Colleagues of the late Steve Jobs often pair critiques of his social decorum with admiration for his steel resolution. However, his sensitivity to the role subordinates play in a company’s success is often overlooked.
“It’s really easy to imitate the bad parts of Steve. He brought some incredibly positive things along with that toughness,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once said about Job’s role in reviving Apple. “Steve is a very singular case, where the company really was on a path to die and it goes and becomes the most valuable company in the world with products that are really amazing. There won’t be many stories like that.”
Anecdotes like these are especially pertinent for business owners facing a precarious-COVID-19 era market.
More discreetly, separating yourself from the crowd in a competitive field necessitates the ability to appreciate both failure and collaboration resources.
One of Jobs’ seven rules of success is to ‘say no to 1,000 things. When you become familiar with negative outcomes, you’ll eventually train yourself to recognize them before they transpire. This objective is additionally helped by surrounding yourself with others that employ an identical mindset.
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations,” Jobs explained.
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
Some of Jobs’ prescient musings even addressed prolonged periods of economic downturn. A huge element of this is retaining talent even when profits take a hit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many ugly things about managerial practices in the US. In the early months of the crisis, it became clear that workers were expendable means for corporations to stay afloat until the tide clears.
While it’s hard to argue that there’s an easy solution to surviving restricted commerce in the middle of a fiscal disaster, it’s even harder to argue that chucking employees like logs in a fireplace is ethically and or tactically sound.
“We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off,” Jobs said a few years before his death.
“And we were going to keep funding. In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that’s exactly what we did. And it worked. And that’s exactly what we’ll do this time.”
Being a successful CEO seems to be authored in part by ingenuity. We’ve seen it in some companies—companies that translated their product to a language that can be understood in a digital environment.
Brands that experienced the most growth during the pandemic have maintained regular communication with their clientele, provided content that authentic and functional, and have been able to amputate daily functions that are of little utility in a virtual market. Most would likely count Apple among these.
“There’s no replacement for face-to-face collaboration, but we have also learned a great deal about how we can get our work done outside of the office without sacrificing productivity or results,” Apple CEO Tim Cook informed staff in a release. “All of these learnings are important. When we’re on the other side of this pandemic, we will preserve everything that is great about Apple while incorporating the best of our transformations this year.”
All in all, irrespective of the magnitude of a particular failure, Jobs seemed to prize any and all elements of purpose while developing an immunity to the ones that were not. This bled into his social network of colleagues as well.
“NeXT was a magnificent flop — Jobs at his most expansive and least commercial. Yet the venture served a function for Jobs: It distracted him from being fired from Apple, it kept him in the digital game, it preserved his self-respect as a player in the brave new world, it gave him valuable lessons in how not to create a viable business, and most of all, it eventually paved the way for his return to Apple, when it was in even worse straits than NeXT,” Investor, and former Management Consultant and entrepreneur, Richard Koch adds.