Nobody in the business world has a story that is all success all of the time.
Taking the rough with the smooth and recovering from adversity is a part of every ‘happily ever after’ tale of entrepreneurial glory, and it’s the mark of a truly great company or leader to face down disaster and rise again.
Not everyone can do it, of course, and plenty of companies that seemed ‘too big to fail’ found that they weren’t that at all. But some of the biggest names in the business world have been through times that seemed to spell the end.
Headway Capital has come up with these inspiring stories about 8 of these global giants and how they almost lost everything but bounced back to thrive once again. Here’s how it went wrong and how they recovered:
We now know FedEx as a brand that can be trusted to deliver your packages on time and in the condition you’d expect. Shipping with them is no gamble, which is ironic because at one time the whole company’s existence could well have come down to a card game.
Founder Frederick Smith had built up an impressive business but was struggling to come up with the payments to keep it going. So he did what any of us would do in the situation – he used the last $5,000 to play cards in Las Vegas.
He won $27,000, enough to cover the company’s costs long enough to raise some serious capital the more traditional way, and FedEx as we know it today began to rise and rise.
Wherever you are now, you’re unlikely to be far away from an Apple product, even if you don’t own one yourself. However, the world’s first trillion dollar business almost collapsed before making a single iPhone or iPad.
Founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage, Apple slowly built up a solid reputation as a creator of home computers. Despite some early successes, it was in trouble by the mid-to-late 1990s.
Jobs had left in 80s, and when he returned, he found Apple was days away from being insolvent.
A series of big wins with the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad saw Jobs and Apple not only transforming their fortunes but also the world.
The home of Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and all of the rest, Marvel Comics has a long and illustrious history, but that wouldn’t have been enough to save them if things had gone differently around the turn of the century.
Some bad financial decisions and a slip behind rivals DC in the rankings had seen Marvel’s share price drop 90% between 1993 and 1996, leaving things looking precarious.
However, a 2005 deal with Merrill Lynch changed everything, financing the push towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe that dominates the movie industry today and leading to Disney’s $4.9 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009.
Starting out as a small crop-dusting business in the 1920s, Delta grew to be one of North America’s biggest airlines, but the 9/11 aftermath almost meant the end of the runway.
Cutting costs when you’re a multinational airline is easier said than done. When Delta tried to negotiate new pay deals with their pilots, the stand-off led to years of tough negotiations and the business heading into bankruptcy.
This meant a lot of job cuts and it wasn’t until 2007 that creditors agreed to a reorganization plan and Delta was able to start recovering.
Impressively, by 2015, it was bringing in an income of $5.9 billion.
Did you know that Nintendo started out in 1889? Back then, instead of games consoles, the focus was on trading cards, and it took decades for it to move towards the kind of company we know today.
In the 1960s, the trading card business went into freefall, which almost spelt the end for the business. There were a few false starts after that before toys led to electronic toys, which led to video games and consoles and Super Mario.
However, even a failed launch like the Wii-U saw Nintendo struggle, with 2014 representing the company’s third loss-making year in a row. Since then, it has bounced back once more with the remarkable success of the Switch, the fastest-selling console in Japan ever.
Success in the business world is all about seeing an opportunity and knowing how to make the most of it. Netflix has managed to do that a few times on the road to world domination and winning Emmy awards.
Firstly it came when the founders identified the chance to rent DVDs to customers over the internet, and again when the possibilities of streaming became obvious.
However, Netflix almost came unstuck when it came to working out how to deal with these two areas of its business, with a proposed company split alienating subscribers – 800,000 of whom quit – and leading to a quick u-turn.
Since then, it has grown into a streaming and content-creating behemoth, which shows the benefits of realizing and acting upon your mistakes.
A cornerstone of every child’s existence today, LEGO began in a small woodworking shop in Denmark in the late 19th Century. Long before its first little plastic brick had been built, it almost went out of business.
The shop burned down in 1924 and 1942 saw the factory burn down. Instead of seeing these as setbacks, LEGO took the second incident as a reason to move towards plastic rather than wooden toys, leading to the famous bricks being developed in 1949.
After the factory burned down again in 1960, it stopped making wooden toys altogether. However, that wasn’t the end of the trouble, as LEGO found itself in financial dire straits in the early 2000s, even at risk of defaulting on its debts.
A corporate restructure and the sale of its theme parks helped turn things around and get LEGO back to the top again.
Success comes out of failure so often, so it’s not too shocking to learn that Henry Ford had already been through two bankruptcies before striking it big with his motor company.
In his lifetime, the story of Ford was mostly one of continued successes and growth, but by the 21st Century, the motor industry in America was in free fall and not even Ford escaped unscathed.
Job losses, plant closures and sales of many of the brands it had acquired over the previous decades were required, along with a rescue plan from the Government. However, it soon got back to growth and recovery, culminating in announcing record profits of over $10 billion in 2015.