The world of business is full of stories of triumph and disaster, and everyday decisions can determine whether a start-up hits the big time or a corporate behemoth completely collapses. While some of the biggest companies out there might seem all-conquering now, they, too, had times in their history where it all could have gone so differently.

Here are the stories of how 8 huge companies found themselves on the brink, yet made it back. (From Headway Capital)

Part 1. Check back tomorrow for two more companies.


Starting your own business is risk, but FedEx founder Frederick Smith took a huge gamble in 1974. A few years into the operation, the fledgling company was delivering over 1,000 packages each day and expanding into new cities – but Smith found himself unable to cover the rising fuel costs. Knowing he owed $24,000 on Monday morning, Smith took a weekend trip to Vegas, armed with the company’s last $5,000. When his COO questioned where their significantly larger bank account balance came from, he simply replied, I knew we needed money for Monday, so I took a plane to Las Vegas and won $27,000.” Smith then went on to raise the money required (through more traditional investment channels) and FedEx started on the up and up, spreading its reach around the world. Gambling is not typically a successful way of making money to cover your business expenses but it shows how close FedEx came to shutting its doors in its early years.


With Apple devices in pockets and on desktops and wrists around the world, it’s hard to imagine modern life without them. But in the late 1990s, after a series of failed product launches, the tech giant was losing money and “90 days from being insolvent,” according to Steve Jobs. The big turnaround began with his return to the fold, as he reduced Apple’s product lineup by 70% and let go of about 3,000 employees. His new strategy was to focus the company around four key items: one desktop and one portable device each for professionals and consumers. A year after his return, the company turned a $309 million profit. This success was followed by the launches of the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, all of which transformed not only Apple’s fortunes, but the way we live our daily lives.