Bulding an empire through business isn’t an easy thing, many failed business owners can attest to that. So when we see companies and individuals rise above and become house hold names we have to wonder what it is that they did to get there. No, not all of them were born into wealth and success. Many of the individuals, or companies, worked their butts off to become the titans of industry that they are today. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best business decisions of all time, many of which have happened in the past decade or so.
Apple launches iTunes for Windows.
It’s hard to remember a time when Apple wasn’t the hottest commodity in stock investing, online stock trading or otherwise. The company seemed to have reached a sort of invisible ceiling and branching out their brand was the only way to eclipse it. So Apple opened the doors to Windows products and allowed the use of their star application, iTunes, to be used on other operating systems–namely Windows, back in 2003. While this was a gamble with their brand, it eventually led to an almost 5,5000% increase in the AAPL share over the decade plus time since the decision was made. Apple fanboys may turn their nose up at the concept of Windows contributing anything to their success, but numbers don’t lie.
Netflix orders original content for their service.
Though many people will forget, there was a time when Netflix was really only in the business of shipping DVDs to your doorstep. Believe it or not, the company was almost doomed. Switching from discs to streaming content was a monolithic task that the team at Netflix was almost not up to. But they managed to do it. Now Netflix can be considered the next HBO thanks to their commitment to creating original content. Series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Bloodline show that the online streaming service can become a serious entity in the world of content creation. Netflix is posting career high numbers and they don’t look keen on slowing down anytime soon. In fact, a deal with Adam Sandler will likely bring in a slew of new films and record high profits.
Yahoo purchases Tumblr.
Twenty years ago using words like ‘Yahoo’ and ‘Tumblr’ would make people question yoru sanity. Now these two websites were at the top of the list when it came to online investing through the use of an online broker. Building a social platform for the internet, geared toward the mobile crowd, seems to be the quickest way to make a buck. Yahoo apparently so believed in the process that they bought the hit blog-ish website, Tumblr, for $1 billion dollars. Yes, with a b. Not to be outdone by Google and their attempts to brand social marketing, Yahoo wanted a piece of the action. Yahoo’s CEO promised not to ‘screw it up’ and that the two websites will continue to be independently operated. The acquisition of Tumblr will help diversify Yahoo while ensuring the continued existence of the website.
Adam Werbach joins Wal-Mart as a consultant.
Adam Werbach first rose to general acclaim as the former President of the Sierra Club. He is an activist, a writer, and a marketing professional who insists on pushing sustainability on the world at large. When he joined up with Wal-Mart there were many cries of ‘redcoat’ and ‘traitor’, as Wal-Mart is typically looked down upon by the general public. Still, Werbach insisted on the maneuver and Wal-Mart decided to play by his rules. Bringing sustainability to the Blue Box Store has allowed Werbach to change a huge company from within. With over 1.3 million employees, Werbach made an instant difference by getting thousands of them to buy into his methods. Thousands have already started to recycle, lose weight, quit smoking, and use alternative transit when it comes to getting to work. Building an environment of sustainability can seem silly in the profit driven world that Wal-Mart exists, but as one of the biggest corporations on the planet Wal-Mart has a special duty to try. Werbach is the kind of guy that can help lead to big change.
Howard Hughes purchases Trans World Airlines
Before options trading was as easy as calling your local broker, Howard Hughes was making his money in the most eccentric of ways. Hughes fell in love with whatever he wanted and then he did everything he could to have as much of it as possible. This mindset of ‘Mine’ led Hughes to make a ton of money with the Trans World Airlines. Back in 1952 the iconic airline was bought by Hughes for an investment total of $7 million dollars. After a lengthy lawsuit, which typically doesn’t occur on a list of ‘best business decisions’, Hughes was forced to sell his shares for a cool $500 million profit. That number is huge, but not corporate big right? Adjusted for inflation, that number is actually closer to $4 billion dollars. You can see Hughes and his obsession in the hit Martin Scorcese film The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Ray Kroc decides to invest in McDonalds.
Investing is truly an art form and seeing potential in a small business perhaps the most important nuance of all. Many years ago Ray Kroc found potential in a pair of McDonald brothers and their aspirations to start a true burger joint. Starting in California as a drive in, Kroc put $2.7 million dollars of his own money in an attempt to kickstart the franchise. That $2.7 million would be adjusted to over $20 million due to inflation. Krocs investment turned into a gigantic profit over $1.1 billion dollars. Kroc sadly passed away in 1984, 23 years after buying out the McDonald brothers, but his initial money has literally changed the world. You can find McDonalds in almost every country in the world and the golden arches have become a global icon.
Henry Ford doubles the wages of all employees.
While you can say a lot about Henry Ford and his personal beliefs, there was one thing that he absolutely did which we can all stand behind: he doubled the wages of all his factory workers. Over 100 years ago today Ford made the decision to double the wages of his employees in order to increase their quality of life and help establish a true middle class. Ford was offering an astounding $5 a day for eight hours of work in a giant factory in which employees would help revolutionize the automobile. That $5 wage could be adjusted with inflation to roughly $120 today. The decision helped to stabilize Fords workforce while simultaneously pushing the company forward into a historic name.
Apple brings back Steve Jobs.
It’s hard to believe in an Apple that exists without Steve Jobs at the forefront. Though he passed away just a few years ago, Apple was once bereft of the man on his own accord. A ten year absence, from 1986 to 1995, saw Apple do decent in the marketplace but nothing special. Jobs was gone and, oddly enough, innovation was at a standstill. Yet in 1996 Jobs returned to the company he helped create and from there we would see Apple take off to become the juggernaut that they are today. From there would we see many of his most innovative ideas come to fruition with the iMac in 1998 being the driving product.
Benchmark Capital decides to buy Ebay.
The tech world was thriving back in 1995 but in a different way. Everyone remembers the .com craze and the eventual crash that followed, but most don’t stop to consider the various successes. One of the biggest ‘home runs’ was made by Benchmark Capital, an investment group out of California. The investment firm was started by four co-founders who promised to share all profits with one another. They won a bidding war to help fund a fledgling auction site by the name of eBay back in 1995. By 1995 their $6.7 million investment had turned into $6.8 billion dollars isn today’s currency. Knowing when to get in on the ground floor of something special has been the driving force in making millionaires out of these investment groups. You can spend days reading about the successes and failures of people during this period.
Peter Thiel gets into Facebook, early.
One of the best business decisions ever made was accomplished by Mark Zuckerberg when he decided to go on his own and establish Facebook. A close second would be when Peter Thiel slapped down $500,000 in order to help make Facebook happen. His money landed him 10% of Facebook’s stake. This was in 2005, back when Myspace still ruled the social crowd. It wasn’t long until Facebook took over and by 2012 Thiel had seen his group, the Founders Fund, rake in a cool $400 million off of their investment. While Thiel sold off 80% of his stock, he still has stake in the company today.