Storytelling

30 Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Favorite Business or Entrepreneur Turnaround Story

Arianna HuffingtonPoor performance in business doesn’t always imply the failure of a business. It can be an improving point for a company 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 about their best business or entrepreneur turnaround story and here are the responses.

#1- Marvel

Photo Credit: Brian David Crane

Marvel’s fascinating turnaround story is no less than a heroic action story where the protagonist flips the scales at the last moment and arises like the phoenix, just like the many superheroes it helped become household names. The billion-dollar behemoth that Marvel is today rose from a comics company that failed a couple of times, rose from the ashes, went bankrupt in the 1990s, and then arose like the superhuman characters that its lead cartoonist Stan Lee helped create.

Thanks to Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas!


#2- Airbnb

Photo Credit: Jack Underwood

Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia had difficulty securing funding, so they launched a mini project to build some funds and catch investors' attention. The project was a little unexpected – creating customer cereal boxes called Obama-Os and Cap’n McCains, timely for the 2008 elections. The sales helped them raise $30K and the attention of a startup incubator, which offered them training and another $20K in funding. Using this capital, the founders launched and enjoyed exponential growth in their first year, with 10K users and thousands of listings.

Thanks to Jack Underwood, Circuit!


#3- Sam Walton

Photo Credit: Will Yang

I actually have a lot of favorite business turnarounds. I love the story of Steve Jobs and I also love the story of Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba. But I think my favorite is probably Sam Walton's turnaround story at Walmart. It's such an incredible tale of a guy who grew up on a farm and started a store called Walton's Five and Dime with his brother in 1945 that would become Walmart. He built it up from nothing to become one of the largest retailers in the world, but he also did it while maintaining a strong sense of humility.

Thanks to Will Yang, Instrumentl!


#4- Netflix

Photo Credit: Jen Wan

Netflix was founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph to combat late fees for video rentals. The company didn’t turn a profit until 2003, but by 2005 business was booming – Netflix was shipping out a million DVDs daily. Over the years, despite massive losses, Netflix was able to bounce back and improve its revenue by 47%. One of the company’s smartest moves was introducing “Netflix Original” movies and TV shows, first launching House of Cards in 2013 to much success.

Thanks to Jen Wan, Soteri Skin!


#5- Reddit

Photo Credit: Raven Cobb

Reddit, a popular website for news and discussion, was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian. When it first launched, it had zero visitors, leading the founders to create several fake accounts to hold fake discussions until visitors eventually started trickling in. Eventually, Reddit became wildly popular and was bought by Condé Nast, the owner of 20 other brands and media like Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The New Yorker.

Thanks to Raven Cobb, Clearstep, Inc!


#6- Lord Alan Sugar

Photo Credit: Paul Bowley

My favorite entrepreneur turnaround story is that of Lord Alan Sugar. He started off in Hackney as a Jack-the-lad making money from scrap trading. When he did manage to start his own business, it was short-lived and failed. He lost almost everything. But instead of pitying himself he got back up and tried again. And this time he learned from his failure and built this business back up to a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It just goes to show that failure is something to be learned from.

Thanks to Paul Bowley, Abbeycare Group!


#7- Growth of Apple

Photo Credit: Erin LaCkore

The rise of the computer giant Apple is maybe the most well-known example of turnaround success. After former CEO Steve Jobs departed the business in 1985, Apple entered a ten-year downward spiral as competitors' lower-priced products notably Microsoft Windows, dominated the personal computer market. Before Jobs returned to the business in 1997, its sales, and popularity all steadily declined for 12 years, nearly driving it into bankruptcy.

Thanks to notably Erin LaCkore, LaCkore Couture!


#8- Failing at my own business

Photo Credit: Ryan Niddel

Seven years ago I launched a business that would eliminate my savings and push me to the verge of bankruptcy within 18 months. Failing at that business, terminating my employees, and shutting the doors was the most challenging thing I had done. It took 3 years after shutting the doors to rebuild my confidence and certainty in my decision-making process. Between therapy, coaching, and consistent pursuit of new information I have been able to grow to the point of leading a $75m a year company.

Thanks to Ryan Niddel, Ryan Niddel Strategies!


#9- Howard Schultz

Photo Credit: Matt Gillman

I admire Howard Schultz for using his thinking skills in taking over a company name where he previously worked as an employee. Starbucks, which is now a common coffee hangout place all over the United States, has an interesting owner. Having a simple background in sales and marketing, he came up with attractive employee benefits. This included health insurance and making them domestic partners. This raised the company's name, despite all controversies.

Thanks to Matt Gillman, SMB Compass


#10- Elon Musk

Photo Credit: Matt Raad

Everyone knows about Elon Musk and his great success in numerous entrepreneurial ventures, which are not even limited to electric cars and commercial space flight. But not many know that even this modern-day genius had his fair share of trouble. Early in his career, he was demoted from the company he founded, Zip2. But this didn’t stop him, as he proceeded to found PayPal, which received very negative public attention. His persistence shows us that you should never give up, despite what others say.

Thanks to Matt Raad, eBusiness Institute!


