When I first began the blog, to introduce myself and who I am to the audience, I did a series of posts about companies and products that I admired. I started, but never completed, a post about Apple – a company that I very much admire. I found it hard to put into word why I was enamored with Apple. This week, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, so I thought it was a befitting time to finally release this post.
Apple has shaped a lot of my personal beliefs on how to succeed, long-term in business. A study of their resurgence is a study in how to optimize, simplify and really meet your customer’s needs. I wanted to pull out some things that I think have made Apple and Steve Jobs immensely successful.
1) Streamline your product offerings – The saying goes “do not try to be everything for everyone or else you will fail for all.” One of his first acts upon returning to Apple, Steve Jobs cut the product lines severely, down eventually to just 4 – the Power Mac, iMac, Power Book and iBook. He killed the Newton Message Pad. And I appreciate this change. Instead of supporting gobs of product lines, its fairly easy for me to explain which Mac is right for you and give you your options. It streamlined their production, their development resources, and freed the employees to innovate instead of simply support product lines. Make it easy for customers to understand what you sell.
2) Focus on making the best products, and profit will follow – No doubt that Profit is important. A company must make a profit to stay in business, however, Steve Jobs at Apple, Pixar or NExT has never focused on profit as his primary motivator. At NExT and Apple, he wanted to make the best computers and software that he could possibly make. NExT was never a vastly profitable company, but they made fantastic software, which would eventually become Mac OS X and then iOS — the underpinning of all OS software in Apple today. In addition, when the industry ran towards low cost and low margin PC’s, the Mac did not. I think Jobs and Co. understood that long term profitability and sustenance of their company required that they maintained their margins, and today, they have created products people value and will gladly pay higher margins for.
3) Take Care of your Customer – Consistently, Apple ranks as the #1 computer vendor for Consumer Reports service survey. It is because Apple creates quality products first, but when a problem does arise, they take exemplary care of their customers, whether by phone, Internet or in-person. Not all customers appreciate that, I agree, however to build loyalty to our company and brand, this is key. In my opinion, the customers you will win by taking care of them will be type that you want to keep. Those who are ‘deal hunters’ will run wherever the best price can be found and I don’t believe there is ever a way to make them stick with a brand.
4) Experiment and Don’t be Afraid to Fail – People want devices that solve problems or enable them to do things. Talking about the iPad with a co-worker, I wondered allowed how long the device actually existed in Apple before it was released. Apple develops products and offerings in small teams, like startups, and then if it doesn’t meet standards, its sidelined or scrapped. A company should not be afraid to scrap an idea or product, or worse should not deliver a product just because it was developed. It should deliver products that meet customers needs and have value. Jobs learned this during the NExT years, where its hardware was never a huge success, but in failing, you learn important lessons on how to succeed. Another example, though I wouldn’t call them failures, is the game Angry Birds. Angry Birds‘ maker Rovio made 50 other games before developing its blockbuster Angry Birds.
5) Think Different – Don’t follow the crowd, blaze a new trail. Don’t continue to do things the same way because its always been done that way. Look at things, evaluate, innovate and change. If anything, Apple is company that ushers in change and is not afraid of change within their organization. Not every idea has been a blockbuster, but they have had more than average.
6) Have High Standards – Perhaps the most evident personality trait of Apple inherited for Steve Jobs is his high standards. These standards have led to iPhone, iPad and Mac OS X. Jobs and Co. do not half-do anything. They seek to do things to the best of their abilities.
7) Experience Matters – I’m not talking about job experience here. I am talking about a customer’s experience with the product. This is something Jobs and Co. completely understand. The users’s experience should be intuitive and common-sensical. Apple’s user interfaces both for touch and mouse based system are stellar. They aren’t always perfect, but it is evident that a lot of testing, research and thought has gone into developing these systems. Apple understood this from a buying experience, too, as it has shown with its immensely successful Apple Stores. It tops the list of dollars per square foot year after year – selling more than $4000 per square foot per year.