Via The Globe and Mail.

For more than 25 years working for the likes of Richard Branson at Virgin and Phil Knight at Nike, Andrew Black learned more than a few lessons that still guide him in his work today.

For instance, after Mr. Branson and he sold the Canadian branch of Virgin Mobile to Bell in 2009, Mr. Black took his mentor’s advice and went into business for himself, starting BrandProject with three other entrepreneurs. With offices in both Toronto and New York, Mr. Black invests in and guides Canadian startups, helping them build their businesses in North America.

Mr. Black discusses some of what he learned from his mentors.

You’ve worked for some of the most well-known consumer brands in the world. Is there a common thread that links the success of companies such as Nike, Virgin or Lego?

Nike, Lego and Virgin have all been really successful because they put the consumer at the forefront of everything they do and it’s really that simple. At Nike our mission was to bring innovation and inspiration to athletes around the world and to make exceptional products for them and the whole organization

at Nike is aligned in structure to do just that. At Virgin Richard Branson has from the beginning set Virgin up to provide exceptional service to people and if you think about all of his most successful businesses many of them are service businesses: mobile phones, airlines, he’s got a bank business called Virgin Money.

Lego is really inspiring builders and engineers and a whole generation of people around creativity, innovation and building and the Lego brand is now synonymous with that and has been a huge, huge success. It’s now the largest toy company in the world.

All three of them at their core it’s around the consumer and they all have leaders and founders that are incredibly focused on doing an exceptional job of that. That’s really the summary of why the three of them have gone on to be so successful.

Read the full article here.