As the conversation below suggests, one of his greatest strengths may be his ability to grasp all that's thrilling and inspiring to people, be they his customers, his employees or anyone he happens to meet. The following has been edited for clarity and length.
Henry Blodget: Most management gurus preach the virtue of focus. They'll say you have to focus on one thing, learn how to do it great, crush everybody else. How does Virgin succeed doing dozens of things in dozens of industries?
Richard Branson: It's interesting. When we started diversifying from student magazines to records, from records to airlines, there were big headlines saying, "Will Branson's balloon burst? He's stretching the brand too far." Fortunately, we ignored them. We built up what I would call a "Way of Life" brand, a brand that has overcome my frustrations in lots of different areas. I hated flying on other people's airlines, so I thought we could create an airline that we enjoyed flying on.