Poor performance in business doesn’t always imply the failure of a business. It can be an improving point for a business or mark its upward trajectory. Hiring an expert or a coach to walk you through this stage can help you minimize the chances of failure although identifying the problem first can be a great way to create a long-lasting strategy. Whichever path works best for you, improvement should be the ultimate goal.
We asked entrepreneurs and business owners on their best business or entrepreneur turnaround story and here are the responses.
#1- Arianna Huffington
Everyone always talks about Steve Jobs and Apple but my vote goes to Arianna Huffington at The Huffington Post. Today HuffPo is one of the most well-read and well respected online media outlets but when she started it in 2005 she had lots critics who dismissed her unpaid bloggers and editorial content. She was a visionary who was undeterred and in 2011 she sold to AOL for more than $300 million. She found her audience and her business model and focused on scaling her concept and she made it work. She is the ultimate turnaround success story for me!
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#2- Flickr and Slack
I feel like I’ve heard the story 3-4 times on different podcasts over the years, but I love the story of Flickr and Slack. In both cases, the intention was to start a massively multiplayer online game. In both cases, Stewart Butterfield (and team) ran out of money and pivoted to something else as a last-ditch effort to make enough money to keep the game going. Those two pivots ended up being Flickr and Slack.
Thanks to Will Hankinson, IntroCave!
Nextiva’s origin story is wrapped up in failure. Our intrepid founder, Tomas Gorny, has a classic immigrant entrepreneur story. He came here without any money, and then made millions with his first company. Then, he lost it all. But, his tenacity is impresive: he pulled himself back up by the bootstraps, and founded Nextiva which today generates more than $100M ARR.
Thanks to Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva!
#4- My story in the publishing sector
In 2001, I entered the publishing industry, figuring I could use the general services turnaround skills I had developed after B school in an industry in turmoil as a result of the internet and the changes. After working essentially as a leading consultant with a publishing services company helping publishers go digital, I purchased my own niche, declining b2b directory company- and turned it around. Turned out moving it from print to digital got me only 20% of the way to a systemic fix. But, with a great team and flexibility in addressing the niche markets we had a position in, we succeeded. Which led me to feel somewhat confident purchasing a much larger niche regulatory print newsletter company out of bankruptcy. Trying to apply the same fixes did not work this time. The strategy was the same, just as good – pivoting in format from print to digital, events and whatever form of information the niche group wanted. But I had underestimated how lucky I had been finding a new team to help with that pivot. So after 3 valiant, somewhat exhausting years of attempted turnaround, we pivoted again with the new part of the company. We realized we couldn’t change the culture or find enough new talent to help change it – and sold 2/3 of the new company and only keeping the 1/3 that we thought we could cope with transforming. So many lessons- but perhaps the key one. A turnaround strategy may be transferable within an industry – but the execution will still rely on finding the people to execute.
Thanks to Joel Poznansky, Wicked Uncle!
#5-Blood x Sweat x Tears
In 2017, I walked away from a CMO position with a multi-national spirits company to found my own distillery. Culminating nearly 15 years with that company, I had recently re-positioned and re-launched Espolòn – often called the Tito’s of Tequila – and was confident in my ability to create and package spirits brands. I found an excellent financial partner (one of the biggest potato farmers in the US), built a distillery in a former laundromat (good piping for water!), and had a quirky, self-taught, perfectionist distiller in place. The vodka was – and is – wonderful. But by the end of 2018, I had a warehouse full of vodka. I was unable to sell it, and was teetering on the edge of folding. So, I accepted my limitations, and turned the situation around by partnering with another spirits industry expert, Bradd Levitan, who had an equally long spirits career but on the sales side. I appointed Bradd as CEO in early 2019, and within three months not only was the warehouse of vodka empty, we had to expand production beyond the laundromat distillery. Blood x Sweat x Tears is now available in 23 states, with another 17 slated to come on board by year’s end. It usually takes spirits brands 5 years to achieve that kind of distribution.
Thanks to Umberto Luchini, Blood x Sweat x Tears Vodka!