One of the hardest things about running a business of your own is that you’re inevitably going to come face to face with failures of your own making on occasion. The key to success is surviving them. We all make mistakes, and we all suffer for those mistakes to some degree. Often, the difference between a business that succeeds and a business that fails is how the person in charge responds to those mistakes. If you’re inventive and agile with your response when things go wrong, you stand a better chance than someone who isn’t.
The purpose of this article isn’t to dwell on the mistakes you might have made, though. It’s to dwell on those made by other people! We wanted to remind you that everyone – even the richest and most successful business people in the world – makes a mistake every now and then. In some cases, they’re spectacular mistakes involving eye-watering amounts of money. We know of a few high-profile billionaires who’ve made mistakes that meet that description – and these are their stories!
Bill Gates Saved Apple
If you’re old enough to remember the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” adverts from a few years ago, you’ll know that the war between Apple and Microsoft used to be a bitter one. Things have calmed down a little in recent years, but there’s no denying that Apple irritated Microsoft with its “we’re younger, cooler, and more exciting” approach to its product line in the early 2000s. The campaign probably annoyed Microsoft founder Bill Gates more than it annoyed anyone else at Microsoft because he’d approved an initiative that saved Apple from bankruptcy in 1997. The move was mutually beneficial at the time. Apple was in deep debt and needed financial and strategic support, and Microsoft needed to prove to the US Government that it wasn’t indulging in anti-competitive practices. Microsoft came up with a $150m investment, Apple took that money and ran with it, and the rest is history. Apple is now the world’s biggest and most successful technology company. Microsoft is unlikely ever to reclaim that crown.
Richard Branson Tries To Sell Soda
Self-made billionaire Richard Branson hasn’t made many bad calls in his business career, but trying to go toe-to-toe with Coca-Cola and Pepsi wasn’t a smart idea. Branson’s “Virgin” company had successfully put its name to aircraft, music stores, a record label, package holidays, and train services by the time “Virgin Cola” launched in the mid-1990s. You could even go to Virgin gyms and then go home to log into your Virgin internet account. Buoyed by all this success, Branson thought Virgin Cola couldn’t fail. He was badly wrong. Both Coke and Pepsi spent millions of dollars on new advertising campaigns, and Virgin Cola couldn’t establish a foothold in the market. At its absolute peak, it claimed a market share of 0.5%. Such a low figure proved to be unsustainable, and the resulting humiliation prompted Branson to add a permanent notice to the Virgin website. Perhaps he still reads it every time he has a bad idea.