6 Business Mistakes From Icons and Take Home Lessons from Them
The great Sōichirō Honda opined that success is 99% failure, and I couldn’t agree more. There is no “knowing it all” for a business owner. The learning curves are unending.
You will win some, lose some, make many mistakes, and learn as you go.
This is regardless of how refined your business strategy is. But truth is some mistakes are preventable.
Lots of legendary professional business owners in the world have earned reputations that make us look up to them. We ravish their books and materials in a rush, because everything they say is gospel. They are billionaires, so who says? They just know it all, but there is a catch…
These moguls have made many business mistakes that almost crumpled them. But most times choose to close our eyes to those facts. The up side is that they bounced back from it anyway and made better choices.
They were generous enough to share their mistakes with us, so we won’t make the same mistakes. They have set the pace and cleared the path. All you need is to work and walk your business path in enlightenment, and you will be better for it.
This post is a very interesting one, as it is a combination of fun storytelling, insight, learning and guide. I will tell short stories of business idols, like Janine Allis, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, et al. I’ll also be discussing with you the biggest business goofs they made and the take home lessons to learn from them.
They are legends, but they are not perfect. See their business mistakes below, learn a lesson and don’t make them!
1. Warren Buffet Passes Up An Opportunity
Warren Buffet, also known as Wall Street investment’s “oracle of Omaha” has a regret he has not lived down till date. The regret is “not buying the Dallas-Fort worth” when he was approached to do so.
In 1972, a trusted acquaintance made an offer to him for the NBC station at the cost of $35million. In his words, he knew in his heart that it was a great offer, with the station having an excellent growth potential.
The best part of the deal was that it didn’t require any capital investment. Yet, he turned it down on an excuse of a “disrupted brain” going on vacation. Something he regrets now.
By the time he discussed his loss in a 2007 letter to his shareholders, NBC station was now valued at $800 million. And presently, we can only imagine how much it is worth.
The take home:
Never miss a decent opportunity!
No matter how successful you get as a business owner or coach, never become complacent. Always look out for opportunities to get better. And if an opportunity arises, do your due diligence of vetting it. If it is viable and worthy of investment, dive right in.
Warren Buffet deeply regrets this loss because he knew that it was a gold mine. If he had not known the potentials, the loss would be easier to handle. A business with so much potentials for massive returns on investment doesn’t come by every day.
He says his distracted brain went on vacation. That vacation was all expense paid and very costly.
Now, for you as a business owner, if there is a great opportunity to invest in your personal development as in a course or coaching program, that could double, triple or quadruple your business growth… don’t hesitate to make this investment, as you will thank yourself later for it.
In your business, if there is an opportunity to invest in a new marketing channel, or traffic source and your research confirms that it’s a viable investment — failure to make this investment might leave you in regrets much later.
Also, if you realize that your business is in need of professionals in certain key positions, yes, you may want to cut down on your business expenditures. But failure to hire these professionals at their premium worth could spell doom for your business expansion and possibly death in the long run.
Don’t try to cut corners when investing in your business.
2. Richard Branson Was Delusional About His Product
With over a hundred businesses to his name, the worst business flop he has yet made was declaring a brand war on coca cola. He failed and he did so woefully. Reading about his antics still gets a smile from me every time.
Richard Branson has his interest vested heavily in the publishing, music and the airline industry. In the year 1994, he decided to venture into the beverage industry and flagged off his own home made recipe which he named “virgin cola”.
The kids at his children’s school loved virgin cola too, but in hind sight, he will confess that it was not unique. At the beginning, virgin cola was a hit and he was so sure he’d topple coca cola. He launched the beverage with such fanfare that his staff drove a Sherman tank through a wall of virgin cola in celebration.
Then reality hit! The drinks started disappearing off shelves, not because customers bought, but because Coca-Cola went all out to kneecap virgin cola.
They offered retailers prices they couldn’t refuse, who in turn began canceling their virgin cola orders. Coke was great, virgin cola was good, but if given a choice, everyone would take coke.
At a point, virgin cola was only popular in Bangladesh. This marked the end of virgin cola.
Create your mark, be the best, or be different!
To tackle the competition, find an edge which makes you better than them or stand out in your own corner. According Richard, virgin cola was not unique. It had nothing against coca cola despite blind tasters always ranking virgin cola over coca cola. It takes more than that to beat the competition.
To be able to beat the competition in your business, or at least have a competitive edge, find something that is unique to your business, a unique selling proposition that could help you stand out… else, look elsewhere you can be able to stand out, or the competition eats you alive.
3. Microsoft’s Bing Gets Toppled By Google
Back in the 1990s, Bill Gates had his company, Microsoft. It was very successful, still is, and he was satisfied. Little did he know that a minute start up called Google was in the works. By 1998, Microsoft MSN search (Bing.com) and Google launched.
Now here is the problem, while Google was fast, creative and user friendly, MSN search wasn’t and it used results from Inktomi search engine, with a much cluttered homepage.
Bill Gates was so into his Microsoft windows products that he neither foresaw, nor thought anything of Google. He underestimated the fluidity of the internet.
Microsoft had the potential to floor Google and every other search engine if they were forward thinking and foresighted. They were in the game for much longer, they could have stayed two steps ahead and come out with something terrific.
