Without a doubt, Steve Jobs is one of the most well known businessmen today. His innovative approach to personal computing has consistently produced technological game changers, from the Apple II’s graphical interface to the iPad’s portable design. Jobs’ visionary approach has been one of the driving forces behind Apple’s meteoric rise in recent years. And when he speaks, people listen. As you would expect from a trailblazer, advice from Steve Jobs doesn’t always fall in line with conventional wisdom.
Here’s just a few thoughts from this Silicon Valley entrepreneur on how to run a successful business:
“The customers are paying us to make these [hard] choices.” (D8 Conference, June 2010)
When Apple made the controversial decision not to support Flash on the iPhone, iPod or iPad, Jobs took some heat. But he refused to back down from the company’s stance, insisting that Flash was a dying technology and would soon be replaced. While you may or may not agree with that pronouncement, you can’t argue with the principle of forward thinking. Markets change. Technologies change. Customers change. Continued business success isdependent on foreseeing those changes. One of Jobs’ favorite quotes is from Wayne Gretzky:
“’I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
And that attitude is what keeps a company ahead of the competition. Just look at Apple.
“Process is not innovation.” (Business Week, October 2004)
As the first point mentioned, a business must stay innovative in order to keep ahead of the game. And in that quest to stay relevant, it’s easy to try to force the issue. But all the meetings in the world won’t be able to produce true creativity, the kind that results in market changing products. Instead, innovation will spring from employees’ having the freedom to share their ideas and to critique existing products and methods. So, while procedures and processes are important for efficiency, build in room for employees to explore and create. That’s when the life giving spark of innovation will shine.
“My model for business is the Beatles.” (60 Minutes interview, March 2009)
While the mop haired British band changed the face of popular music, they’re not usually revered for their business acumen. But in his 60 Minutes interview, Jobs talks about the important lesson he learned from the iconic band:
“They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people.”
This approach to leadership is so important. Don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Instead, gather a group of advisers that share a common vision but have different strengths. And then listen and learn from them. That team approach will give you greater insight and strength than you could have ever had on your own.
“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that every happened to me.” (Commencement address at Stanford, March 2008)
Steve Jobs’ rise as a technology heavyweight to his very public fall from Apple is the stuff of nightmares for all business owners. But by his own admission, he needed a reboot. Throughout the “wilderness years”, Jobs’ management style and creativity were developed and refined. The successful leader he is today came about only because of a humiliating blow to his career. Take note. Your business is going to run into trouble, potentially quite severe. You could become bitter. You could quit. Or you could learn from mistakes and grow. The rewards of choosing the latter course are immeasurable. You’ll be a stronger business owner and a better person because of it.