#11- Mark Zuckerberg

Photo Credit: Karthik Manoharan

My favorite success story is of one of the most influential, richest, and talked about, entrepreneurs i.e. Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg’s journey started when he created a message program ‘ ZuckNet’ at the age of twelve, CourseMatch and FaceMash in college, and finally the world-famous social networking platform ‘Facebook’ which revolutionized communication, followed by taking over WhatsApp and Instagram. I am inspired by his entrepreneurship where he always stays a step ahead of others in the field.

Thanks to Karthik Manoharan, WeCodee Innovations!


#12- Disney

Photo Credit: Rob Greene

During the early to late eighties, it seemed like Disney was destined to become a name that only parents and grandparents would remember, as a slew of box office flops and a lack of investment in the parks meant that the company was on the verge of a hostile takeover, that would have seen it broken up and its various divisions sold off for profit. Four decades later, and thanks to sound financial decisions and clear leadership, Disney is one of the most successful brands and companies in the world.

Thanks to Rob Greene, Price of Meat


#13- My grandfather

Photo Credit: Keith Terrell

My favorite turnaround story is actually a personal one, it’s the story of my grandfather. My grandfather used to run a small family farm and every weekend he’d sell his fruits and veg on a stall he ran on the roadside just outside of the farm. I remember one particularly bad year where sales of fruit and veg were at an all-time low. From then on, every harvest he’d pack into the bike and trek over 40 miles away to Melbourne to sell. In the morning he’d leave with a full basket and then come back with an empty one.

Thanks to Keith Terrell, Backpacks Global!


#14- Polaroid

Photo Credit: Justin Carpenter

When Polaroid introduced its first instant camera back in 1947, it was a huge success that quickly made the company one of the leaders in the market. Later they failed to keep up with technologies and the digital boom and have even filed for bankruptcy twice. But due to the rise in nostalgia marketing, it seems to be in favor again, millennials and Gen Xers are craving analog products, and Gen Zs are increasingly trying to get away from screens.

Thanks to Justin Carpenter, Modern Maids!


#15- Richard Branson

Photo Credit: Avaid Faruz

Richard Branson bet on more than 100 companies, and most of them failed. The one that brought him to success was the record store, which later became a record label, Virgin Records. But in his path of trial and error, Branson has already invested in an airline, a bank, a lingerie brand, a wine club, wedding dresses, and even space travel. But its biggest failure was perhaps the most cited failure to date, Virgin Drinks. But the failed deals never made Branson feel bad.

Thanks to Avaid Faruz, Faruzo!


#16- Subscription service by BMW

Photo Credit: Jason Baker

BMW introduced subscription fees for their cars, creating revolutionary changes in the conservative automotive community. They plan to charge their clients for heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. And it’s a definite win-win for the customers and the manufacturer. Most cars are used for about five years by their first owners—it would be cheaper to buy a subscription than to pay the full price for an extra trim.

Thanks to Jason Baker, Emerald House Cleaning!


#17- General Motors

Photo Credit: Christopher Andrew

GM was first a holding company when it was established in 1908 by William C. Durant. Due to significant debt and the auto industry's collapse, Durant lost ownership of GM to a banker's trust just two years later, in 1910. The U.S. Treasury made a $50 billion investment in GM and earned $39 billion when it sold its shares later that year. But they recovered to control after much work and expense on the part of the Treasury. One of the top five largest IPOs in the world was done by the reformed General Motors in 2010, and the company generated a profit.

Thanks to Christopher Andrew, 420 expert advisers!


#18- Adidas' Adi Dassler

Photo Credit: David Reid

No one exemplifies the standard beginnings of several of today's greatest brands over Adidas founder Adolf Adi Dassler. Even though there were several shoemakers at the time, Dassler was committed to differentiating his merchandise by asking athletes for their opinions on the options they wished in an exceeding shoe, and their impressions of his prototypes. Since then, Adidas has developed into a world whole recognized for its premium athletic attire.

Thanks to David Reid, VEM Group!


#19- The Fat Sheep project

Photo Credit: Lorie Carson

The Fat Sheep project in South Africa's barren Karoo landscape is my favorite turnaround story. It was started by a farmer's wife in an effort to subsidise their household income. The Karoo is plagued by a prolonged drought, and farmers had to sell their farms or abandon them. In a desperate attempt to make ends meet, Chrisma van der Merwe came up with a creative way to earn an income. She started crocheting and selling adorable “Fat Sheep” soft toys, which had been popular in the area.

Thanks to Lorie Carson, Real People Finder!


#20- Henry Ford

Photo Credit: Liam Johnson

My favorite business turnaround story is the story of Henry Ford. They were losing money hand over foot. After this point, though, Ford made some changes to help make the company one of the biggest auto manufacturers in history. He changed his manufacturing process by using interchangeable parts instead of custom-made ones and focused on making cars affordable for middle-class Americans.  He also introduced an assembly line to his company, which allowed him to produce cars faster than anyone else in history at that time—and still does today.

Thanks to Liam Johnson, TheHitchStore!


