As I mentioned in one of my recent articles, I recently finished Walter Isaacson’s fascinating biography on Steve Jobs.  While I found it highly entertaining, I was also on the lookout for business lessons that I could share with my readers and clients.  The most glaring lesson?  You can pretty much be comatose, on your last breath, left for dead, and then end up as the CEO of the most valuable company in the world.  This lesson was especially poignant to me – as you will soon find out.

In 1985, Steve Jobs was unceremoniously fired from the company he and Steve Wozniak had built from the ground up.  His difficult personality, his inflexibility, his inability to follow orders combined with an unfriendly Apple board of directors led to his ouster.  He struggled over the next few years trying to get his new company, NeXT Computers off the ground.  NeXT was not a successful venture and I have no doubt there were days that Steve Jobs couldn’t believe how far he had fallen.

While Steve Job was struggling with NeXT, Apple was struggling from a lack of innovation, a floundering corporate culture, and a strong surge by Microsoft.  Their stock drifted down to around $13.00 a share.  Their market share for PC’s was dwindling.  They simply weren’t the hip, cool, innovative company they had been in the early 80’s.

Fast forward 16 years.  At the time of his death, Steve Jobs was worth an estimated $8.5 billion.  The whole world mourned his passing; his biography has become an international best seller. Not only had Steve Jobs redeemed himself, but he had completely reinvented Apple into the hippest company in the world and whose stock traded for $420/share on January 13, 2012.


 As a young adults in the 80’s, my girlfriends and I thought Rob Lowe was just about the most adorable thing ever.   His career was red hot – appearing in films ranging from The Outsiders, to About Last Night, to St. Elmo’s Fire.  He was hot, hot, hot.  Then, at the height of his career, the 1988 Atlanta and Paris sex-tape scandals landed him as the butt of jokes on just about every talk show on America.  His fall from grace was rapid.  He quickly went from starring in major motion pictures to barely being able to get an audition.  His career was comatose; no one wanted to take a chance on him.  He was a wash-up at the ripe old age of 24.

Yet my favorite non-business book of 2011 was Rob Lowe’s “Stories I Only Tell my Friends.”  It was entertaining, insightful, funny, and inspirational.  It appeared on best-seller lists throughout the world.  Who knew the man was such a brilliant writer and storyteller?  (and yes, it was actually him that wrote it – he did not use a ghost writer).  The book details how, after hitting rock bottom, Rob climbed out of the dungeon and landed back on top with starring roles in a multitude of TV series. The sex-tape scandal is long gone, and fortunately he is now remembered for his positive contributions to hits such as West Wing and Brothers and Sisters


 From 1996 to 2007 I owned a birdcage manufacturing company, Avian Adventures.  We grew quickly into a very successful company, selling container loads of cages to many of the top distributors in the country.  Then in 2000 I was sued by a competitor, and through a series of unfortunate missteps, I ended up losing 85% of my revenue in ONE YEAR.  Ouch.  For the next three years I languished at that low level of sales, waiting for the lawsuit to get settled and to find a way to move my production out of Mexico.  There were days I would go to the ATM and not know if I could get $20 out.  I was on the brink of bankruptcy, but my passion for birds and my product kept me from throwing in the towel.  Finally the lawsuit was settled in 2002, and over the next five years I scratched and clawed my way back to the top, regaining nearly 100% of the business we had lost.  In 2007 I sold my business to Midwest Homes for Pets, and realized my dream of moving from Dallas, TX to Boulder CO.

The lessons I learned throughout this miserable ordeal led me to write my book “Do As I Say, Not As I Did!:  Gaining Wisdom in Business Through the Mistakes of Highly Successful People.”  I wanted people to know that successful entrepreneurs can make big mistakes, learn valuable lessons, and come back to not only survive, but to thrive.

From Robert Downey Jr. to Britney Spears, to Ford Motor Company, it is entirely possible to be left for dead in the eyes of the public, reinvent yourself, and come back stronger then ever.  This knowledge is comforting to any business owner who is going through a tough time and doesn’t necessarily see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Just because you are struggling now, does not mean it will always be that way. So if you have a solid product or service, a strong business model, and the passion to navigate through the potholes and pitfalls of hard times, you will come out back on top.  In the words of Winston Churchill “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”