Apple was born in a garage in 1976 as a modest entrepreneurial venture started by Steve Jobs. The road that Steve travelled from those humble beginnings to creating the wealthiest company in the world can teach entrepreneurs a great deal about what it takes to succeed. I’d like to share the top ten lessons I have learned from Steve’s entrepreneurial journey.
1. Success starts and ends with perseverance
Steve Jobs succeeded because he persevered in the face of many failures. He seemed to have irreverence towards failure – he understood that it was part of the journey and it would just spur him on to new ideas. One example is how he bounced back after being fired from Apple in 1985; within a few months he founded Pixar and then NeXT (which also failed).
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance,” Steve once said in an interview in 1995.
2. Once the founder, always the salesman
Steve Jobs held the key sales position at Apple right to the end. YouTube has countless clips of him selling to a wide variety of audiences. His legendary Macworld keynote presentations look easy and off the cuff, but in fact each presentation was a carefully planned sales pitch. Not ever in Steve’s 23 years with Apple, did he abdicate responsibility for driving sales.
3. Create your own markets
Steve Jobs ignored the maxim of giving the market what it wants. He was impudent about market research findings and would say, “The consumer doesn’t know what he or she wants until we make it.” He would create something so sexy and different that it would be irresistible, and then tell the market this is what it wanted.
For instance, when the market was comfortably settled with the MP3 player, Jobs introduced the iconic iPod and revolutionised market demand.
4. Settle new markets
Steve Jobs was not always a pioneer in product development, but he had a visionary instinct for what would work in the market. Many of his products were not his idea but rather ones he’d seen elsewhere. Steve’s particular genius was that he was able to refine such ideas and turn them into market leaders.
A famous example is the iPad – its predecessor was the GridPad, created in 1989, one of up to ten tablets that didn’t make it. Steve took the concept and differentiated it to such an extent that he was able to settle the market for it.
5. Excellence in execution
For Steve Jobs, execution was everything. Apple was built on the creed of excellence in every detail of execution, from production, to supply chains, to channels to market, to marketing itself. It was a level of excellence that made it much better than its competitors. Steve once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
6. Attention to detail
For Steve Jobs, every peripheral of design as well as functionality was important for him. He believed that the back of a gadget should look as good as the front, and is famously said to have expected the internal design to be exquisite as well. When asked why, his answer was, “Other engineers will see.” Steve attributed his passion for detail to his father who told him it was important to craft the backs of fences and cabinets even though they would never be seen.
7. Charisma counts
Steve Jobs showed us just how important charismatic leadership is in getting buy-in from the market. Apple was never quite the same under John Scully; it missed Steve’s flair. In the end, it took Steve’s return in 1997 to turn the company around.
From that point onwards, Apple soared to the top and in 2010 it was declared the world’s biggest company. Steve’s charisma largely shaped the Apple brand and was responsible for its cult following.
8. Simplicity sells
All the Apple products are easy to use because Steve Jobs resisted complexity. For him, ease of use came first. There is a simplicity of use and a minimalist aesthetic about each product that distinguishes Apple products from all its competitors.
Jobs knew that in this complex high tech world, people want simplicity and are willing to pay more for it. His marketing messages emphasised this, showing a world where life is easy and manageable with his products.
9. Take a variety of routes to market
Steve Jobs did not feel pressured by mainstream market trends. He embraced every marketing opportunity and tried every route, from the conventional to the cutting edge. It seems that he favoured a spaghetti sticking to the roof approach, throwing it all up and seeing how much of it he could get to stick.
His marketing success came because he had a clear story to tell and he told it in any way that would create a seductive customer experience. He also ignored market analytics; instead he followed his intuition about where and how to tell the story about Apple.
10. Surround yourself with the best
Steve Jobs was famous for surrounding himself with talent. He strategically identified the people he wanted to have on his team and personally wooed them. Steve was determined to have the very best people to support him.
One such recruit was Tim Cook, who took over as CEO after Steve retired; Tim was the numbers man who was originally hired as the COO. Steve did not believe that he could do it all on his own, and the result is that he left Apple the legacy of an exceptional team of people to lead the company into the future.
[box style=”gray,info” ]Entrepreneurs On Breakdowns and Breakthroughs[/box]
Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk
Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…
You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.
Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.
It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.
There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…
Step 01: Do your research
No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.
Step 02: Understand the costs
Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.
A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.
Step 03: Know when to walk away
As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.
You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.
Mind The Gap
The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.
Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.
Here are five…
It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.
2. Look for pain
Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.
Be the Panado that fixes these pains.
This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.
4. Luck needs courage
You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.
Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.
5. Pay attention
This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.
5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.
Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.
Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:
1. This too shall pass
Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.
2. Appreciate what this phase brings
The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.
3. Establish boundaries
Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.
4. Take a break
Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.
5. Give it space to make mistakes
While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.
During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.
While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.