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This compilation of bad advice, errors of judgement and poor business
decisions is intended to give pleasure & inspiration to struggling
entrepreneurs and innovators. If experts can get it so totally
wrong in the instances quoted below, there must be hope for the rest of
First things first. Your offering - is it a product or a
service? No, it's a solution. Will the solution be launched? No, it will be rolled. Where will it be rolled?Out. Will the solution make money for your business? No, it will
make cash. What kind of cash will this be?Positive. From what day will this cash be positive? From day one. When will the solution reach profitability?By Q4 of the year.
And then what? Will the company expand? No, it will ramp. In what direction will it ramp?Up. What else might it do?Roll out new solutions. What do Gartner and Forrester say about the market? It will
be worth $80 billion. By when? Two years time. And where?In Europe. Together with someplace else?No, in Europe alone. By then, will the company have joined or merged with anyone? No,
it will have partnered with Vodafone, Microsoft, Google and eBay.
With thanks to Adrian Weckler, Columnist, The Sunday Business Post.
Manager: Here's the company's new vision and business plan. Employee: Vision: empowering employees to work towards a common
plan.... looks good... but the rest of the plan is blank! Manager: Ah, that's because it's confidential. Employee: How am I supposed to know what to do? Manager: I'll yell at you if you do something wrong. Employee: I thought the plan empowers me to make more decisions. Manager: Don't take it literally. Employee: What else does the plan say? Manager: I don't know.....I haven't seen it either.
In the beginning was the plan.
And then came the assumptions.
And the assumptions were without form.
And the plan was completely without substance.
And a darkness fell upon the faces of the Employees.
And they spoke amongst themselves, saying "It is a load of crap and
And the Employees went to their Supervisors, saying "It is a bucket
of dung and no one can bear the odour."
And the Supervisors went to their Managers, saying "It is a container
of excrement and its smell is so strong that none can abide it."
And the Managers went to their Divisional Directors, saying "It is
a vessel of fertilizer and none can abide its strength."
And the Directors went to their Executive Directors, saying "It aids
plant growth and it is very strong."
And the Executive Directors went to the President, saying "Our plan
promotes growth and it is very powerful."
And the President went to the Board of Directors, saying "This new
plan will actively promote the growth of this organization."
And the Board of Directors looked upon the plan and saw that it was
good and the plan became policy.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where --" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)
The compilation of a clear mission statement is central to the creation
of any type of strategic plan. You'll find some serious guidance about
mission statements here.
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is
possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something
is impossible, he is very probably wrong. (Profiles of the Future,
The proposition, that the sun is the centre and does not revolve about
the earth, is foolish, absurd, false in theology and heretical. (The
Inquisition, on Galileo's proposals)
Comets are not heavenly bodies, but originate in the earth's atmosphere
below the moon.(Fr. Augustion de Angelis of the Clementine College,
All that was new in them was false and all that was true in them was
old. (Prof. Haughton on Darwin's findings)
This extraordinary monument of theoretical genius accordingly remains,
and doubtless will for ever remain, a theoretical possibility. (Biographer
of Charles Babbage, 1871)
I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the
existence of atoms and other such dogma. (Ernst Mach of Mach number
The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor
kind of thing. Anyone who looks for a source of power in the transformation
of the atom is talking moonshine. (Sir Ernest Rutherford, 1933)
Atomic energy might be as good as our present day explosives, but
it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous. (Churchill,
The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. (Admiral
William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project)
I've just heard that Photons have mass. I didn't even know that they
were Catholics. (Don Geddin)
In all likelihood world inflation is over. (Managing Director of
the IMF, 1959)
England is at last ripe for revolution. (Leon Trotsky, 1925)
Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union. (Joseph
We are winning international respect. (Adolf Hitler, 1934)
Someday the American people will erect a monument to his [McCarthy's]
memory. (Eddie Rickenbacker)
We are all satisfied in South Africa now. (General Smuts, 1926)
There are going to be no dramatic changes in Rhodesia. (Ian Smith,
I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitable, or even usually,
dirty business. (President Richard Nixon, August 1973)
This company is not bust. We are merely in a cyclical decline (Lord
Stokes, Chairman of British Leyland, 1974)
Rock 'n' Roll is phony and false, and sung, written and played for
the most part by cretinous goons. (Frank Sinatra, 1957)
The trade of Advertising is now so near to perfection that it is not
easy to propose any improvement. (The Idler, 1759)
Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. (Irving
Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale, 1929)
The advancement of the art [of invention] from year to year...seems
to presage the arrival of that period when further improvement must
end. (US Commissioner of Patents, 1844)
Everything that can be invented has been invented. (Director of
the US Patents Office, 1899)
Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific
advances. (Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father
If there had been a computer in 1872, it would have predicted that
by now there would be so many horse-drawn vehicles that the entire surface
of the Earth would be 10 feet deep in horse manure. (Karl Kapp)
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tonnes. (Popular
Mechanics - 1949)
Assistance with Financial Projections? Check out:
Exl-Plan is an Excel-based financial
planner. It speeds up and simplifies the task of compiling projections
and allows users to concentrate on deriving assumptions and
assessing the resultant projections. Many versions are available
to suit different sizes of business and levels of expertise.
