Everyone loves a good success story – especially one where one person with one specific idea manages to change the world. Stories like these give us hope that we, too, will be recognised for our idea. But when it comes to business success, we have all been smashed with lies.
The truth is, it is never one person or one idea that makes the difference. In reality, it takes a village to raise a child, even if that “child” happens to be a business. Also like children, ideas change over time. Sometimes, unrecognisably.
To show you what we mean, we prepared a list of 10 hugely successful businesses that had to change everything they did before becoming successful.
Number one on our list is …
The company that would become Twitter was initially known as Odeo. The Odeo platform helped users find (and enjoy) podcasts relevant to their interests. It was only after Apple entered the podcast niche that Odeo decided to pivot and become a microblogging platform.
Starbucks was not a coffee shop to begin with. It was actually a company that sold coffee beans and espresso machines! Then, in 1983, CEO Howard Schultz visited Italy and fell in love with the idea of selling the excellent coffee made by Starbucks machines and that is how the café, we all know, was born. Crazy to think that without that fateful visit, we would not have today’s third-biggest fast food chain!
Instagram was initially a Foursquare-type app that tracked users’ check-ins. It was called Burbn, and was unique in allowing users to attach photographs to actions. The creators quickly realised that the photo function was the only thing users enjoyed, and decided to go all in. This is how Instagram was born, and the rest, as they say, is (+100 billion dollars’ worth) of history.
Founded in the late 19th century, Nintendo spent its first 70-odd years making tabletop games, Japanese game cards and other assorted items. It was only in 1972 that Nintendo got involved in the video game industry by partnering with American company Magnavox. This is when they realised the business potential of this industry and shifted their focus (for the good). Nintendo has since offered multiple products, some as diverse as a taxi service and, uh … love hotels. But it is that first pivot that stands out the most.
Pinterest was originally called Tote. It was a service that told online shoppers when marked items were on sale and/or in stock. The service may have been useful, but it did not get much traction. So co-founder Ben Silbermann decided to pivot by removing the e-commerce element. This helped the platform grow tremendously (with +250 million users today) and helped Pinterest become a safe bet in the industry.
Long before becoming a major automotive power after world war 2, Japan was famous for its high-quality clothes. One notable figure in this industry was Michio Suzuki, whose loom machines i.a. powered the silk industry. It was not until the 1930’s that Suzuki would decide to branch out into automotive manufacturing. Who could have thought his company would become a world leader in cars and motorbikes?
7. Coca Cola
If we have to belief Coca Cola executives, the Coke we enjoy today is the very same formula Dr. Pemberton invented in 1886. But that obviously doesn’t mean there were no attempts to make an improved version of this world-famous product. As recent as 1985, Coca Cola tried to introduce a new formula that people liked better in blind test … But unfortunately the drink didn’t look so attractive. Causing Coca Cola to change their product again and go back to the old formula, making this the only time a company had to pivot twice before becoming the success it is today. Lesson learned: it’s key to have a product that people truly want.
Apple started out as a computer kit company. Specifically, they sold budget home devices for people who usually would not be able to afford computers, which were unreasonably expensive at the time. Needless to say, things have changed since then. Apple is the world’s most valuable company and they can even afford to build their computers, devices and gadgets before selling them.
The world’s best video platform was originally a dating website. Co-founder Steve Chen and the rest of the team thought it was “the obvious choice” because they had no idea for what else videos would be the way to go. Unfortunately, they sold the company for $1.5 billion. This long before its true value became apparent.
Rice cookers. Heating blankets. Next-generation gaming platforms, cameras and computer monitors. What do all these things have in common? Sony has made all of them in its long (and storied) company history. You might say that the company tried everything in the consumer electronics niche … And who knows what path they will pick in the future?
A lot of business people see pivoting as a sign of failure. After all, if you are changing what you are doing, that means you have made some mistakes – right? Not exactly. Companies like Panasonic and Kodak enjoyed decades of success in the past. Then, they refused to change with the times and ignored digital photography. As a result, both ended up declaring bankruptcy, causing hundreds of millions in losses and costing employees’ and managers their jobs.
So … if you think you may need to shake your business up and explore new options, why not talk to us and see how you can pivot today to make better use of your assets? We can help you with everything from strategy, over execution to training! Feel free to reach out, we are thrilled to help!