How I balanced my career and family

Richard Branson explains how he juggled building his career with raising a family - and why being a hands-on dad has been key to his success

While my business story is quite well known, a lot of people don’t know that I was a proud working dad in Virgin’s formative years.

When my children, Holly and Sam, were little, I worked from home in order to be with them as they grew up. In between the calls – and later, the emails – I got to do the school drop offs, attend their sporting events, and be there when they needed me. It was so wonderful.

Being a hands-on father taught me so much – it certainly made me a better entrepreneur. While my wife Joan and I taught Holly and Sam their ABCs and how to tie their shoelaces, they taught us so much more. Their hopes and desires encouraged me to keep chasing my big dreams. Their intrepidness and fearlessness gave me the confidence to keep putting myself outside my comfort zone. Their thirst for knowledge and new experiences were my incentive to keep questioning and challenging the status quo, and never rest on my laurels.

Richard Branson

Our kids have well and truly grown up now, but I still work from home – or a hammock, or a sofa, or the bathtub! These days I’m a work-from-home grandfather, and I’m still learning. I love being a grand-dude to three gorgeous toddlers, Eva-Deia, Etta and Artie, and to little baby Bluey. Their minds are extraordinarily powerful and their outlook on life completely open.

I have particularly enjoyed watching them learn to walk. It’s been a truly eye-opening experience that all adults can learn from. They have each had so many spills and tumbles, yet, while they have bumped and grazed themselves time and time again, their egos have not been bruised, nor has their willingness to try been diminished.

Just like when I was watching Holly and Sam grow up, my grandchildren inspire and motivate me to continue to do things differently in my business life, and to challenge the realms of what’s possible. Having the next generation’s future in your hands is a great motivator to innovate, create change and get things done.

This experience is not just great for the parent, but also the children. My sisters and I were lucky to have my mother at home with us when we were growing up. She was very entrepreneurial herself, and always coming up with designs and products to sell to the big stores in London. Her nose for business clearly rubbed off on me. A great deal of my character and spirit has stemmed from my childhood, and the influence of my parents.

Richard Branson

Being a hands-on Dad made me a better entrepreneur

I know I’m very fortunate to be able to work the way I do and that it’s not an option for everyone, which is why I’m a big advocate for flexible working. I am always encouraging other business leaders to allow their team members to work from home. Unless you have a technical job like flying a plane, you can probably do your job from home. And it makes sense.

Some of our greatest Virgin ideas were conceived from Necker Island or at team member’s homes. People work more effectively when given the freedom to make their own decisions. We give our people at Virgin HQ in London the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform brilliantly, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen.

Telecommuting can improve productivity, and the flexibility to stay home (even just occasionally) could be the difference between a parent advancing in their career and having to quit. Companies that forbid the practice put pressure on families and limit opportunities for working parents – and that’s not good for anyone.

I have never worked out of an office, and never will. And I don’t ever plan to retire, because working from home has afforded me amazing work-life balance. It’s made me healthier, happier, and more purposeful. It's no secret that a healthy and happy workforce is a motivated workforce - and a motivated workforce with a clear purpose not only gets the job done, but also innovates and pushes the boundaries of expectation and possibility. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today had I worked from an office my whole career.

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