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3 biggest business mistakes and how to make them mean something.

  1. Let’s talk

Three years after I bought SKINS 16 years ago, I was able to take majority control of the company which led to my first mistake. We started to become more active with advertising and promotional campaigns, a key one being: ‘We don’t pay sports stars to wear our product. They pay us.’

At the time the campaign was conceived and first run, the proposition was true.

However, at the same time, we were expanding rapidly and developing our brand and we eventually started to pay athletes to wear our gear.

It was a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. Those responsible for developing the brand message didn’t necessarily talk with those responsible for developing relationships – but it was no excuse for me. As the head of the company, I could have and should have put 2+2 together, but I didn’t; we didn’t talk through the implications as a team; and, eventually when the ACCC investigated it, they were not happy.

  1. Know when to walk away

 Having made that mistake, I was then convinced by our lawyers that we could fight the ACCC.

They told me to fight it because the campaign was based on truth at the time it was developed.

What they didn’t say to me is that argument will not wash because when we ran the campaign, it was technically wrong. There may have been a distinction, but there wasn’t a difference.

The fact is, I should have just put my hand up with a giant mea culpa and apologised. That might have cost $50,000 at most. Instead, it ended up costing closer to $1 million by the time the fine from the ACCC and the lawyers’ fees are included.

  1. Hang on to what you’ve got

Around the same time of the ACCC issue, and before the global financial crisis (GFC) hit in 2008, I sold a portion of SKINS to a private equity firm. Big mistake.

It’s one that we’re still unraveling from. When the GFC was over, I wanted to get out of the private equity arrangement. We borrowed heavily to do so, and with the help of a Japanese partner, we managed to buy out the private equity shareholders.

It was – and is – an expensive lesson. But like the other mistakes we’ve made, it is one that has been – and is – worthwhile.

The reason why, and the reason I share these mistakes?

Simply because we all make them. As individuals and as businesses. But it’s also part of business to take risks, take the initiative and go forward with confidence.

Having lived and, importantly, learned through these times, I know that for every mistake comes at least one thing (or more) that works well; even better than you had hoped for or imagined, and which provides a significant return on investment.

Don’t be afraid to go for it!


Jaimie Fuller is the Executive Chairman of international sportswear brand SKINS and the Chairman of the SKINS Foundation for Sports Integrity.