From the moment I read the first words of this book, I had trouble setting it down.
Fortunately, I had a couple of long, back-to-back flights that offered me the uninterrupted time to read. As one who likes to study the successful, the subject and lessons offered in the book and the Founder and Visionary of the World’s most famous and valued company instantly captivated me.
Steve Jobs’ biography is 572 fascinating pages. Although sparse compared to the lessons – which came one-after-another and jumped from the pages – below are my thoughts and what I found too important not to stop and write down.
As my notes here will never do the book justice, I highly recommend you read it. There’s a lot about Jobs in the book that you will likely, like me, wish you didn’t know. But, if you can put that side, I promise that you will discover a new approach to business, developed by one of the most brilliant business minds of our time.
What strikes me about the book, and what placed me in such a stronghold while reading it, is that so much of what Jobs spoke about resonates deeply with me. Much of his philosophy and that of his company, Apple, is deeply-rooted in how I think. In fact, much of his doctrine lies within the foundation that The GoodLife Team is built upon. So, beyond the unintentional teaching Jobs offered to me in this book, I was most entranced when he shared his way of thinking and being.
I was similarly impressed by the perspectives Jobs shared about the state of antiquated business models (such as the music and media industries), which he claimed needed to be reinvented in the face of their slow demise. I, of course, relate this to our antiquated real estate industry model that I, too, feel needs a dose of change and reinvention.
I claim that we are in one of the industries in which we are trapped by our habits of narcissism, antiquated business models, and by not paying attention to the changes with technology and the demands of today’s consumer. And like Jobs, my mission is to do my part in bringing about the Real Estate Industry’s reinvention.
The Apple Philosophy on Quality and Design
No matter how rich he became, Jobs tended not to be ostentatious. His homes were simple; he never would travel with an entourage, keep personal staff, or even have security protection. He bought a nice car, but always drove himself.
With so much consumerism and materialism in the world – especially in a culture that spends beyond their means – to me it was refreshing to see a leader of this stature who demonstrated his importance through his desires to better the world versus proving himself through his material wealth.
Jobs appreciated the design of the home he grew up in, which was a simple home designed by architect Joseph Eichler. Of Eichler’s work, Jobs said, “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much.” This admiration became the original design philosophy for Apple – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and, “God is in the details and less is more.”
This statement alone resonates deeply with me. Come to our office, even to my home, and you will notice a design aesthetic that is about a minimalistic design that is all about simplicity. Because of this I am a fan of modern architecture and founded the Modern Home Tour here in Austin, TX (which is coming up soon on February 4th)!
When it came to developing his philosophy of simplicity, Jobs felt that this minimal design style should be linked to making products easy to use:“What we’re going to do is make the products high-tech, and we’re going to package them cleanly so that you know they’re high-tech. Our approach is very simple, and we are shooting for Museum of Modern Art quality. The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this…. Let’s make it simple; really simple…. The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious.”
Apple’s design Mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This fundamental design principle is one that I share with Jobs. I believe that it’s not just about what the product looks like on the surface, but its appearance must match the product’s essence.
I think Jobs describes this best when he says, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer, but to me nothing is further from the truth…. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.” As a result, the process of designing a product at Apple is integrally related to how it will be engineered, manufactured and used.
Again this resonates with me, for at The GoodLife Team we concentrate on every aspect of the consumer experience from beginning to end – from the intricacies of our website design and usability to the way we answer our phones and how we work as a team to make sure that every part of taking care of our customers is 5-star, even what they cant see.
Jobs learned that a hallmark of passionate craftsmanship is making sure that even the aspects that will remain hidden are made beautifully. One of the most extreme, and telling, implementations of this philosophy comes from a story about Jobs’ inspection of a circuit board. When scrutinizing the board, which would hold micro-chips and other components deep within a Mac (where no customer would see it) Jobs began to critique it on aesthetic grounds: “That part is really pretty, but look at the memory chips. That’s ugly. The lines are too close together.” A new engineer responded to the critiques by asking why it mattered, no one was ever going to see it and it’s only important that it works. Jobs reacted typically, “I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”
In all of his products, technology would be married to great design, elegance, human touches and even romance – inside and out.
The Apple Marketing Philosophy
Just like his meticulous attention to detail in the design of his products, Jobs’ knew exactly how he wanted to market them to the public. Jobs knew how to connect with his customers, and the Apple Marketing Philosophy revolves around three key principles:
Empathy: Products and ads must maintain an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer.
Focus: In order to excel, all unimportant opportunities must be eliminated.
Impute: People form an opinion about a company of products based on the signals they receive. Jobs understood that, “People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc. But if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod. If we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will IMPUTE the desired qualities.”
For the entirety of his career, Jobs would understand the needs and desires of customers better than any other business leader. He would focus on the handful of core products and he would care –sometimes obsessively– about marketing and the company image, even in the details of the product packaging. His staff members have said “there’s not a CEO on the planet who deals with marketing the way Steve does.” Every commercial, print ad and billboard was approved by Jobs, and he was therefore able to ensure that almost every ad Apple produced was infused with his own emotion.
I love this, and realize that there are places at The GoodLife Team where we can be more focused on putting empathy into our marketing. We’re all about imputing, with every aspect of our marketing design and attention to detail and customer service. It’s all about being observed as a first-class, five-star customer experience company and then fulfilling that promise to our clients.
