Why Sir Richard?
I have have been asked this question a number of times in the past few weeks. Some people have felt that I have a bit of a 'Hero worship' type of thing going on - but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact it makes me a little sad that people would think I am not looking at the big picture. Would the same question be asked to a successful business man or would he be seen as being business minded?
Of course I respect Sir Richard Branson - who wouldn't. Of course I am impressed with everything he has achieved and from what is in the press I feel I have a number of similar values and priorities. Yet at the end of the day Sir Richard Branson is a person like you and me. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and I would like to think that I would act and show the same respect to him as I would you, or a homeless person, or a teenager, or a ...
So back to the question of why Richard Branson and Virgin?
It is totally strategic - one of my mentors once said to me that collaboration was often the key to having the greatest positive impact. So I took a long hard look at the marketplace, looked at what If Everyone Cares was trying to achieve and looked for the best 'fit'. Now collaboration is not just a one way street - it has to be beneficial for both parties. In fact it is more of a 'Triangle' of impact and benefits as it it not just those who collaborate that should benefit - it is the client/end user as well. And as Sir Richard himself has said
"What is a Business? It's simply an idea that makes someone else's life better"
I looked at an organisation that has some government funding to help people in communities. I met a wonderful gentleman who was so enthusiastic about what we were working on. We had some great meetings, were planning strategy, looking at funding opportunities and then one day he turned up and said that his boss felt that what we were doing could end up being in competition to their service and that unless I let them take over and run our work he could no longer do anything with us! Sadly that was the end of that relationship. There was a bit more to it than that. Fundamentally I do not like the feeling of being blackmailed or manipulated - Integrity is key to me. And in all honesty it 'Stank' - but it made me realise we were on to something!
Virgin and Sir Richard came in to the picture because of a number of things. As I have said Integrity is a key attribute that I am looking for with any potential collaboration. From media coverage over Virgins 'troubles' with British Airways, The National Lottery and Virgin Trains, I believe that, from the top down, Virgin businesses feel the same.
Virgin also has Virgin Unite & Virgin Money. They have an existing framework and network which is impressive. But as I said earlier it has to be a two way street. In relationships sometimes what people bring to the table may have different types of value. There is no disputing that Virgin's is huge and ours at this point is just ideas and business plans on paper - albeit with a few years of research and the thumbs up from some banking vice-presidents who said I had seriously under-estimated our figures for potential profit (to go back into communities). So ours may not have the monetary value or platform at the moment. But the potential is game changing and I do not say that lightly.
I am a very open and honest person and my temptation here is to write down all of the areas where the collaboration would benefit the two arms of Virgin that I have already mentioned (and others as well) - but after having been burnt a few times I am a bit cautious. All I have ever been looking for is the time for a 90 second pitch and hopefully that will lead to some questions and the potential for a further conversation.
As a final note - You don't have to be Sir Richard Branson or from Virgin - If you are reading this and you see the potential for collaboration that has a triangle of benefits then please contact me - Jaki@IfEveryoneCares.org
About the Author
Jaki is the founder of If Everyone Cares CIC. After meeting hundreds of people who had been unable to find help & support when they were facing a crisis she decided it was a 'problem she wanted to be part of solving'. She is now part of a, small but dedicated, team who are creating Ododow - The Interactive Community Map to pin-point the UK's 200,000+ Charities & Community Projects - Ododow.org.