The business world is jam-packed with clever, shrewd movers and shakers. From entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Henry Ford to the obscure intellects behind such familiar and ubiquitous products as cold medicine and liquid soap, there are plenty of riveting stories to tell of daring-do on the high seas of corporate finance. Here are a few of the more colorful ones.
The claim to fame of Mucinex, a cold medicine sold over the counter, is that it wiped out its competition in 2002 not through traditional competitive methods but purely by exploiting a legal loophole. The company patented the medicine’s dosage and release period and was duly approved to sell it as a non-prescription medicine. It then drew attention to a crucial stipulation, namely that legally a drug cannot be sold both as a prescription product and simultaneously as a non-prescription product using the identical release period and dosage.
As Mucinex owned the patents for every type of non-prescription drug in that category (12-hour release period and 600mg dosage) and had gained approval from the Food & Drug Administration, the prescription products of its rivals became instantly illegal. Following the coup, 66 warning letters were sent out to marketers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers by the FDA and the production of the competitors’ prescription products was eventually stopped altogether. Maybe not the most ethical of business moves, but certainly effective…
In 1914, Ford took a groundbreaking decision. He more than doubled his workers’ wages ($5/day from $2.34) and cut their working day down to 8 hours (from 9 hours). In the ultra-Capitalist USA this was derided as insane socialism by his competitors and by business in general. To the common man and woman in the street, however, he became a hero overnight and there was even a popular movement to get him into the White House. Even today, Ford’s $5, 8 hour working day is fondly remembered.
The press made a meal of it, and the newspapers were worked on by Ford’s PR machine to promote the move as essentially egalitarian – the workers of the nation would now be able to afford to buy his cars.
Ford’s profits duly jumped by 200% within two years of the pay rise.
Puma’s shrewd move proved just how simple and effective this sort of thing can be. In the 1970 final of the World Cup in Mexico they paid Pele to tie his shoes just before kick-off in the centre of the field. They got the camera to zoom in on his shoes and the whole planet saw their product on the most famous pair of feet in sport. For a relatively insignificant outlay and some creative thinking, Puma never looked back.
Successful businesses take risks and think outside of the box to sell their products and services, using ever more complex tools to assist them in leveraging the market. But some things remain essentially the same.
Carlo Pandian is a freelance blogger and tutorial writer on Intuit QuickBooks small business accounting software. He is interested in finance, start-ups and web marketing and loves providing business tips to the entrepreneurial community of The Hive co-working space