The Greatest Business Comebacks of All Time

When we talk about the richest men in the world, like Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and all other billionaires, we never mention their blundering failures in business. After all, they are considered as the Mt. Olympus of business success and we tend to measure business success with how wealthy a person is. But with the looming prospect of bankruptcies and foreclosures happening here and there, it is not a surprise that even successful online entrepreneurs have suffered some form of failure in their own right. Successful businessmen will always find ways to succeed by buying businesses and resurrecting failed franchises via search portals.

The road to success is littered with failures. You can’t move on forward if you don’t learn the lessons of your mistakes. Business is a competitive game where success is achieve through making the right decisions. If we are to redefine what business success is then we should be talking about certain individuals who have bounced back from adversities because of their great entrepreneur skills. Here are the greatest business comebacks of all time:

1. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company)
We know Henry Ford because of his pioneering accomplishments that launched the auto industry but we seldom knew about his failures. In fact, his first venture failed miserably as his cars were too expensive for ordinary people. Because of this debacle, Ford decided to develop new and better quality automobile designs until he hit the jackpot – the Model T. Powered by his revolutionary assembly-line method, his factories were able to cope up with the demands of his Model Ts that it went on to become the most successful car in the history of automobile. And the lesson he learned? “Building a brand requires more than just building a good product.”

2. Dame Anita Roddick (The Body Shop)
In 1976, Roddick started her beauty products company called The Body Shop in Brighton, U.K. Unfortunately, two neighbouring funeral parlours have opposed for naming her business as such. Despite the opposition, Roddick fought back by representing herself in the local media as a businesswoman under constant attack. Because of her portrayal, many people have sympathised her struggles and the publicity eventually helped her generate more traffic into her store that she opened 700 more stores by the early 1990s. As for her advice on aspiring Australian entrepreneurs, “Don’t let minor setbacks throw you off course.”

3. Frederick W. Smith (FedEx Corporation)
In his effort to live to the expectations of his company’s mantra “We live to deliver,” Smith failed in his attempt to introduce electronic delivery service under Zapmail in 1984. Though he succeed in revolutionising overnight mail delivery a decade earlier, Smith never anticipated the impact of his failed business venture and it eventually cost him over $350 million. Two years later, he severed his business interest in Zapmail and eventually refocused efforts on the company’s delivery services. He realised that it is important in business to acknowledge failure, avoid bad ideas, and learn to move on. By 2010, FedEx is generating up to $35 billion in revenue.

4. Walt Disney (Disney Corporation)
If you see Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, you always have to think about the successful franchise made by Walt Disney. But during the Great Depression, Disney hit rock bottom as the eminent cartoon animator suffered financial setbacks in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, his biggest business failures include losing rights to his popular Oswald the Lucky Rabbit character and his enormous $4 million debt. By 1938, Disney’s prospects are teetering towards collapse until he released his last Ace on his sleeve – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It became a blockbuster film that eventually pulled out his company from the doldrums of bankruptcy. His company eventually built the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California and the rest is history.

5. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer)
Perhaps, one of the best success stories in the world of business. Steve Jobs emerged from hiatus after he was forced to resign from Apple in 1985. In an effort to resurrect his failed career, Jobs developed NeXT, a computer workstation designed for educators, for several years. Unfortunately, it was another epic failure for him as the pricey computer was plagued with bugs. With millions of investment dollars wasted, his company was sold to Apple where he would once again work with Apple. From 1996 onwards, Jobs has transformed the company that once let go of him into the biggest consumer technology company in the world.

6. Bill Gates (Microsoft Corp.)
One of the most popular billionaire in the planet, Bill Gates hit a brick wall that would have changed the course of his path to fame and fortune. One of his famous business failures happened during his early geek years, Gates and his best bud Paul Allen stated Traf-O-Data as a conduit to automatically read paper tapes from local government traffic counters. Unfortunately, their medium became obsolete as the Washington state government decided to tabulate the tapes for free. Despite this blundering setback, Gates reorganised and developed software that changed the course of history. Gates and Allen’s startup business was then known as “Micro-Soft.” Gates echoed his sentiment on success wherein he said that “you can learn a lot from failed endeavors.”

7. Harland David “Colonel” Sanders (KFC Corporation)
The late Colonel Sanders with his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise started the fast-food type specialty chicken food chain but before getting the success he had. In 1955, Sanders was deep in debt when he sold his two-decade-old restaurant by the time an interstate highway was built in Corbin, Kentucky. Despite the unfavourable business development, Sanders started franchising his chicken restaurant. He managed to build 190 franchisees and 400 KFC locations in a span of five years. The rest is now a real success story.

8. Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc.)
Ash resigned after a 25-year career with Stanley Home Products in 1963 due to her perceived sexism in the workplace – the men she helped trained rose in the ranks ahead of her. She began writing a business advice book for women and she later realised that it was meant for her. So she started her own business, Mary Kay Cosmetics was born. Eager to show the world that women can start their own successful business, her company has grown to the point that it reached $2.5 billion in worldwide sales by 2009. Successful businessmen don’t necessarily depend on their inherent entrepreneur skills to succeed because some of the best and practical business ideas do come from our own personal experience.

9. Dave Thomas (Wendy’s)
The continued success of Wendy’s, one of the largest fastfood chain, is dependent upon the man who brought it to success in the first place. The franchise suffered declining revenues when Thomas retired as the company’s CEO in 1982. Many of its customers were not delighted with the fast-food chain’s new menu and the declining cleanliness and service standards. Thomas came out of semi-retirement and helped the company by becoming its spokesperson in one of the most successful advertising campaign in the company’s history. For Thomas, a strong leader is a huge difference in the success and failure of a company.

10. Donald Trump (Trump Corporation)
Real estate mogul, television personality, and billionaire playboy Donald Trump has captured our imagination because of his personality and cunning entrepreneurial drive that even rivaled the most successful and richest men in the world. Who can deny that a man who once forced into bankruptcy managed to go back on top through his wits, charm, and mastery in business deal-making? Perhaps, online entrepreneurs can learn a lesson from “The Donald.”

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