There will never be a mass market for motor cars - about 1,000 in
Europe - because that is the limit on the number of chauffeurs available!
(Spokesman for Daimler Benz)
I think there is a world market for about five computers. (Thomas
J. Watson of IBM)
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately,
the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had
been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female
horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched
40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le,"
which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the
Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back
from the dead."
Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin'
good" came out as "eat your fingers off."
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free,"
got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you
feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it
was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company
figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its
Spanish markets to the Caribe.
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company
found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford
pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed
to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the
company mistakenly thought the spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass.
Instead the ads said that "It wont leak in your pocket and make you
An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the spanish
market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw
the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."
Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a
tender chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation.
A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over
Mexico with a caption that explained "It takes a hard man to make a
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros
Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts."
In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of
a notorious porno mag.
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name
into Schweppes Toilet Water.
Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered
English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex
tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company
changed its name.
In an effort to boost orange juice sales in predominantly continental
breakfast eating England, a campaign was devised to extoll the drink's
eye-opening, pick-me-up qualities. Hence the slogan, "Orange juice.
It gets your pecker up."
The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better
than a "C," the idea must be feasible. (Yale University management
professor on Fred Smith's paper proposing a reliable overnight delivery
service - Federal Express)
A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports
say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you
make. (Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies)
Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was
read as "Suffer from diarrhea".
Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into German only
to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had
use for the "manure stick".
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in
an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux".
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same
packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label.
Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures
on the label of what's inside since most people can't read English.
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Every part of the scheme shows that this man [George Stephenson] has
applied himself to a subject of which he has no knowledge, and to which
he has no science to apply. (Parliamentary Committee 1825)
Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes. (Emperor Ferdinand
after the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro)
I liked your opera. I think I will put it to music. (Beethoven
to a fellow composer)
If Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is not by some means abridged, it
will soon fall into disuse. (Philip Hale, Boston music critic, 1837)
I played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless
bastard! (Tchaikovsky's diary. 9th October 1886)
We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out. (Decca
Recording Company about the Beatles.1962)
These boys won't make it. Four-groups are out. Go back to Liverpool,
Mr. Epstein, you have a good business there. (Recording Company)
I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not
Gary Cooper. (Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading
role in "Gone With The Wind")
They may be world famous, but four shrieking monkeys are not going
to use a privileged family name without permission. (Frau Eva von
He bores me. He ought to have stuck to his flying machines. (Auguste
Renoir, on Leonardo da Vinci)
This fellow Charles Lindbergh will never make it. He's doomed. (Harry
Guggenheim, millionaire aviation enthusiast)
Very interesting, Whittle, my boy, but it will never work! ( Professor
of Aeronautical Engineering at Cambridge University)
You will never amount to very much. (Munich Schoolmaster to Albert
Einstein, aged 10)
Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction
and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to
react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high
schools. (New York Times about Goddard's revolutionary rocket work,
Stanley Matthews lacks the big match temperament. He will never hold
down a regular first-team place in top class soccer. ( Unsigned football
writer when Matthews made his debut at the age of 17)
Failed in Business, 1831. Defeated for Legislature, 1832. Sweetheart/Fiancee
Died, 1835. Nervous Breakdown, 1836. Defeated in Election, 1836. Defeated
for U.S. Congress, 1843. Defeated again for U.S. Congress, 1846. Defeated
once again for U.S. Congress, 1848. Defeated for U.S. Senate, 1855.
