if you don’t lead that person and that person doesn’t give you leverage, because that’s essentially what you want. Whenever you’re hiring someone and bringing them into your business, you need leverage so you can do more of the things that you need to do and they can take some things off your hand. So, that was a big takeaway for me, guys.
Another one was the simple truths around building a successful business. Now, these are pretty basic things, but in a roundabout way, Branson really simplified for, you know, us when we asked him a lot of questions, you know, “How do you turn your business idea into reality? What do you look for in an idea? How do you build a successful business?” And these are the key points that I took away from his response. First things first, was a solid brand. And when you look at the Virgin brand, it’s a solid brand, great design, it’s, you know, really, really catchy, it’s memorable. And in essence, what are the values behind that brand? Now, every single brand has to have values. You know, Apple, Steve Jobs used to talk about branding and the values for your company are essentially the ingredients for your brand. And what are Virgin’s values? It’s quality, value for money, innovation, having a competitive challenge, and having fun. And everything that they do at Virgin is encapsulated by those core values. And the brand is what people say about your business when you’re not there. So, it’s the experience.
So, another big takeaway was having a strong knowledge of the market. He believes that’s really important. You know, it’s kind of obvious. If you’re gonna get into a market, you need to know that market so extremely damn well. You have to be an expert. And another thing he said was around differentiating yourself. A great one is to look at what we’re doing, like Foundr. You know, everything we do is totally different to a traditional media publication brand. A cool example is, within the magazine, we have a virtual mentor section where you can ask our virtual mentor any question that’s on your mind as an entrepreneur that you’re struggling with. You know, how many entrepreneurial publications have a podcast that accompanies the magazine? You know, these are things that are different from “Entrepreneur” magazine, “Fast Company,” “Forbes”, and it’s not even like I feel like we’re competing with them. We’re just doing things that we wanna do, and we’re trying to, I guess, serve and equip entrepreneurs however we can, and we’re just rolling with it and seeing what works.
Another thing that Branson shared with us was, a high-standard product or service. Now, that is so important. Your product, if you wanna get noticed, has to be, you know, the best. And when I say “the best,” you know, you wanna aim for it to be the best in the world. And your service, it has to be top-notch, it has to be extremely high-quality customer service. And, you know, it’s pretty basic stuff with the service stuff, but I’m sure, you know, when you’re listening, you probably think…I bet you you can name like, you know, five terrible companies you’ve experienced bad service with, and it’s quite common that a lot of businesses have really, really bad customer service. So, it’s easy, if you give exceptional customer service, to stand out.
And another thing…and this is the last one that I took away from Sir Richard, was his staff believes in the product or service and would buy it themself. Now, that is an extremely important one, guys. Because the people that are selling your product and service, how can they sell if they don’t believe in it. How can they sell it if they wouldn’t buy it themself? How can they really encapsulate what it’s all about if they’re just there to get paid? So, I think that’s a massive game-changing one.
So, to roundup, it was solid brand, strong knowledge of the market, differentiating yourself, high-standard product and service, staff believes in it, would buy it themself, and stay true to your core values. So, yeah, guys, I hope that you’ve taken something away from this little, short, bite-sized podcast episode. It’s been a interesting, different mix-up for me, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s interesting and something different, expressing my thoughts and findings with you guys on a more, I guess, intimate basis. And if you are enjoying these kinds of episodes, please let me know, please keep the feedback coming, and I will do more of them. If you don’t enjoy them, that’s fine, I won’t do anymore, we’ll just keep giving you interviews with some of the top founders all around the world. So, that’s it for me, guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And thank you for taking the time and sharing your earbuds with me. Speak soon.
- If you would like to check this interview out, you can download Foundr Magazine on any Tablet or Mobile device on the iTunes and Android stores: iTunes and Android
- Download our Free Branson Issue
- Follow Richard Branson on Twitter
- Learn more about Virgin
- Check out Richard Branson’s books