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Foster diversity, not division

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Q: How do you merge the cultural diversity of individuals into a profitable brand?

Jacqueline Ferrell


Diversity is an advantage for any company, and can be an important factor in its success. Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do.


Jacqueline, regardless of the position you hold or the industry you work in, the key is to lead by example: Embrace diversity, starting with the choices you make for your first hires. An entrepreneur who hires a lot of people who are just like her and have had the same experiences will find that she’s leading a team that is less creative and helpful to customers, and ultimately produces lower profits. Plus you’d have a lot less fun!


At Virgin, our company’s rock ‘n’ roll roots certainly helped us to start building a diverse team early on - all sorts of people shared our love of great music. Thinking back, I’m also reminded of a charity we launched in 1967 called the Student Advisory Centre, which offered help and information to young people on issues like sexuality, abortion, adoption, contraception, drugs and more. Our tagline was “Give us your headaches.”


The empathy, compassion and sharing involved helped to shape our organisation. Those experiences taught everyone on our team to connect with a more diverse group of people, and in the long run this turned out to be an advantage. We became aware of business opportunities that we wouldn’t have otherwise known about, and as we ventured into new industries and markets, we celebrated differences, embraced change and encouraged innovation.




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