Billionaire Richard Branson is known for his “Screw it, let’s do it” attitude. Notable successes include Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic. Notable flops using the same approach include Virgin Cola and Virgin Bride.
In his book The Virgin Way, Branson relates how he’s learned to temper his snap judgment with what he calls “orchestrated procrastination.” Here the words become, “Screw it, let’s think some more about it.” He tells the story about a deal The Virgin Group subsidiary Virgin Money was considering entering into with financial giant Goldman Sachs. It involved collateralized debt obligations, a.k.a., “subprime mortgages,” hedged by slight-of-hand financial instruments called credit default swaps. He writes:
“Some of our Virgin Money people wanted to jump on the deal but, never having previously heard of the commodity in which they wanted us to invest a sizable sum of money, I urged that we drag our feet for a while. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. The more we looked at the deal the more questions arose, so in the end we decided we’d say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the Goldman people who by this stage were becoming quite agitated about our foot dragging.”
As everyone knows, not too long after Virgin passed on this wonderful “opportunity” the US housing market crashed and subprime debt began to unravel, with Goldman Sachs being fined $550 million for ‘having misled investors in a subprime mortgage product just as the US housing market was starting to collapse.’
Branson recalls how on this particular occasion, “our orchestrated procrastination saved us a lot of money — and probably a chunk of our good reputation as well!”