3 Brilliant Business Strategy Lessons that We Can Learn from History

. 6 min read
3 Brilliant Business Strategy Lessons that We Can Learn from History

"Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

History is an excellent teacher, and we all could learn a lesson or two from it. As a business owner, you are bound to face multiple challenges daily. When faced with a strategic decision in your business, whom do you turn to for wisdom? The answer, of course, lies in history.

Learning and understanding the thought process behind some of the most successful business strategies can help you replicate the success at your workplace. In this article, we have compiled a list of the three best business strategies that have proved to be immensely successful. So, get cosy, grab a cup of coffee as we walk down in history for a quick business lesson.

#1: McDonald's – Keep Adapting or Lose Out

There's no other brand that offers so many business management lessons as McDonald's. Even decades after its start, the brand manages to captivate millions of audiences all across the world.

If there's one lesson that we would like to highlight from the McDonald's story, then it is this – adapt to the changing needs of the market is NOT a choice,  but a necessity. Despite the vantage of the business and its size, the brand continues to experiment and innovate.

A recent example is ordering via screens. The brand was one of the first among fast-food chains to offer ordering via touchscreens. Another example is that McDonald's continues to keep innovating its menu. You can now even find salads and a few other healthy options on the menu. This is in keeping with the trend of increasing health consciousness among its customers.

These are just a few examples. There are plenty of other examples of how McDonald's is the undisputed king of adapting and updating. We believe the core strategy of adapting is what makes McD a favourite among all generations even today.

What we can learn from McDonald's story: As a business owner, you need to keep yourself updated with the latest trends and changes. Keep your brand fresh and updated to the changing needs of the customer.

#2: Airbnb – Stepping out of your Comfort Zone can help you get the breakthrough you need

Airbnb's story is quite popular and is often discussed as an example of how a small startup can grow to become a world-famous brand. Today, the company is valued at billions of dollars and has changed travel forever. But, there's one aspect of the Airbnb story that's not known much.

The first listing on the Airbnb site was for a mattress on the founders' apartment floor. They rented out the extra space for $80 and started inviting other people to list their rooms. Initially, they were able to get a few bookings, but then bookings began fizzling out. They couldn't figure what was going wrong.

The site had plenty of listings, but these listings failed to turn into bookings. They were frustrated with the lack of effort people were putting into their listings. So, they decided to step out of their comfort zone and decided to do the job on their own.

The co-founders went around NYC, knocking on the doors of people who had listed on the site. They persuaded the owners to let them in and shoot high-quality, professional-looking images of the listings. Fortunately, this strategy worked. The new photos attracted a ton of bookings, and soon their sales tripled. The rest, as they say, is history.

What we can learn from the Airbnb story: Though both the cofounders weren't professional photographers or interior decorators, they decided to step out of their comfort zone and do the job themselves. The result – the company, is the phenomenal success that it is today.

As a business owner, there may be several instances where you have to step out of your comfort zone. In such situations, roll up your sleeves, tackle the job, and seize the opportunity. Don't be scared to try something new. Who knows, it may help you get the breakthrough that you have been looking for.

#3: OnePlus – Try out Innovative Forms of Marketing

OnePlus is a great contemporary case study for how a small, unknown brand can take on the biggies. It's the classic David vs. Goliath story. Today, the brand has captured nearly half (48%) of India's premium smartphone market, despite stiff competition from heavyweights like Apple and Samsung.

Do you remember how OnePlus made a huge splash in the Indian market a few years ago? We're sure that some of your friends would have emailed/texted you asking whether you had received the exclusive OnePlus invite to buy the phone? Yes, the first OnePlus phone could only be purchased by those who had received an invite.

Though that may feel like a self-goal, it worked brilliantly for the brand. The invite-only marketing gimmick created immense curiosity for the product among the target audience. The brand had clearly defined its target audience right from the beginning: tech-savvy youngsters who were ready to shell out a few extra bucks for premium features and exclusivity.

The mouth-to-mouth marketing and invite-only concept spread awareness about the young brand immensely. The rest, as they say, is history. From being a poor man's iPhone, today, OnePlus has captured the premium smartphone market as the first choice for tech-savvy youngsters.

What we can learn from the OnePlus story: OnePlus could have taken the traditional route for marketing – holding a big launch meet like Samsung or Apple. But, the brand's bold marketing gimmick made it stand out from other premium smartphone brands. Coupled with a clear understanding of its target audience, OnePlus has charted history in a short span.

As a business owner, you need to learn to take strategic risks and be bold with new marketing plans. Thinking outside the box without losing your end goals can help you hit the target.

Whether you're a fan of these brands or not, you cannot deny that they have made some smart business strategies over the years. As a small business owner, learning from others' successes is an excellent way to grow and build your brand. Take a leaf or two from these world-famous brands, and try to replicate it at your company. Who knows, someday other business owners may even learn from your success. Cheers!

Also read:

Top Financial Tips for Millennials or Young Adults
How small business promotes industrialisation?
5 Cult Brands of India and How They Got Their Names

Business Strategy FAQs

Q. Are there any examples of business strategies in history that failed miserably?

Ans: Yes, of course. Just like we can learn from others' success, we can learn a lot from others' failures. One famous example is when Coca-Cola released the new coke formula in 1985. It was the first time the popular beverage brand had changed its secret recipe. The new Coke was withdrawn within 79 days of its launch since customers were so upset and didn't like it.

The lesson to learn here is: Do not fix something that isn't broken. Don't change something that clicks and connects with your loyal fan base. If at all you would like to introduce something new, proceed with caution. Take inputs from your audience, conduct consumer testing, evaluate the risks and rewards before making the changes.

Q. What is the one piece of business strategy advice that all small business owners should know?

Ans: In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Just grab it." Let's give an example to illustrate this point. In the year 2000, Netflix founders approached Blockbuster to sell their company and merge both brands. The then CEO of Blockbuster declined the opportunity and turned down Netflix's offer since he considered it too niche.

Today, Netflix is available in 190 countries, and Blockbuster no longer exists. The lesson to learn: If an incredible opportunity presents itself, you need to seize it by the horns.

Q. Enough with the history lessons. Can you tell me how I can create a unique business strategy for my business?

Ans: Creating the right strategy for your business takes plenty of time, planning, and discussion. Additionally, a strategy that works for your competitor may not work for you. However, here are a few questions that you need to guide you in the right direction:

  • What is the core vision of your business?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my business?
  • What are the roadblocks/disruptions my organisation is likely to face in the next five years?
  • How are my customers changing, and what are they likely to expect from my brand in the future?

Answering these questions can help you formulate the right business strategy.