In Bill gates’ words, Google kicked our butts! They did indeed, because it is something not to recover from. He relaxed with the feeling of contentment, while others were working tirelessly on something new.
Follow change, leverage opportunities and stay relevant!
It is easier and less stressful to relax, and not do any work, while pretending that things will always remain the way they are in your market. Changes are going on every day and major shifts are happening in your industry. Lift your head out of the sand, adapt to these shifts, and form a business strategy that keeps you ahead.
Be relentless in working your way. Create new strategies to win even if you are at the top of your business or market. Someone is always on your heels waiting to take your meal, and if you snooze, you’d be left to starve.
Strive to give consistent value to your clients by staying steps ahead of your competition, so that you’d not be taken unawares.
Constantly be on the lookout for what’s new in your market. Adapt, innovate and add your own touches to it. This way, you will never be left behind.
4. Rand Fishkin’s Flopper
This is about the unending poor scorecard of the early version of MOZ Analytics. The CEO of MOZ and cofounder of inbound.org regrets developing the early version of MOZ too big and too fast.
When it first launched, over 80,000 people signed up for the trials, but by the time trials were over, only a few subscribed. Those who subscribed were disappointed and complained about its performance. The early version had lots of bugs and was full of errors.
This hurt more because it took Rand’s team a total of two and half years to create the app. And when it eventually launched, it was a flop. The app was designed, engineered, built and launched poorly, all the way.
He lost a lot of money in that sole investment which set him back by a couple of millions. I doubt he ever made such error again.
Don’t test the waters with both feet in business, test in small scale and then adjust to market needs!
When launching into a new terrain in business, say a new product or service, start small. Launch out in small or scaled back versions/offers to test the waters. When you get favorable feedbacks and testimonials from clients, you can scale up from there.
This helps you refine, tweak, improve and adjust, giving the market something with the assurance that it will meet the needs and expectations of the market.
Take for instance, amazon started small. During the early days of amazon, they started in the garage, using wooden doors for tables, personally put together by Jeff himself. Most things they used in their office were cheap and pre-used items purchased on craigslist.
They invested the bulk of their resources on developing the main products. Starting small gave them the ability to scale and grow in time.
5. Oprah Winfrey Hates To Delegate
Oprah Winfrey, the richest African-American woman in the world is currently worth $2.6 billion according to Forbes. With over 25 years of hard work, she ran the Oprah Winfrey show, is the CEO of Harpo productions, and the CEO of Oprah Winfrey Network.
She is also an actress and author. Too many feathers on one cap, don’t you think?
But in all of these, she has one trait which took her to the top, yet is almost her undoing.
She hates to delegate duties.
Her staff and acquaintances testify that she is a very “hands on” kind of boss. She doesn’t just stand back and let paid helps do the heavy lifting.
She would rather be at the forefront and center of the day-to-day work process. But when is it right to pause and delegate? She had this mentality on her show and almost ran her network with same. But she learned right in time before any major damage happened.
In her words, she says “she learned to give power to others and hold them accountable”.
Learn to delegate duties to your professionals!
Truth is that, no matter how much of a hands on business owner you are, you can never outperform a professional worth their weight in gold.
Everyone on your team is knowledgeable in certain key areas for the sole purpose of bringing about growth in your business. You spent tons of dollars hiring these professionals. Let them do their jobs!
Not only do you risk a burnout by overstretching yourself to extremes, you’ll also launch into terrains you’re not well grounded in. Slowly, but surely, you’ll ruin your business, because you haven’t the insights and hacks that a professional does.
You’ll also be doing a great job of stifling the growth of staff in your business. This is because you keep bringing either obsolete ideas, or absolute crap to a field you know little about.
So, instead of dominating and never delegating, make suggestions and ask for workable opinions. Work together with your experts, rather than take their jobs away from them, by making them redundant.
Work with a mindset that empowers others to do their tasks and see how much growth you will make in a short time.
6. Daniel Flynn Keeps Talking About More Work
Daniel Flynn, the cofounder of “Thankyou” based in Australia sure doesn’t know how to say thank you. He is a very smart, focused and forward thinking business man, but this almost is his weakness.
Some years ago, Daniel Flynn and his team landed an account with “7-eleven”. Instead of celebrating and thanking everyone who worked to make it a reality, his victory speech was… “Team mates, we’ve really got to focus”.
Wow, just wow!
Daniel got a warning from his mentor telling him that he runs the risk of burning out his team, if he always moved to the next thing in a flash. I think so too.
Savor and celebrate your wins!
There is no achievement too big or too small to celebrate, as that’s what will fuel you for better and spike up your confidence. When you suck out all the life from the room, it is impossible to foster great ideas.
Celebrate and savor your wins together with your team. It makes them feel and know that they are doing something right which energizes them to do more. Recognize your team when they perform well and they will perform at their optimum!
Let their loss be your gain…
You don’t have to make the mistakes the six giants I discussed above made, because you may not survive it. Again, they picked themselves up and got bigger, a bonus take home. All six people have huge businesses, but you can apply these rules in your small and mid-sized business.
In your business, there are some mistakes you will have to make and learn from yourself, but the ones who went before you lessened the burden. It is wise to mark the danger signs left by them, form a business strategy and use them for your growth and expansion.
If you need our support in implementing these take home in your business, schedule a breakthrough call with one of our elite business strategies here.