No entrepreneur starts a business with the notion of playing safe. It is sometimes said that your level of success is proportional to the level of risk taken. Sometimes success means having the right idea, in the right place, at the right time. Other times, it’s about not being afraid to quit and move onto something new.
In growing your business, you have to manage risks and learn from the successes and failures of others. Check out our list of brands that took a risk, and it paid off.
Though Microsoft was not so successful with mobile devices, back in 2001, the tech giant pushed the envelope with its first gaming console: the Xbox. At a time when it seemed like there could be no rival to the PlayStation, the company doubled down on their marketing budget for the device. Now, the Xbox isn’t just a way to play games but is also a major player when it comes to OTT television and video streaming.
Now, car and ride sharing seem natural, but back in 2000, Zipcar was just an idea that co-founders Robin Chase and Antje Danielson came up with while dropping their kids off at the same kindergarten. With just $68 in their bank accounts, they turned the idea into a tangible business. They sold to Avis in 2013 for $500 million and changed the way people drive.
Remember when buying organic and natural products seemed like a fancy idea? You can blame four guys from Texas, John Mackey and Renee Lawson Hardy, owners of Safer Way Natural Foods, and Craig Weller and Mark Skiles, owners of Clarksville Natural Grocery, for the rise of the all-natural economy. They all left their popular shopping market gigs to bet on Whole Foods, which could have been a major flop. But by believing in the model, and starting out with just 19 employees in 1980, they’ve changed the entire culture of grocery shopping and food preparation.
In 2008, Twitter’s user base was growing, but it was turning profits like many insiders thought they should’ve been. Facebook offered $500 million to take over the growing social network – an offer Twitter promptly rejected. The platform is almost indispensable but whether the risk really will pay off in the end still remains to be seen. Sometimes, saying no and sticking it out through the tough times is the hardest risk of all.
Sometimes it’s the little things that count. In 2014, the toilet paper company decided that it was going to use potty humour to engage its audience and it totally worked. Getting sassy and turning a wholesome family brand into one of the most engaging, hysterical brands on social media was a big leap but they keep rolling with it.
Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the company while PhD students at TK, and almost gave up on it all because it was taking way too much time. Page almost sold the company in 1997 for just $1.5 million. Later on, in 2006, when no one understood the potential of a short video service called YouTube, the tech company bought it up. The rest is history.
When Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS, many investors laughed at the business model and the fashion. Mycoskie went all in though, starting and running the business from the very beginning. Not only do they have multiple product lines, but the “buy one, give one” concept has defined an entire generation of millennial consumers and the sharing economy.
Can you imagine saying no to Steve Jobs? Dropbox founder Drew Houston did. Houston didn’t back down when Jobs told him that the cloud wasn’t his and now the file-sharing company is worth around $8-10 billion.
Intel is one of the foundational companies of almost everything digital. But just this spring, they announced that they’re totally reinventing themselves and ditching their main focus on chips and getting into the cloud and storage. They’re betting it all on the Internet of Things.
When FedEx was denied a business loan, they needed to foot a gas bill and stay afloat; founder Fred Smith took $5,000 to Las Vegas to raise the cash. If that’s not the epitome of risk-taking, we don’t know what is.
When Pandora was completely out of money in 2001, CEO Tim Westergren asked 50 employees to defer their salaries for two years. They were eventually bailed out by investors, but employees stuck around. Asking for help and team effort isn’t easy.
Elon Musk took all of the capital he had from the sale of PayPal and threw into his passion project, SpaceX. At one time he had blown every penny he’d earned in the past, not even able to make payroll for the company. Months later, he closed a multibillion-dollar deal. Musk knows how to take big leaps.
Apple takes risks all the time on design and products, but when they decided to focus on phones, they changed the world (and how everyone connects with each other). This year, they’re changing the way users listen to music, going against popular opinion and betting on better audio all around.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely knew nothing about business, but all about how uncomfortable pantyhose were. After being told over and over that her idea was “so crazy,” she wrote the patent herself and went for it. Now, their undergarments are everywhere.
IBM, a company that consistently delivers year after year and is particularly hailed in the B2B sphere, has come up with a “Smarter Planet” campaign. The company explained its plans to help clients innovate and make the world a better place. They inspired consumers to believe in the brand and see where they are now.
One of McDonald’s gifts was the ability to listen to consumers’ sentiments and adapt, particularly to growing health concerns. It has come out with a much healthier menu with apple slices, oatmeal, and a Chicken McWrap which has done well. McDonald’s has ventured into the coffee space and is gaining a stronghold already. This should be an exciting new endeavour to follow.
MasterCard’s rank as the 20th most valuable brand in the world today and this is attributable to the growth of mobile technology. As consumers up their online shopping habits, brands like Mastercard and Visa reap the rewards for offering noncash payment methods.
SAP is really into the big data. Their overall success is reflective of a consistent storyline: The growth of mobile shopping. SAP has big data solutions enterprise companies need.
Walmart has mastered the art of brick and mortar shopping. The retail giant has a large and loyal consumer base that is constantly growing – even internationally.
At almost $40 billion, Vodafone is still one of the largest mobile carriers in the UK.
A lot of UPS growth is really tied to several consumer trends – the need for consumers to shop online via mobile devices. Consumers need to get the products they bought on the internet somehow, and that’s where UPS comes in.
It’s almost impossible for brick and mortar shops to compete with Amazon’s wide selection, low prices, and mastery of the mobile marketplace – easily allowing consumers to buy anything from anywhere on their phone or tablet. Recent acquisitions of Audible.com and Goodreads also show the company’s determination to dominate all aspects of mobile book consumption and sharing.
Verizon got a boost after Apple opened its services to carriers other than just AT&T. While Verizon and AT&T’s rivalry heats up, there is a high chance that the competition will be up to both brands’ game. As data devices continue to proliferate, Verizon will continually do well.
GE continues to be one of the most well-respected consumer and industrial brands in the world, and the public is starting to see that it makes more than just light bulbs. General Electric has dedicated major marketing dollars to making sure that consumers know it produces everything from aeroplane engines to wind turbines to medical equipment. Hammering in its dedication to innovation, a recent ad campaign even enlisted the help of famous robots.
A key way to bolster global presence is to sponsor the Olympics. But that’s not the only thing that upped Visa’s brand value so drastically. As one of the most trusted names in noncash payments, Visa has gained clout in the world of online shopping and mobile payments.
Have you noticed how all these successful brands first identified a need before sacrificing resources to see that they satisfy these needs innovatively? Then there is the firm belief and steadfastness too. In all, you must give something to get something better.
These are just a few lessons you can derive from these bold brands.