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5 Business Moves That Took Guts

Posted on 2.08.2014

:: By Ilan Nass, Fueled ::

Most of us have found ourselves in a situation when you know that one particular decision could either make or break your business and its prospects. To buy or not to buy? To sell or not to sell? To go or not to go? One wrong decision could cost you everything, and making these decisions requires serious guts. Here we take a look at five of the gutsiest moves people have made in business.

1. From Sailing Ship to Sinking Ship

Making a move to become the Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo, one of the biggest names online, might not instantly sound like a particularly risky move for some. But for Marissa Mayer, then one of Google’s top executives and its first female engineer, making the switch must have taken some nerve. Mayer was leaving a company very much at the top of its game, to go to one tarnished by scandal and argument. In May 2012, Yahoo had lost its CEO of only four months, Scott Thompson, after it had emerged that he had lied on his CV, prompting calls from shareholders for him to go, and Mayer’s appointment made her Yahoo’s fifth chief executive officer in just five years. She was joining a company struggling to keep pace with Google, and one which was worth $19 billion, which is less than half of what Microsoft offered in 2008 to purchase the company. Making the decision to leave her job of 13 years at Google to move to a company seemingly on a downward spiral must have given her many sleepless nights.

2. Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Viresh Bhatia and his partner were operating out of a 10’ x 10’ space when they sank all of their money into a full-page color ad to advertise their software technology company InstallShield. They had hundreds of competitors with similar technology to theirs and absolutely no guarantee that the ad would succeed. It was a gutsy gamble, but it’s one which paid off massively for Bhatia and his partner. They insisted the ad be placed next to Microsoft in a magazine, and the message that customers got from that placement was that InstallShield was a big dog in the big leagues. It became the default install software on millions of personal computers and Bhatia ended up selling InstallShield for $78 million.

3. Putting Your Own Body on the Line

Until not long ago, if someone needed a knee or hip replacement they’d have been “fitted” with the industry standard metal stainless steel. Nowadays though, everyone uses titanium, and that’s down to Dane Miller’s passion on insisting that it was by far the safest metal for these particular procedures. Miller took a pretty big risk to prove his point though, as he asked a surgeon friend of his to insert a piece of titanium into his own arm! This proved his passion beyond doubt, and turned out to be a very strong promotional tool which not only saw a huge shift in procedures in hospitals up and down the nation, but also saw his company, Biomet, given a $12 billion valuation after going private. (Editor's note: Biomet is not without its fair share of controversy, but no doubt a good example of a business move that took guts.)

4. Putting all eggs in one basket

In the early 1970s Subaru was just a small car company trying to make it big in the booming U.S. car market. Instead of trying to take a small slice of an already existing market, Subaru decided to display their bravery by betting the house on an untested, unproven product into a niche that didn’t yet exist! In 1974, four-wheel drive cars were pretty much unprecedented, but Subaru decided to have the four-wheel drive Leone (AKA the DL) as the only car they were importing. It was a brave move which paid off, as the Leone was one of Subaru’s top sellers until the mid-90s.

5. Thinking Ahead

Football is huge business, and with the insane amounts of money players in the NFL are earning it helps if they have a little business nous about them. Some do, and some don’t, but clearly, the Rams’ Sam Bradford falls into the former category. After picking up a nasty shoulder injury in Oklahoma in only the third game of his junior season, he decided to have season-ending surgery, but before he did so he declared himself available for the 2010 draft. A ballsy move certainly, but its one which paid off handsomely, mainly down to the fact that the 2010 NFL draft was seriously lacking depth in quarterback talent. The only other two quarterbacks still playing today from the 2010 draft are Colt McCoy and Rusty Smith and neither of them are regular starters, proving the weakness of that intake. So, despite Bradford’s setback, one bold, gutsy move turned things around to help him on his way to earning more than $50 million at the end of his fourth season.

People will always tell you why you can’t do something, why you can’t achieve that goal or why you can’t possibly succeed with that risk. Try to remember these examples next time you’re faced with a risky dilemma and go ahead, show some guts.

Ilan Nass is the head of marketing at Fueled, the world’s premier development and strategy firm specializing in creating Android and iPhone apps.

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