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Sunday, September 2, 2012

APPLE

I just finished the book, STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson the other day and found many thoughts whirling in my head about it. They join the random thoughts that whirl on a daily basis, such as “Why do skinny people wear black?” (to be invisible????).

My first take was Steve had quite a reputation. I'm not talking product genius or astute businessman, but of a person that, if we knew him personally, we probably wouldn't like him at all. He lied to your face, was disrespectful, opinionated to the point of cruelty, didn't bath regularly, and focused so hard on making Apple a leader that everything else was a distant second, including his friends, wife and kids.

It would seem that there is a huge sacrifice to make if you want to be legendarily successful and most of us are unwilling. That doesn't make us bad, it just makes us different. The world has limitless variety in everything and that includes human beings.

I was asked what made me want to read about this guy to begin with. There were a couple reasons. One was the fact the author was let in to the inner circle and given free access to anyone, including Steve and his family. Another was the strong opinions about this guy from so many. He was looked at as both mythical and reviled. I wanted to know what was going on. I am also a former iPhone owner who was VERY disappointed in the product. I was hoping to find some insight as to why so many people are fanatical about their fruit.

Were they all answered?

No

In my experience owning an iPhone 4, I did not find it much different than other products. It was slick but the limitations of using iTunes for music, phone design flaws, and my not being much of a follower all added up to being one of the 2% that returned their phones and was happier with an android. Neither is perfect, but for me, I don't place much value on paying for a status symbol like the iPhone or iPad. Is that true of ALL Apple products? I do not know but I may try a Mac one of these days. If not, somehow, I think I'll survive.

I did find out that Apple succeeds because they truly act differently than most companies. The effort is put behind the product and the results are what they are. More time is spent on development and user experience than on endless surveys and focus groups about customers wants and needs. They trust in the ideas of their leader and, if he is right more than wrong, they profit. In Apple's case, profit wildly. The car companies have proven that when you try and build to satisfy a committee, you fail a LOT. Will they ever learn?

Many companies use the latest reports to manage from. Imagine why they are failing. Anyone who manages RESULTS should be given a broom and mop and instructed to start over, because they must not have learned ANYTHING! Results are things DONE. It's over! A GOOD manager knows that it's the activity BEFORE the results that matter. THOSE you CAN manage and improve. I've been involved in a few companies that ONLY demand results. I wish them luck.

I found out that Jobs had a gift of imagining a better product and surrounding himself with enough great people to make it happen. Don't think that Steve could have done this without them. They also could not have done it without HIM. His commanding presence and drive to improve and perfect enabled those around him to do the unimaginable, to go beyond what they thought they could do, and make the dreams happen. He may have been a tyrant, but the results speak for themselves. Apple started as a three man operation out of the Job's Family garage in Los Altos and has grown to almost 61,000 employees and one of the most profitable companies in the world.

I found out that, despite Steve Jobs' complete indifference to wealth and the lifestyle associated with it, he died with an estimated $8,000,000,000 estate. That's BILLIONS. When you are not a slave to only the bottom line, you can do some amazing things and still make a bit of money. When he returned to Apple after being ousted years earlier, the company was worse than not profitable – it was irrelevant. There was no forward thinking, no passion in the products, and no desire to innovate. Jobs stated on more than one occasion that leaving was the best thing that could have happened. He learned how he wanted to run a company and was a different but still driven CEO.

It is going to be quite interesting to watch what happens to Apple now that Steve's influence will not be so direct. His desire for Apple was to make it strong and instill a core belief that could continue after he was gone. There are few corporations that hold on to an idea for long, let alone one that operates as differently as their founder did.

I wish them luck.

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