Oprah: That was so enterprising of you. I began my company with four people, and now I have about 750. The staff felt like a little family until we had 40 or 50 people. How do you maintain a sense of connection with 50,000 employees? Can you?
Richard: It's impossible to feel the same connection as when there are only four or five starting off, but the people who work for me are working for what I believe in. The leaders who run our companies do so on the basis of those who came first and who said, "A company is its people." I hope my companies are run on the basis of praising their workers and looking for the best in them, not criticizing them. In the same way that you water a plant and it sprouts leaves, people flourish when you praise them. We have people who would kill for Virgin because they're so proud of it—they believe in what we're creating.
Oprah: As a boss, are you a good delegator?
Richard: I've had to learn the art of delegation—we've got more than 200 companies! I have to take the time to find people who are more knowledgeable than I am, and then I have to accept that everything won't go exactly the way it would if I were leading. Sometimes things go a lot better.
Oprah: What are you most hopeful about right now?
Richard: People are basically decent. Sadly, they sometimes don't appoint very good leaders, and those leaders create some horrendous messes. Yet I'm hopeful that after Iraq, those in charge will think twice about taking us down that route again. I hope that the 600,000 civilians we've lost—men, women, and children—will not have died in vain.
Oprah: How do you feel about the survival of the planet?
Richard: This issue is of paramount importance—global warming could snuff out humankind. It's an invisible war that could ultimately destroy life itself, and we need politicians and businesspeople to get together and treat it as a third world war. If we can't get our governments to wake up and do something about it, then I'm not hopeful.
Oprah: What do you know for sure?
Richard: I know that I've got to live life to its fullest because I'm going to die one day. I don't want to waste a minute.
We Hear You!