The year 2013 might eventually come to be known as the year of selfies, Snowden, and secret Beyoncé albums. But before all of the details are lost to the ages, it's worth reflecting that the last year was also full of business lessons. Whether they were Leaning In, fat-shaming, or turning their companies around, the top business leaders this year provided instructive lessons in how to (and how not to) be successful. Below, some of the biggest business fails of 2013, as well as a few triumphs.
Five years after the financial crisis, is the American public still mad at the banks that sold bad mortgages? Of course it is, but JPMorgan didn't think twice about that when it announced an #askJPM Twitter chat in November. What it got was a barrage of snark and rage.
"As a young sociopath, how can I succeed in finance?" asked one Twitterer.
"Can I have my house back?" asked another.
The swift reaction was "arguably one of the fastest and most negative reactions to any major global brand on Twitter," says Paul Argenti, professor of management and corporate communication at the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth University in his list of the top communication blunders of 2013.
The company subsequently canceled the chat before it even started.
"Tomorrow's Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board," the company tweeted.
Lululemon Criticizes Women's Bodies
Lululemon's recall of a batch of see-through yoga pants was unfortunate, but the company handled it with good humor.
And then founder Chip Wilson opened his mouth, telling Bloomberg that women's bodies were partly to blame for subsequent complaints that even after the recall, Lululemon pants were pilling (a sign of fabric wear) and coming apart only months after they had been purchased.
"Quite frankly, some women's bodies just don't work for [the pants]," he said on Bloomberg. "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time."
The result, as with #AskJPM, was a social media firestorm, not to mention plenty of angry Internet rants.
Blackberry Continues to Tank
This one wasn't so much one incident of spectacular failure as much as a chronic lack of success. The brand that was once at the top of the smartphone market is now an anachronism for many smartphone shoppers, and the company can't seem to catch a break with new models. The company's latest earnings report featured a $4.4 billion loss, following a second-quarter loss of almost $1 billion. The company's Blackberry 10, which had originally been framed as a potential brand saver, has failed to deliver since it was introduced earlier this year. Now, investors are left wondering how the company can turn itself around.
Eike Batista Loses His Fortune
Many Americans may have missed the story of the Brazilian businessman's spectacular fall, but it's worth reading. Once the richest person in Brazil with a net worth of $30 billion, Batista is now worth around $200 million, according to the International Business Times. The man who created oil company OGX in 2007 despite no experience in the industry pursued offshore drilling aggressively, only to find this year that his company's oil reserves were not what he had once thought. OGX defaulted on a $45 million bond payment in October and filed for bankruptcy. Sister shipbuilding company OSX soon followed, filing for bankruptcy in November.
Congress Approaches the Debt Ceiling. Again.
No, Congress isn't a business. But ask any CEO if it's a good idea to let investors know, over and over, that you're willing to hold your creditworthiness hostage over ideological spats, and he'll laugh in your face.
The U.S. fortunately didn't suffer any major credit rating downgrades this time around, but repeated threats of default won't exactly inspire investor confidence.
Schadenfreude can be fun, but it's worth taking time to appreciate some success stories. Below are 5 of the biggest business winners of 2013.