02 Sep 2011

Think like Steve: Making your business like Apple

With Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO, a lot that can be learnt from his legacy.

Like Henry Ford, Jobs is someone who’s had a profound effect not only on his own company and industry, but everyone else’s.

He departs as CEO having taken Apple from the brink of being dismantled in 1997, to America’s second-most valuable company.

How has he done it? Of course, the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes have all played a role, but what has really driven Apple’s success isn’t any individual product, but its ethos. In Apple’s case, that’s a brand of thinking that emphasises perfection, innovation and detail.

Here are a few thoughts on what can be learnt from Apple’s success that you might apply in your own business:
Make it better

MP3 players and smartphones were around before the iPod and the iPhone. Yet the iPod was an MP3 player so good it changed the face of the music industry, and, while the iPhone didn’t do much that was new, everything it did, it did better.

Think about what’s wrong with the products in your industry – why aren’t they as good as they could be? Apple have been adept at going back to the drawing board and asking, “How should this product work?”
Build it how you saw it

Steve Jobs has made Apple a design-driven company, with creative people at the top and engineers underneath who push the envelope to execute their ideas.

The process of moving from the design table to the production line is often one of compromise. Make as few concessions as possible when translating your ideas into products.
Create a product ecosystem

Whether it’s an iPad or a movie download, Apple’s products connect seamlessly.

Think about the opportunities for your business to develop products that cater to customers’ needs while effortlessly connecting to each other.
Focus on profitability

Despite the fact that Netbook computers were becoming enormously popular, Apple refused to enter a space where profit margins were low. Instead, they created the MacBook Air – a premium offering much more in keeping with Apple’s designs.

Think carefully about what spaces to be in, and how each fits with your overall vision.
Go global

“Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China”. Apple has taken full advantage of China’s ability to manufacture goods for less. They’ve also sought to fully control the delivery of their products (through Apple stores) only where it’s most profitable, letting resellers do the work elsewhere.
Be the last word

Jobs is famous for his interest in ideas and his power to critique, and at Apple, his final word is gospel. It’s this fact that – from phones, to computers to content – delivers Apple its vision and direction.

(This blog post was first submitted on the SmartCompany website on September 1 2011).