“Fast food will never make it!”

Legend has it that a commercial lender at one of the banks I once worked for said those words when rejecting a loan application by a business customer who wanted to purchase a MacDonald’s franchise. Fortunately, the customer was able to obtain a loan at another bank and became a successful regional franchisee. Unfortunately, the bank who turned down the loan lost a valuable customer and all his bank business.

While bank colleagues used to joke about the lender’s “famous last words,” no one can accurately forecast what will succeed or fail in the future. Opportunity, perseverance, and luck can’t be discounted.

Reminiscing about the banker prompted me to find other predictions that, in hindsight, now seem laughable.

“Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.”  1865 editorial, The Boston Post

“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially, I consider it an impossibility.” American inventor Lee DeForest (1873-1961)

“There’s a world market for about five computers.” IBM founder and president Thomas J. Watson (1874-1956)

“With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.”  Business Week, August 2, 1968.

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” Response to founder Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.

What “missed predictions” have you encountered in your experience?

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