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He says he still has passion, and he’s got under one week to prove it: Four business revivals Rudd could learn from

Melinda Oliver /

Short of a breaking scandal in the Coalition ranks, little looks set to stand in the way of Tony Abbott taking the top job as prime minister after next Saturday’s federal election.

But while the polls and political commentators show the Australian community has likely declared enough is enough for Labor, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is adamant he still has the fire in his belly to win.

“To those that say Mr Abbott has already won this election I say this: never, ever, ever, ever underestimate the fighting spirit of the Australian Labor Party,” he told media yesterday.

“Never, ever, ever, underestimate my fighting spirit as your Prime Minister. I have been in tougher spots than this and come back from behind.”

That may appear to be a lot of “never ever” and bravado – but history shows there could be weight to his words.

Comebacks do happen, and sometimes from the least-likely scenarios, a winner can return to the top. In the sporting world, such events are common, and bring intrigue and thrill to competition. And in business there are prominent tales of crashes followed by resurrection.

Here are four business falls-turned-survivals that Rudd could take some lessons from in his last minute bid to bounce back.

1. Steve Jobs – a winning idea

Apple founder Steve Jobs was (incredulously) forced to resign from the company in 1985. He kept working hard at his passion, creating a new business, NeXT. The idea caught the attention of Apple and they bought it in the mid-90s. Jobs came back on board, and instigated the iPod, iPhone and of course the iPad, which turned around the fortunes of the company and changed the mobile telecommunications industry landscape.

Lesson: Like Jobs, Rudd has already been fired and re-hired from the top position by the Labor Party. Now it’s the nation that he needs to convince. He has to come up with the political equivalent of an iPhone – a stance that is unique, revolutionary and blows the competition out of the race.

2. Coles – be competitive

When Coles boss Ian McLeod was appointed to the top job, the supermarket chain was suffering in the shadows of competitor Woolworths. McLeod focused on streamlining the product offer, striking deals with suppliers and lowering prices. Marketing has been vital, with the “down-down” campaign and new “Cole” superhero character striking a chord with consumers. The result is a major upturn in the retailer’s outlook.

Lesson: Get to the core of issues. Vague policies won’t cut it as voters can see straight through it. Rudd needs to know his policies inside out and reveal exactly why and how he is going to make changes, even at the most miniscule level.

3. IBM – get focused

IBM famously suffered a huge sink in revenue in the 1990s, when competition in the personal computer industry soared. Then Louis Gerstner stepped up as chief executive. Demonstrating strong leadership skills he swiftly cut down the business from a broad offering into an enterprise-focused operation. The company came out with a different blueprint and went on to thrive.

Lesson: Focus on what you do best, and be decisive in what works and what doesn’t. In one week, Rudd can’t win over everyone, but he can build a strong position on policies in key categories that may cement sector-based votes.

4. sass & bide – harness your reputation

Fashion brand sass & bide was the darling of the Australian catwalk, with a cult following, retail roll-out strategy, celebrity ambassadors and even top billing on the London Fashion Week program, before it tumbled into administration.

But the popularity of the designs and the strength of its owners Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke as brand ambassadors ensured there was interest from buyers. In 2011, Myer stepped in, paying approximately $42.3?million for two-thirds for the business.

Lesson: Rudd’s party may be in strife, but his personal popularity still holds some measure. If he churns out the charisma, uses social media power and aligns with some power players for extra backing, it could make people want to be on his side.

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