The 3 Biggest Business Comebacks of The Last 50 Years

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A business may be down, but unless all parties walk away, it’s not out. History is full of companies who reversed their fortunes and rose from the ashes. Take a closer look at how some of today’s household names pulled off the biggest business comebacks of the last 50 years.

Apple: Brand New Strategy

In 1985, Apple was a tech company with products people weren’t interested in, like the Macintosh TV and Macintosh IIvi. Time magazine foresaw the end when it called the company “a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future.”

It found a future, though, by moving away from Apple’s original focus on desktop computers. It instead decided to diversify, adding items like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone to its range. While many firms focused on the online market, Steve Jobs took a different approach and opened Apple flagship stores around the world which put these new items in front of consumers.

The approach paid off, and today Apple is the world’s most valuable company with a net worth of $124.2 billion — nearly twice as much as its nearest rival Microsoft.

General Motors: New Leadership
General Motors seemed destined for the scrap heap in the late 2000s. It filed for bankruptcy and laid off tens of thousands of employees. Yet somehow it didn’t just survive; it thrived. While the U.S. government’s bailout helped GM get back on its feet, the faith the company showed in Mary Barra has been key to its continued success.

Barra began working for General Motors as a co-op student at just 18 years of age, but she clearly hoped for bigger things. In 1990, ten years later, she obtained her Masters in Business Administration. She rose through the ranks and became Executive Vice President of global product development in 2011. While in this position, she was integral in cutting the struggling Hummer, Saturn, and Pontiac divisions, a decision which helped the company raise around $20 billion when it went public.

In December 2013, Mary Barra was named GM’s Chief Executive Officer. This made her the first woman to head a global car maker. By the end of that same year, the government had offloaded the last of its shares. Today GM is worth an estimated $59 billion.

Delta: Cut Costs
High fuel prices, competition from low-cost carriers JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, and poor budget decisions saw Delta filing for bankruptcy in September 2005. Yet, it refused to lie down.

It could do little to address the price of fuel or the presence of competitors, so it needed to address its spending habits. “Management always had to have the biggest and the best,” a former executive told Bloomberg Business. “It was the Delta way.” Or at least it was the Delta way until the company saw the need for change. The airline renegotiated its union contracts and expanded its fleet with used airplanes instead of more expensive new aircrafts.

As of March 2015, more than 170 million passengers fly Delta every year. It’s worth an estimated $34.4 billion.

Take note of these business strategies, and know that even companies struggling to succeed can stage an epic comeback.