Sir Richard Branson

A Businessman like Sir Richard wants companies to hire more independently-minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself

Sir Richard Branson freely admits that he would be a difficult employee for any boss to manage.

One of the UK’s best-known and wealthiest entrepreneurs, he says that if he were a member of staff at another business, his line manager would have to “accept that I might not do things exactly as he’d like me to do them”.

But Sir Richard adds that the company in question would still need “to be nice to me”, despite the disruption he would inevitably cause.

He says he’d tell them: “if you don’t deal with me well, I’m going to go off and set up my own business, and I’ll end up competing with you.”

He’d say: “Look after me, respect me, and accept that I’m a square peg in a round hole.”
While Sir Richard might sound like many managers’ idea of a nightmare member of staff, he wants companies – of all sizes – to hire more independently-minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself. His argument is that the new ideas and drive that such mavericks bring to a business far outweigh the fact they may often be difficult to work with.

In a world that already has plenty of business buzzwords and phrases, a new one has now been coined to describe such people – “disruptive talent”.

The description has been developed by a UK management consultancy called OE Cam, which recently held a discussion on the topic in London which Sir Richard attended.
Martyn Sakol, management partner of OE Cam, says that a person with disruptive talent has a multitude of positive attributes that they can bring to a business.

“I would define disruptive talent as individuals who think and act differently, innovate, challenge conventional wisdom, spot trends, see commercial opportunities, and tenaciously find ways to achieve success,” he says.

However, he stresses that such a person needs to be robustly managed, to prevent things from going wrong.

One UK company that has signed up to the new disruptive talent mantra is UK animal feed business Associated British Agriculture (ABA).

Its chief executive David Yiend says his business has been actively recruiting such people for the past year.

So what does ABA say in its job advertisements?

“We stress that we’re looking for candidates who will be provocative, unbending, and relentless in their pursuit of the goal,” says Yiend.

“They have to be prepared to argue and debate, not just accept the norm.”