Defeated for U.S. Vice Presidency, 1856. Defeated again for U.S. Senate,
1858. (Abraham Lincoln, Elected President of the U.S.A., 1860)
I will ignore all ideas for new works and engines of war, the invention
of which has reached its limits and for whose improvement I see no further
hope. (Julius Frontinus, Emperor Vespasian's leading military engineer,first
Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable
to breathe, would die of asphyxia. (Dr. Dionysius Lardner 1793 -
Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. (Lord Kelvin,
President of the Royal Society 1890-5)
Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant,
if not utterly impossible. (Simon Newcomb, 1902)
We do not consider that aeroplanes will be of any possible use for
war purposes. (Secretary of State for War, UK)
Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value. (Marechal
Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre)
All attempts at artificial aviation are not only dangerous to human
life, but foredoomed to failure from the engineering standpoint. (Engineering
Editor, The Times, 1906)
What, sir, you would make a ship sail against the wind and currents
by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have
no time to listen to such nonsense. (Napoleon Bonaparte, 1803)
The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd.
It is little short of treasonous. (ADC to Field Marshal Haig, at
tank demonstration, 1916)
There is a young madman proposing to light the streets of London -
with what do you suppose - with smoke [gas lamps]! (Sir Walter Scott,
Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil?
You're crazy. (Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his
project to drill for oil in 1859)
What are you planning to do Mr. Bell...... wire up every house in
the country? (Ridicule leveled at Alexander Bell as he presented
plans for wire telephony to bankers and investors in Philedelphia)
This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered
as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to
us. (Western Union internal memo, 1876)
[Edison's Lamp] ... good enough for our transatlantic friends ...
but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men. (British
Parliamentary Committee, 1878)
Radio has no future. (Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society
The telegraph is a kind of very long cat. You pull his tail in New
York and he is mewing in Los Angeles. Radio operates in exactly the
same way, except there is no cat. (Albert Einstein)
The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would
pay for a message sent to nobody in particular? (David Sarnoff's
associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in
Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? (H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers,
Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine. (Rex Lambert,
The Listener, Editorial, 1936)
Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan. (Mary Somerville,
pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948
Television? No good will come of this device. The word is half Greek
and half Latin. (C. P. Scott 1846-1932)
X-rays will prove to be a hoax. (Lord Kelvin, President of the
Royal Society, 1890-5)
If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The
literature was full of examples that said you can't do this. (Spencer
Silver on the work that led to 3-M's Post-It)
Shuffle ad infinitum the constituent molecules of all the genes that
control an amoeba, and what can the result be other than a modified
amoeba. (Douglas Dewar, 1946)
Kwiatkowski and Stefanski's Improved Water Power Engine is operated
by a waterwheel which, via cranks and lazy tongs, pumps water to itself.
(British Patent 5723/1904)
A water cistern to the bottom of which is connected pipes which pass
downwards and are then bent back and pass over the cistern to empty
themselves back into the cistern, which empties itself into the pipes
as fast as the water is returned into them. (British Patent 11318/1901)
During the Space Race in the 1960's, the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) needed a ball point pen to write in the
zero gravity confines of its space capsules. After considerable research
and development, a pen was successfully developed and even enjoyed some
modest success as a novelty item back on Earth. It allegedly cost US$241
million. Faced with the same problem, Russian astronauts used a pencil.
To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.
The Internet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhoea
- massive, difficult to re-direct, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and
a source of mind-boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect
it. (Gene Spafford)
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