#21- Joe Coulombe-style

Photo Credit: Gerrid Smith

The method in which Joe Coulombe turned his company around is the best example of a successful business or entrepreneurial turnaround tale. Joe Coulombe had an idea after running a small chain of convenience stores in southern California. He speculated that upwardly mobile college graduates could be interested in a product or service that was superior to 7-11. So, he decided to create a store in Pasadena, stocked it with quality wine and liquor, recruited trustworthy employees, and compensated them adequately.

Thanks to Gerrid Smith, Joy Organics!


#22- The Matsushita way

Photo Credit: Ellie Shippey

From my point of view, the story of following Konosuke Matsushita's lead is my favorite example of a successful business or entrepreneurial turnaround. Young Matsushita decided to start manufacturing samples in the basement because his employer wasn't interested in the project. The current market value of Panasonic, which was formerly known as Matsushita Electric until 2008 when the business formally changed its name to Panasonic, is $66 billion.

Thanks to Ellie Shippey, EZContacts!


#23- Lego

Photo Credit: Daivat Dholakia

Lego went from being one of the world's most popular toy makers to then losing money in the late 90s due to competition from video games and waning interest in the once ubiquitous toy. Back in 2003, the company lost over $300 million and was virtually out of money – and they were projected to lose even more the following year. With a new CEO in 2004, the toy company shifted gears and introduced new lines of some of the most popular LEGO sets in history. It's steadily risen to the most popular toymaker spot once more.

Thanks to Daivat Dholakia, Essenvia!


#24- Jan Koum

Photo Credit: Amar Vig

When Koum was young, his poor family emigrated to California from Ukraine. Koum read more about computers in California. By 18, he had amazing computing skills. He used his abilities, expertise, and experience to start WhatsApp Inc. WhatsApp became one of the most popular apps for social media by 2014. Facebook bought Koum's app for $19 billion.

Thanks to Amar Vig, London-fs!


#25- Vine and Periscope

Photo Credit: Carter Seuthe

The story of Vine and Periscope is definitely one that's worth repeating here. Both of these startups came to market with a social media platform focused on short, viral videos that were ideal for quickly sharing on social media. Both of these platforms have effectively failed, but the idea of the viral video is alive and well in the form of TikTok. The lesson here is that it's not enough to simply have a good idea; you need the backing to make it a success and a huge dose of luck to bring your product to market at just the right time to succeed long-term.

Thanks to Carter Seuthe, Credit Summit!


#26- MaryBeth Hyland's Spark Vision

Photo Credit: Jason McMahon

MaryBeth Hyland founded Spark Vision to assist companies to develop collaborative office cultures. Hyland and Spark Vision offer millennial engagement workshops to promote office collaboration. Hyland's self-worth and confidence were damaged by maltreatment. Hyland's business benefits from her traumatic childhood. She utilizes her survival to push herself and connect with coworkers. Hyland's website states she believes her experience helps her company.

Thanks to Jason McMahon, Bambrick!


#27- Mark Benioff

Photo Credit: Max Whiteside

Mark Benioff, one of the founders of Salesforce, is infamous for coming up with over-the-top (and occasionally incendiary) marketing schemes. He once arranged a phony protest at a Siebel Systems conference, replete with picket placards, chanting, and a fake television crew. This garnered Salesforce a lot of attention at the expense of his competitor. Benioff once arranged for the rental of an airport's entire taxi fleet just before another Siebel event was hosted nearby. Then, to Siebel's displeasure, he had his employees pitch Salesforce on the way to the event.

Thanks to Max Whiteside, Breaking Muscle!


#28- Nicholas Berggruen's refusal to invest in a house

Photo Credit: Kavin Patel

For the vast majority of rich businesses, having multiple residences is standard procedure. But for many years, Nicholas Berggruen avoided ever purchasing a home. He chose to live only in hotels while traversing the globe, earning him the peculiar moniker the homeless billionaire. However, Berggruen decided to establish himself recently. In 2017, he purchased a $40 million home, maybe to provide a stable environment for his two young children.

Thanks to Kavin Patel, Convrrt!


#29- John Paul DeJoria

Photo Credit: Joanne King

You've definitely heard of Patrón tequila and Paul Mitchell's hair products. Both illustrious businesses were co-founded by John Paul DeJoria, who went on to amass a fortune in the process. But for him, the road to success wasn't always simple. He was just 22 years old and had a two-year-old kid to take care of the first time he was homeless. But he continued in his entrepreneurial dream, and with $700 in startup funds, he eventually co-founded John Paul Mitchell Systems.

Thanks to Joanne King, ICMP!


#30- David Daneshgar

Photo Credit: Dean Lee

In order to link florists and clients online, Daneshgar and their two companions sought to launch a marketplace, but they lacked the necessary beginning funds. Therefore, the 2008 World Series of Poker champion Daneshgar paid $1,000 to enter a poker game. Coincidentally, the $30,000 big prize was just what they needed. Daneshgar gave his friends the information they desired at the conclusion of the stressful final round: It's flower time. Soon after, they started BloomNation, a company.

Thanks to Dean Lee, Sealions!


What has been your favorite business or entrepreneur turnaround story? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

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