Steve Jobs’ Vision and Personal Philosophy
Jobs often said that he wanted to build a product that would, in his words, “Make a dent in the Universe.” To an Apple interviewee, Jobs once said, “Think about surfing on the front edge of a wave, it’s exhilarating! Now, think about dog paddling at the tail end of that wave; it wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun. Come down here and make a dent in the Universe.” When recruiting former Apple CEO John Sculley from Pepsi, Jobs similarly asked John, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
These words of Jobs’ really touched me, and I think we all should do work that in someway does put a dent in the universe. I think it’s important that we give to our work a level of importance, that we desire to touch other people’s lives and make the world a better place by virtue of what we do and how we do it. I believe that as Real Estate Agents, we have a unique opportunity to connect with people and touch their lives in a personal and meaningful way.
Team Building at Apple
Though many companies pride themselves on having few meetings, Jobs had many and worked hard to foster a culture of collaboration at Apple. One of his passions was to build a lasting company, and he has said, “I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize and lead a company.”
Jobs closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company. No division was independent from another. Under Steve Jobs, there was zero tolerance for not performing and his management mantra was FOCUS.
Unlike any CEO, Jobs was always completely engaged with the product, and did not allow a craving for profits to take precedent over his passion for building great products. As CEO, he was able to get the company back on track by cutting all but a few core products. This intensity is evident in his ability to set priorities and focus his laser-attention and work on these select projects while filtering out distractions.
As a leader, Steve Jobs inspired his team to change the course of computer history with a fraction of the resources of Xerox or IBM. At a company retreat in 1982, Jobs delivered a soliloquy in which he said, “As every day passes, the work of what fifty people are doing here is going to send a giant ripple through the universe.” In this same speech Jobs admitted, “I know I might be a little hard to get along with, but this is the most fun thing I’ve done in my life…. Don’t compromise, the Journey is the reward.”
This paragraph totally describes the way I think about The GoodLife Team. With a fraction of the resources of companies far greater in size, by being dedicated we’ve been able to build and deliver a reputation that is among the best in the industry. My personal passion, like Jobs’, is to build a collaborative team that desires to be the best at what they do. My passion and my goal is to change the course of real estate history. And to take Steve’s words: this is the most fun I’ve ever had as the entire team here at the GoodLife works together to build the next generation of real estate brokerage.
The primary requirement for new recruits at Apple is their honest passion for the product. Jobs claimed that when you have really good people, you don’t need to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. Jobs always kept a tight rein on the hiring process at Apple, and his goal was to get people who were creative, wickedly smart and slightly rebellious. Jobs quickly learned that A players like working with other A players, and that you cannot indulge the B players. Jobs’ goal was to be vigilant against “The Bozo Explosion,” which leads to the infusion of B and C players into a company. When talking about his team building, Jobs said,
“You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players,” who will later attract a few C players.
“The Mac Team was an attempt to build a whole team [of] A Players. People said they wouldn’t get along; they’d hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players. This requires a collaborative hiring process. When we hire someone, even if they’re in going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers.”
I couldn’t agree more on this point. At The GoodLife Team we only hire A players. B and C players simply don’t make it here, but this is a team of A players on every level: leadership, staff and sales professionals. It makes it an awesome place to come to work every day and you get to spend your days with brilliant minds and amazing people, making for a good life and no drama… This alone sets us apart from 99.9% of all other real estate companies.
Once a year Jobs would take his most valuable employees on a retreat called the Top 100. The employees were selected based on a basic guideline: these are the people you would bring with you if you could take only a hundred people with you on a lifeboat to your next company. At the end of each retreat, Jobs would ask, “What are the 10 things we should do next?” After looking at the list, he would slash out the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do 3.”
This is a big lesson for me – I am always over ambitious, placing far too many things on my plate as well as those of my management team. Based on Jobs’ example, my Team and I are going to become more focused in doing just a few things great, in 2012. What would your top three things to accomplish this year be?
In an effort to distinguish what was distinctive about Apple, Jobs worked on a brand image campaign, rather than a set of advertisements. It was designed to celebrate not what the computers could do, but what creative people could do with computers. When developing the layout and design of the first Apple Store, Jobs and his team realized it was organized wrong – it was around their products, not what people do with the products. So, they stopped and started the design from scratch, delaying opening for another 6 months. “If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later,” Jobs said. “That’s what other companies do.” Apple’s branding is about creativity, and their campaign became:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see them as genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Yes, here at the GLT we are just crazy enough to think that we can. At The GoodLife Team, we’re going to do it our way and every Team member is here because they completely agree that normal won’t cut it; we have a renegade spirit. We want to make a difference, shake it up, and make a difference in the industry.
The saga of Steve Jobs is the Silicon Valley creation myth writ large – Jobs launched a startup company in his parents’ garage and built it into the world’s most valuable company. Jobs was the master at putting together ideas, art and technology in ways that invented the future. Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture; others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly.
In case you are wondering if Apple will continue to soar without Jobs at the helm — here is the answer declared by Cook, today’s CEO.
The Cook Doctrine:“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
I leave you with some of Steve Jobs’ leaving words…
“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.”
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