Time and people cost money wherever you are. However, in business it is sometimes forgotten that mistakes also cost money. Sometimes a lot more than you might expect. There have been colossal mistakes made in the last 10 years, not least some of AOL’s amazing expenditure on doomed websites like Bebo. I would love to meet the man who thought that was a good idea! I have always been taught that it is important to learn from your mistakes, ignore them are your peril. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. So what can we learn from our own mistakes and also the more publicised mistakes made by the huge TNC’s? Because believe it or not, those mistakes are not just applicable to a company with a turnover in the billions. Mistakes in business are often applicable to everyone, whether you be the CEO of a global empire, a Manager in an SME or someone with an idea looking to make it a reality in the volatile world of start-ups.

Let us take AOL’s purchase of Bebo as an example. I genuinely find this one of the most astounding purchases I have ever seen. If you don’t know who they were, Bebo was one of the early social media platforms which competed with now defunct giant MySpace. Bebo was very successful until Facebook came along and dominated the market. The point is that AOL purchased Bebo after Facebook had made it big and Bebo was on the slippery slope to nothingness. I can imagine this being signed off by board members of AOL who are 50 years old or more, with absolutely no idea about social media or popular culture (no offense intended). “This Bebo thing sounds big, we should buy it”. When all they had to do was ask anybody between the ages of 15 and 25. They would have told the oldies that there had been a mass overnight transit of Bebo users……to Facebook. So what is the lesson to be learnt here? Except for the fact that money always equal sense? The lesson is to know your market. Market research is crucial when promoting or producing any kind of product or service. What do the people who would use this product or service actually think? Are they going to buy or use it, or is there another company that is doing it better and cooler than you? This information is so crucial in avoiding colossal mistakes like AOL did. Ask the consumers their opinions, don’t assume that if you like an idea that everyone else will. All you have to do is fill in the criteria that you want answered online and they use their database to collect the research.

The weird thing about AOL was that I can only presume they would have done some sort of research. I mean come one! They spent nearly a billion US Dollars! Maybe the headquarters of AOL likes to do things by gut feel instead of facts and statistics. I can only imagine. My advice would be not rely entirely on your ‘feel’ and to be the prudent one. Remember that mistakes cost money, much more than being sensible.

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