3 CEOs on Their Worst Mistake

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"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."-- Al Franken

The business world is littered with mistakes. Think of any CEO you admire -- someone with a bunch of great achievements and a successful company he or she is running. Odds are, they made many mistakes along the way -- some of which ended up leading them to success via an unexpected route and some that simply taught important lessons.

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Here are three CEOs on their biggest mistakes.

Richard Branson: Virgin soda

In 1994, Richard Branson, founder and CEO of Virgin, launched Virgin Cola in the U.S. As he recalls:

He had been excited at the prospect of toppling Coke with his strong brand but had insufficiently appreciated the brand power and market dominance of Coke and PepsiCo: "We weren't quite prepared for the size or the ferocity of Coca-Cola's response, which included a steep increase in their marketing budget and pressure on distributors not to work with us." He later noted, "I learned only to go into businesses where we were palpably better than all the competition."

Reed Hastings: Qwikster

In 2011, Netflix CEO and founder Reed Hastings, in recognition of the growth and promise of streaming video, oversaw a plan to split his company in two, which involved spinning off its DVD-by-mail business as "Qwikster." The plan was widely ridiculed, with customers balking at the prospect of paying more for two subscriptions. Qwikster was quickly snuffed out.

Hastings noted:

As you might have noticed, it wasn't a fatal error. Today, Netflix is massive and still growing. Hastings explained:

Elon Musk: Hiring the wrong people

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk had a dramatic reveal when asked at a conference what his biggest mistake has been. As related in Vanity Fair magazine:

Musk has noted to Glassdoor.com that, "Hiring talented individuals ... is 90% of the solution, as hiring wrong can cost you so much," adding, "We challenge our people leaders to hire people that are better than themselves ... therefore making the company better with each hire."

Many other notable CEOs would agree about the importance of good hiring. Warren Buffett, for example, has explained what he looks for:

Spend a little time reading up on the mistakes of successful people and what they've learned from them and you may be able to avoid a few blunders yourself, or just make smarter decisions.

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Selena Maranjian owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix, PepsiCo, and Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.