The last three years have been a roller coaster ride for businesses. From the collapse of industry giants to the personnel changes at some of the world’s biggest firms; the release of revolutionary technology to the immense competition between ambitious business upstarts, the world of international business has changed dramatically, quite possibly for the better.
But throughout the bankruptcies and shutdowns, a small group of CEOs have kept their companies running, often at record levels of profitability and acclaim. We’ve found ten CEOs that exemplify business success and recovery – ten people that companies simply couldn’t live without. If you’re in need of business recovery advice or a commercial boost, these are the people to study.
1. Warren Buffett
Considered the godfather of finance to some, Warren Buffett is a legendary investor and CEO. His primary company, Berkshire Hathaway, has consistently ranked highly amongst investment ventures, remaining profitable through even the most testing recessions. Buffett is also one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, earning more in a given quarter than most CEOs do in their entire lives.
Despite his immense wealth, Warren Buffett’s lifestyle has barely changed since his early days. The legendary CEO spends little money on himself, instead choosing to donate it to charity and support companies he believes in.
2. Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos is one of the most dedicated and successful CEOs of the dot-com era. After driving across the United States, the Princeton graduate dreamed up ideas of a nationwide online e-commerce outlet. A business plan was drafted in the front seat of his car, ambition and immense focus set in, and Bezos launched Amazon in his garage the following year.
Since 1994, Amazon has grown into a truly global operation, employing over 20,000 people worldwide and producing almost $25 billion in operating revenue annually. The well-known billionaire is a notorious micro-manager, monitoring press releases and even appearing as Time Magazine’s 1999 Person of the Year.
3. Steve Jobs
Few CEOs have been responsible for business recovery on the scale of Steve Jobs. After being fired from his own company in the mid-1980s, Jobs built a series of successful technology firms and created Pixar, the world’s first 3D film production studio. In 1996, he was brought back to Apple’s board and took the CEO’s role, restoring the position he’d lost over ten years earlier.
Under Jobs’ management, Apple transformed from a no-name computer manufacturer into one of the world’s biggest technology and consumer electronics firms. Known for his slick presentations and incredible product design skills, Jobs is one of the most well-known and celebrated CEOs in the world.
4. Richard Branson
Few entrepreneurs could turn a record shipping business into a global empire. Virgin CEO Richard Branson created a network of over 150 companies, all built from the capital he acquired reselling records as a teenager. Outlet stores, mail-order music, and a range of other interesting business ventures soon followed, making Branson one of the UK’s richest men.
However, this CEO is known as much for his adventurous lifestyle as his immense wealth. The CEO has travelled around the world in a balloon, crossed the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, and even crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a purpose-built yacht.
5. Oprah Winfrey
If there was ever a Horatio Alger story for the masses, it’s that of Oprah Winfrey. Born in rural Mississippi and raised on government support programs, Oprah Winfrey managed to turn her college radio show into a multi-billion dollar empire. The TV anchor and media mogul is one of the most trusted faces in American media, building support for causes and products through her bevvy of TV shows and publications.
6. Eric Schmidt
One of the technology industry’s few non-founder CEOs, Eric Schmidt is the head of Google Inc. and former partner at Apple Computer. The California businessman is one of the industry’s most respected and dependable, performing numerous major decisions and strategic efforts during his time at Google.
Judging by Google’s legendary success, it appears that his efforts have been rewarded. While Eric’s personal net worth is just $5.5 billion, Google’s own assets exceed $40 billion. As the head of the most powerful brand in the world, it’s difficult to find a CEO more influential than Schmidt.
7. Gary C. Kelly
The airline industry isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with stories of profitability, making Gary C. Kelly’s efforts at Southwest Airlines even more impressive. The well-known CEO is considered directly responsible for Southwest’s huge popularity amongst travelers, building the airline into one of the United States’ most successful brands.
Currently the Chairman of the Board, CEO, and President or Southwest Airlines, Kelly has received a great deal of acclaim from industry commentators and publications. In 2009 he was named as one of America’s best CEOs by Institutional Investor magazine.
8. Satoru Iwata
As the fourth CEO of Japanese video game company Nintendo, Satoru Iwata managed to turn a stale and uninteresting brand into one of the industry’s most recognizable and interesting. With Nintendo’s stock at an all time low and sales dwindling, Iwata’s policies and corporate strategy lead to the creation of the Wii and Nintendo DS, two of the company’s most profitable items.
Despite his reputation as a cunning businessman, Iwata is also a skilled programmer and game designer. His design and development portfolio includes hit titles such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers.
9. Lynn Elsenhans
A basketball enthusiast and energy mogul, Lynn Elsenhans is one of the world’s most successful female CEOs and a legendary figure in the petroleum industry. As CEO of Sunoco, Elsenhans oversaw business decisions that generated over $54 billion in corporate revenue throughout 2008.
Alongside her slick business savvy and marketing efforts, Lynn is also a dedicated environmentalist and conservation enthusiast. Beside rival oil corporation BP, Sunoco is one of the world’s most environmentally friendly and climate responsible oil and energy firms.
10. Bill Gates
Ask anyone to think of a billionaire, and there’s a great chance they’ll pick Bill Gates. The founder of Microsoft and legendary programmer is one of the technology industry’s greatest success stories. Known for his combative management style and extreme dedicated to perfecting products, Bill Gates is one of the technology industry’s most visible and prominent CEOs.
Or at least, he was. After stepping down as the CEO of Microsoft in 2006, Gates has repositioned himself as a leader in global philanthropy. His charitable organization – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – has donated over $28 billion to charitable causes and non-profit organizations.