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The Biggest Business Mistakes You Can Learn From in History

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Originally Posted On: The Biggest Business Mistakes You Can Learn From in History (


No one starts a business to have it fail, to miss out on opportunities, or to end up worse off than they were before they started. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. On the plus side, that means we have a huge number of past business mistakes to reflect on in the hopes that we can avoid a similar fate for our own companies.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the biggest business mistakes in history:

The $225 Million Typing Error

Most of us make typos several times a day, but for one Japanese company, a simple typo ended up costing them $225 million. Mizuho Securities Co. lost more money than most of us could even imagine owning when an employee accidentally switched the amount for the purchase of a single share for 610,000 yen. This resulted in 610,000 shares being sold for just one yen per share, and although the company tried to cancel his error, they could not do so in time and $225 million was lost forever.

The lesson: Always pay attention to detail and check any official documentation your business puts out. You never know when it could save you a bunch of money, or save you from being sued or something!

Not knowing a good thing when you see it

In 1979, Ross Perot had the opportunity to purchase Microsoft from Bill Gates. However, he eventually declined when he decided that the $40 to $60 million asking prices was too much. As you will probably know, Microsoft is now one of the biggest earning companies of all time, bringing in 143.02 billion dollars in 2021 alone.

The lesson: When you are presented with an opportunity, evaluate it carefully, Think not only of the present, but also the future, and the potential for your business. Remember that sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate.

The Yahoo! Data Breach of 2013In 2013, internet company Yahoo! suffered from a massive data breach which ended up costing them approximately $350 million in the loss of their company’s value. Over 3 million of their records were affected and users turned away from them in their drives.

The lesson: Take cybersecurity seriously. Know that unpatched, poorly managed systems are a leading cause of security breaches and do something about it. Make your business as Cybersecure as it can possibly be and remain vigilant.

Passing on The Beatles

In 1960, a record company known as Decca Records was on the hunt for new bands with a view to offering them a record deal. One of the bands they had perform for them was, perhaps the greatest band of all time, The Beatles. The company’s rep, Mike Smith, did not think that guitar bands were going to be popular for much longer and he declined to sign them. His mistake

The lesson: If you want to get ahead in business, you need to be a forward thinker. You need to look to the future and be able to identify trends before they become trends. If you have your finger on the pulse, you can make innovations in your business that will pay off in the short to medium term and you won’t end up feeling like Mike Smith.

The Alitalia Airlines Glitch

Glitches aren’t uncommon now that we do so much of our business digitally and online, but it cost one company dearly back in 2006. Alitalia Airlines erroneously listed the cost of a business-class flight from Toronto, Canada to Cyprus in Europe for just $39, when the true price was $3,900. As you can imagine, a lot of customers were delighted with this and took up the offer ASAP. All in all, 2000 cut-price tickets were sold and, although the company tried to cancel them at first they eventually relented, honored the flights, and lost a truckload of money in the process. 

The lesson: Tech is a great time-saver, but it pays to have a human look over things from time to time too. Computers just do what they are told whereas humans can more easily spot and rectify mistakes if they are given the chance to do so.

Hopefully, these huge business blunders have shown you what caen go wrong, even if you are a big company operating with a huge budget, Don’t let that worry you though because most of the time, things do run smoothly, and at least now you’ve been warned, so you can remain vigilant and hopefully never feel like Mike Smith, The CEO of Mizuho Securities Co., or Ross Perot once did.

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