I have heard the same sentence over and over in the past 25 years that I have been traveling with my husband with whom I co-own BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. Since I have just heard it at least ten times this past week, I thought it would be something interesting to blog about.
“You are both so real and so down to earth!”
I have not known for a long time how to respond to that statement. It used to make me feel uncomfortable, and I would kind of laugh nervously to shrug off the comment, because I found it so extremely awkward. Of course we’re normal! It’s too much of an effort to be anything else!
And then I met Richard Branson.
Please understand that I am in NO WAY comparing Ivan and myself to Sir Richard Branson, but some of the dynamics are similar. Sir Richard is an extremely well-recognized, public individual in our world today. Within the world of BNI, Ivan and I are also very recognized and somewhat in the public eye – well, that is at least the BNI public eye.
And when BNI members have a certain perception of us, it is gratifying that they are pleasantly surprised to find out that we are so “normal,” as some of them have graciously put it. Yes, we are quite normal – I love that about us!
When asked by BNI members where Ivan’s favorite place in the whole world is, his response never varies: “home.” It’s true. I have to ask him like this: “Besides home, what is your favorite place in the whole world?”
And me, I’m just as likely to trip on an invisible wrinkle in the carpet when walking up to the stage as I am to float effortlessy on air as I glide along on my way. I’m also known for laughing too loud at something really funny and for kicking my shoes off at any given moment.
There are two kinds of business leaders you can choose to model your behavior after: Steve Jobs or Sir Richard Branson. Ivan and I know quite well which one of the two we want to be more like.
Richard is so down to earth, very humble and fun to be around. He treats his staff with just as much respect and honor as he does his guests. And
when he is talking with someone, he is not distracted by others or by things going on around him. He really focuses on that person and what he or she is saying. I have seen this time and time again as it relates to the people I have observed him interacting with.
And every time you say to us, “You are so down to earth – so normal,” we know which one of the two (Jobs or Branson) we are most like. I think what you are telling us is, surprisingly to someone who holds a different perception from just seeing us in the limelight, that we do not put on airs or act like arrogant big shots.
Thank you for the compliment!