The success of failure of a business can come down to one single bold decision.
A recent thread on Quora asked users to name the “the shrewdest, smartest manoeuvre you’ve ever seen in business.”
We’ve broken out some of the best answers, including critical decisions by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Henry Ford.
Via Quora user Roberto deLeon:
Amidst a 'sneaker war' between Adidas and Puma in the late 1960s, the 'Pelé Pact' was informally created between the two companies, which stipulated that neither company was allowed to promote their products via soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pelé.
According to the LA Times, Hans Henningsen, a representative for Puma, approached Pelé before the 1970 World Cup.
Before the opening of the final match, Pelé asked the officials for a moment to tie his shoes before beginning play. All of the world watched Pelé tie his Puma sneakers.
Henry Ford did something unheard of and doubled worker salaries, while cutting their day down an hour. It massively boosted production.
Via Quora user Balaji Viswanathan:
In the early 20th century, workers were seen as something entirely interchangeable. Ford's independent move to boost worker salaries was particularly brilliant for a few reasons:
- It drastically reduced worker turnover, reducing training costs and keeping the best people around.
- The PR impact was hugely positive.
- Absenteeism dropped because there was a real reason to stay.
- The quality of the applicant pool massively improved.
The result was skyrocketing productivity and production, and the beginning of a new middle class that could actually afford Ford's vehicles.
Via Quora user Mohammed Chang:
In 2006, European sports car company Porsche, having a close relationship with Volkswagen, decided to invest in a larger stake in VW, fueling speculation that it would ultimately take the company over.
While Porsche did not intend on buying out VW, it did create a 'short squeeze' and buying frenzy by hedge fund managers. The price of VW subsequently soared, 'briefly making VW the world's most valuable company,' according to the Economist.
Herbert Dow managed to break a massive German monopoly by turning their predatory price dumping against them.
Via Quora user David Fry:
Herbert Dow founded Dow Chemical after he figured out a way to produce bromine cheaply. He was doing well in the U.S., but couldn't break into Europe because a giant German cartel fixed the price.
He eventually went to England, beat the cartel on price, which prompted the Germans to start dumping bromine into the U.S. at incredibly low prices. Dow simply stopped selling in the U.S., and started secretly buying all of that German bromine, and selling it in Europe at a fraction of the cartel's prices.
He massively expanded his business, broke the German monopoly, and created 'the textbook response to predatory price cutting.'
Mucinex found a mid-century loophole to make their competition illegal on the prescription drug market.
Via Quora user Mike Benson:
In 2002, Mucinex filed for FDA approval of its 'OTC long-acting guaifenesin product.'
'Under the Durham Humphrey Act of 1951, the FDA established that no drug may simultaneously be sold as a non-prescription product and as a prescription product at the same dose for the same indication. Any products that violate this rule are subject to FDA regulatory action and removal from the market.'
On Oct 11, 2002, the FDA issued warning letters to 66 manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and retailers of single-ingredient guaifenesin extended-release products that stated that such prescription products require FDA approval, and without FDA approval, they could no longer be marketed legally.
This removal resulted in Mucinex SE being the only long-acting, single-ingredient guaifenesin product available in the United States, according to an SEC 10-Q filing form.
Via Quora user Dinesh Mallika:
The world's youngest self-made woman billionaire, Sara Blakely created the Spanx brand after she needed footless pantyhose to go with her outfit, and realising that none of the incumbents made anything like it. She was rejected multiple times by buyers and manufacturers until she took a Neiman Marcus buyer into a fitting room so she could model the hosiery herself.
After that, Blakely found a platform on the Oprah Winfrey show and has since exploded as a household brand, though she handled marketing, logistics, and product positioning independently until the company reached the $1 billion profit mark.
Blakely owns 100% of the private company, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn't spent a nickel on advertising.
Steve Jobs made everything about the iPod completely distinct, down to the headphones, which became a walking advertisement.
Via Quora user Janak Shah:
No surprise that tech icon Steve Jobs is on this list. Before the iPod's market debut in 2001, music accessories, namely headphones, were usually a dark-grey or black.
When Jobs and co. were finalising their game-changing product, Jobs enforced total uniformity in iPod's packaging: crisp white casing, protective foam, wiring, and of course -- headphones.
'iPods became the only music players with white headphone leads. Even if you couldn't see the iPod, you knew what it was.'
Apple later ran a full iPod advertising campaign focused solely on the white headphones. A lot of that distinctive design has carried through today, to the massively successful iPhone.
Oakley Sunglasses got an estimated $41 million in free marketing by helping out trapped Chilean miners.
The inventor of liquid soap was about to get crushed by giant rivals, so he bought every plastic pump in the country.
Via Quora user Vivekanandan Jai:
Liquid soap is ubiquitous now, but in the late '70s, it was just sold by one tiny company, Robert Taylor's Minnetonka. Consumers loved it, so the company decided to make a national push.
That brought the attention of much larger companies, which could rapidly produce an imitator with better distribution and marketing. So Taylor spent $12 million, more than his company was worth, buying up the plastic pumps that dispense the soap. He purchased the entire amount that the two companies that made them could produce for a year or two.
Taylor captured huge market share, and was eventually bought out by Colgate Palmolive.
Via Quora user Yehong Zhu:
Coca-Cola launched a bottle design competition in 1915, with the goal of making a glass bottle that would be unmistakably distinguished from existing competition.
Earl R. Dean is ultimately credited with the historic design, as he submitted a final prototype to the president of The Root Glass Company, Chapman J. Root, after experimenting with different contours and 'hobble skirt' sketches. The design patent for the bottle was issued in 1916.
Bill Gates originally wrote a PC operating system for IBM. He convinced them to let him sell it to others, starting him on the way to becoming the richest man in the world.
Via Quora user Prakul Agarwal:
Back in the 1980s, IBM asked Bill Gates to produce the operating system for its PCs. He licensed an operating system from Tim Patterson (QDOS) for $50,000, modified it, named it MS-DOS, and sold it to IBM.
Gates managed to convince IBM to let him market the system separately, because IBM thought all of the money was in hardware. When other companies started to build their own PCs, MS-DOS was the standard, and Microsoft made a fortune.
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