Of business and island in the sun with Richard Branson

Of business and island in the sun with Richard Branson
Of all the things I anticipated when I started Pure SEO with a $200 budget in 2009, that I would one day hang out with Sir Richard Branson wasn’t one of them. But life has a way of dishing out surprises, and at the height of the 2014 northern summer I found myself among a small group of entrepreneurs from around the world spending five days with Sir Richard on his private Necker Island.

It’s not the first time I’ve found myself experiencing a ‘wow’ moment – thanks to the non-profit Entrepreneurs Organisation, of which I am a member and through which the Necker opportunity arose, I have also attended a private party at Kim Dotcom’s house and had a behind-the-scenes tour of Whenuapai airbase – but being in the company of one of the most celebrated businessmen of our era topped them all.

I guess I should have seen it coming, given that my personal journey up until now has been crazy, fun and intense. Since those smell-of-an-oily-rag early days, I have been fortunate to meet and speak to some amazing Kiwi entrepreneurs, without whose advice, insights and leadership by example Pure SEO would not be what it is today.

"I don't think of work as work and play as play. It's all living." 

Necker Island is home to Sir Richard and his family, and the 74-acre plot in the British Virgin Islands is something to see. The residence’s communal, open-plan architecture extends even to the bedrooms, which have outside (that is, exposed) showers.

Have some fun

While my time on Necker was accompanied by a lot of learning (both from Sir Richard and the other entrepreneurs), the biggest lessons were the simplest: don’t take yourself too seriously, and have fun. We were challenged to do so in different ways, one of them a rousing round of costume roulette. Everyone brought a costume and put it in a black sack for each member of the group to make random selections. Sir Richard chose Where’s Wally, I pulled out Mr Stay Puft from Ghostbusters, another guy ended up as a nun. Other evenings were themed around Africa and ‘glitz and glam’.

The great thing was that everyone joined in wholeheartedly. Among the guests were people who turn over hundreds of millions – some even billions – but they all got into it. No one balked or thought it was beneath them, so all barriers immediately fell. There was a variety of ages, ethnicities, cultures and countries represented, but everyone opened up, had fun and learned from the others. It was inspiring to see and experience.

Sir Richard joined us every day and threw himself into the antics. It was humbling to observe a multi-billionaire genuinely enjoying being with us and chatting about business and life. Sir Richard kite-boarded to a neighbouring island while others paddle-boarded, kayaked and sailed, and he joined in the tennis tournament and the yoga classes.

The experience at Necker will stay with me for the rest of my life, and gave me a lot to take back to my business and my personal life.

Pure SEO was established in 2009 by Richard Conway after he moved to New Zealand from the UK. Operating from Beaumont Street in the Auckland CBD, Pure SEO provides search engine optimisation, AdWords and social media marketing services to local and international companies. It has won numerous awards and is a Deloitte Asia Pacific Tech Fast 500 company.

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