BOOKS: The book that shook Richard Branson

'I was a teenager running Student Magazine from a London basement in 1968 when I read EF Schumacher's book Small is Beautiful. It was the most influential read of my early life as a businessman and I've come back to its ideas ever since.'

by Richard Branson

Not long after, I visited the huge Shell HQ that had just been built near Waterloo Station. There were thousands of identical rooms which, instead of having names on the doors, just had numbers. The words 'small is beautiful' echoed around my head as I thought about how we would organise the newly established Virgin company.

Each Virgin business is separately managed and marketed with its own head office. That way, the people and the management in each company know each other rather than being just a number in a glass tower or insignificant subsidiaries in a huge conglomerate. I have always found that people work better that way and have more fun.

Anyway, we must have got something right with our structure because the old Shell HQ has been converted into luxury flats and Shell has decentralised its management.'

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