Three lessons for your business from Steve Jobs

It’s been 10 years since Steve Jobs passed away, but the lessons to be learned from his life and the business he built will be around for a long time. 

Possibly the best insight into what made Jobs what he was comes from the biography “Becoming Steve Jobs” by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. 

The book was published in 2015 but I read it earlier this year and the takeaways have been rumbling around in my head ever since.  

In my work with clients at FiveFour, I see some of those lessons play out in real life. Not so much in the specifics of building Apple into the most valuable company in the world. Rather in the development of people from entry-level entrepreneur to fully developed business leader.  

You get that message right away from the book’s subtitle: “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.” 

What you learn is that Jobs was the right person at the right time to found Apple. He was driven and uncompromising in the goal of revolutionizing the personal computer.  

And he did just that – he took on the biggest computer companies in the world – and won.  

But then he stalled. Not as a company, but as a person. He didn’t develop.  

Jobs was forced out by the Apple board of directors in 1985. The company nearly died before the surge of innovation that revolutionized communication with iPhone, iPad, iEverything. 

When he returned to running the company full-time in 1997, he was a different person. He’d grown and was ready to turn Apple into the most successful company in the world.  

Reading that I was reminded of something we say frequently at FiveFour: Businesses don’t grow, people grow.  

There are three points I take from “Becoming Steve Jobs” that illustrate that phrase. 

First, he learned how to make the products that consumers wanted and the ones that he wanted. That meant he needed to compromise on some things he wanted in order to get a product to market.  

He realized another one of our favorite sayings at FiveFour. That 80 percent done and shipped is always better than 100 percent done and stuck in your head. 

Second, he realized the pitfalls of his own ego. I don’t think the first adjective that comes to mind when you mention Steve Jobs is “humble.” But when he came back to Apple, he was more willing to listen to others, innovators such as the brilliant designer Jony Ive, and Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. 

He learned he didn’t have all the answers. Cue another of our favorite sayings: Don’t be the smartest person in the room. If you are, switch rooms. 

Takeaway three is the relentless focus Jobs brought back to the company. He whittled the product line down to a few things and then made them the very best in the world.  

It’s that commitment to vision, mission and values that separates one company from another, from the highly successful and those that don’t stand the test of time. 

Jobs’ vision was “to make a dent in the universe.” 

He died on Oct. 5, 2011. 

We are still talking about him and the companies he built. It’s a testament that, while he could be an incredibly difficult person, he made that dent. 

If you want to make a dent with your business, book a call and we’ll talk. 

In the meantime, I’m waiting patiently for my iPhone 13.

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