I recently attended an event on Necker Island in the Caribbean, most notable for its famous owner, entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist Richard Branson. The event was a pro-am tennis tournament called the Necker Cup. Beyond the briefcase full of business contacts and island memories with new friends that will last a lifetime, I walked away from Necker Island with five powerful business lessons on success, leadership and big dreams -- all learned from hanging out in the Great House with none other than Branson himself.
1. Be present.
Many attended the Necker Cup to hang out with Branson. It was easy to find and chat with Branson throughout the day, but one thing you rarely saw him doing was check his phone. He was 100 percent in the moment throughout the event, although the same could not be said for all the smartphone addicted guests, including me.
The lesson -- when you are doing something like hosting an event, talking to someone or watching a tennis match, really do it. Don’t check emails, text friends and chase photo opps. Just be in the moment. Perhaps this is how Branson has the ability to lead so many businesses. When he’s doing something, he’s really doing it, unlike most of our technology distracted world.
2. Birds of a feather.
My expectation of Necker Island was that I’d get to learn from observing and talking to the most forward thinking entrepreneur in the world, and I did. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I’d be surrounded by more than 100 dream chasers, empire builders and leaders who were very much like me in their dreams and aspirations, albeit in different fields.
I was invited through Blue Sky Luxury Concierge as the owner and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Shanna Dickerson, had organized one of the Necker Cup parties. She is the only person I knew upon arrival, yet within hours, I had more new friends than I could count on both hands. The entire event was a magnet for big thinkers and entrepreneurs from all around the world, suggesting that when you bravely execute on your big dreams, you need not strategically place yourself around likeminded thinkers. Somehow, they find their way to you; just open your doors.
3. Draw lines.
While I was having my own conversation with Branson, an entrepreneur tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he could do a Facebook live interview with him. Branson quickly drew a line in the sand, explaining that it had been a long day, he was tired and simply was not up for an interview. Successful business leaders openly share their thoughts, their dreams, and even sometimes their homes, but they are equally comfortable with drawing a line in the sand when enough is enough.
Throughout the entire event, Branson walked around and engaged with the guests, asking who they were and what brought them to Necker Island. Even though there were a handful of famous celebrities milling about the event, Branson seemed interested in getting to know each of the guests, regardless of celebrity status. He walked around, shook hands, made conversation and engaged. Success requires you to get up, walk about, and talk to the people around you.
5. Have fun.
Perhaps the best part of Branson’s personality is that he’s fun. He's not afraid to make jokes at his own expense. He easily rolls with the punches, like when someone requested that the entire group participate in The Mannequin Challenge. He used that piece of his personality to break the ice with guests, egg people into higher bidding positions during the live auction and to get people to open up to him. As a business leader and entrepreneur, if you can get people to drop their guard and laugh a little, success is yours for the taking.