Archive for August, 2011

Thanks, Steve Jobs!

Steve Jobs recent departure from Apple makes me sad.

I wrote my first loyalty book on a MacIntosh computer in the early 90’s. I still remember the thrill of cutting and pasting text and peering at it in, what at the time, was considered an amply-sized window! I told friends that, thanks to the Mac my writing method was to dump text in a chapter file and slowly start to weave the information into a coherent chapter. I likened it to watching my grandmother make biscuits as a child. First she’d pour in all the ingredients, mix them together, knead the bread, roll it out and then cut the dough into biscuits.

I remember writing my first chapter (actually Chapter 3) by “kneading the information” and being amazed and surprised by the unexpected topic connections that emerged. The computer’s ability to let me “text dump” made it happen!

Today, I realize Steve Jobs and his programmers were my book writing “wing men” and I’ll always be grateful.

Steve Job’s Back Story

Born in San Francisco in February 1995 to two unmarried graduate students, Steve was put up for adoption within a week of his birth. He was adopted by a blue-collar couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, and the three of them soon moved to Mountain View, California, a rural town full of fruit orchards. The town didn’t stay rural very long – Silicon Valley was born.

As a kid, Steven Paul Jobs was considered by many as a borderline delinquent. “I would have absolutely ended up in jail,” says Jobs, if it wasn’t for two things: My fourth grade teacher who bribed him with candy and money and a down-the street neighbor who got me hooked on the wonders of electronics by giving him Heathkits (hobbyist electronic kits). These kits taught Jobs about the inner workings of products. He discovered that such things as TV’s were not mysteries, but were the results of human creation.

College was a condition of Job’s adoption but he dropped out of Reed College in Oregon after the first semester. He soon returned to California and briefly took a job at Atari to save money for trip to India. Upon his return, he began hanging out with electronics whiz Steve Wozniak who loved to build personal computers but had little interest selling them. Job had other ideas and the two founded Apple on a shoe-string. Jobs sold his Volkswagon microbus Wozniak sold his calculator.

Catching the wave of the early PC revolution, Apple took off like a missile . Says Job, “I was worth over a million dollars when I was 23….and over a hundred million when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”

Here’s just a few of Job’s contrarian leadership “rules” that help transform Apple prospects into unshakeable loyalists.

What Not To Do

Says John Sculley, Apple’s CEO from 1983 to 1993, “What makes Steve’s methodology different from everybody else’s is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do.”

Simple Drives Different

For Steve, product difference is never the goal. In fact, the first iPod had the hardware for FM radio and voice recording, but these features were not implemented because they complicated the device. In Steve’s mind, it was very easy to create a different thing. What was hard was making the product a simple thing. And this striving for simplicity ultimately became the Ipod’s key difference.

Products as Gravitational Force

Says Jobs, “Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.” Citing Steve Ballmer (the company’s chief salesman) who took over from Bill Gates (the programmer), Jobs explained that people who built the company in the first place—the product-oriented staffers—tend to be replaced in importance with a sales focus. Says Jobs, “Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason…..But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.” Apple lost its product-oriented focus in the 80’s when Jobs left Apple, but he restated the product culture in the nick of time, when he returned.

“I want to put a ding in the universe,” says Steve Jobs. His passion, drive for excellence, innovation vision and more make him a stunning example of a Loyalty Maker.

At your next staff meeting, use the above rules as a jump-start on how your firm can think more like Steve. No telling what loyalty-making ideas may come to mind.