13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded

By Lynn Truong on 3 August 2011 (Updated 17 August 2011) 0 comments
Photo: morganl

It’s often said that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. For these 13 eventual business successes, it might be said that success is ninety percent failure.

Akio Morita

Morita co-founded Sony, a multi-billion dollar company. But the company's beginnings were not so rosy. Their first product was a rice cooker, but it burned the rice. However, this didn't stop them from moving on to building bigger and better things.

Bill Gates

Before building his empire, Gates started a business called Traf-O-Data which went nowhere and he dropped out of Harvard. But his passion for computers and his vision of the opportunities led him to start Microsoft.

Colonel Sanders

Surprisingly, the Colonel's famous secret chicken recipe was rejected over a 1000 times before a restaurant accepted it. He founded KFC when he was 65 years old.

Evan Williams

Before co-founding the social media giant Twitter, he founded a company called Odeo, a podcasting platform. Soon after, Apple announced that the iTunes store would include a podcasting platform, making Odeo obsolete.

Frank Winfield Woolworth

Before starting the Woolworth Company (now Foot Locker), Woolworth worked at a dry goods store. His boss did not allow him to wait on customers because Woolworth "didn't have enough common sense to serve the customers." The Woolworth Company was one of the original five-and-ten-cent stores, which is the model Sam Walton used to start Walmart. Woolworth's eventually became one of the largest retail chains in the world.

Fred Smith

While studying at Yale University, Fred Smith presented a business idea to his business management class that received a nearly failing grade. The idea was for a parcel service that could deliver packages overnight. Smith ignored the grade and founded FedEx.

Henry Ford

Ford's first two car companies failed and left him broke. But that didn't stop him from founding Ford Motor Company and become the first to apply assembly line manufacturing for cars. He became one of the three most famous and richest men in the world.

Mark Cuban

Before making billions selling his company to Yahoo, Cuban failed at a variety of jobs. He failed as a carpenter, as a cook, as a waiter (he couldn't open a bottle of wine). He says of his failures, "I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed. You only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”

Rowland Hussey Macy

Between 1843 and 1855, Macy opened four retail dry goods stores that all failed. He learned from those mistakes, and hit it big with his next store in New York City.

Richard Branson

Even the fifth richest person in the UK didn't get to where he is now without a few failures along the way. Along with his famous Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines, he also developed Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka. The fact that you don't recognize them says it all.

Soichiro Honda

Honda initially applied for a job at Toyota as an engineer, but was turned down. Being jobless, he started making scooters at home, which he sold to neighbors. With the support of his family, he founded Honda, the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer and one of the most profitable automakers.

Thomas Edison

Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history (holding over 1000 U.S. patents), was told as a boy by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything, and suggested he go into a field that did not require intelligence. He tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.

Walt Disney

Disney was fired by an editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no original ideas." His first animation company went bankrupt and it's said that he was turned down hundreds of times when he sought financing for Disney World. The Walt Disney company makes average revenue of US $30 billion annually.

If you're still waiting for success, do what these thirteen did and don't give up. Maybe you just haven't failed enough yet.

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