Four Business Tips From Apple & Steve Jobs

This morning, Apple hosted a press event which included a 45-minute Q&A session with CEO Steve Jobs. (Watch the video.) Jobs, who returned from a vacation in Hawaii to host this conference, was pretty open (i.e. he was spinning a little less and was fractionally more candid.) During the conversation with reporters, Jobs shared some interesting observations and anecdotes about Apple, his relationship with customers and of course the iPhone 4 debacle. When looking over my notes I saw some nuggets of wisdom which I feel are universal, regardless of how you may feel about Apple, Jobs and the company’s response to the iPhone 4 debacle. I have edited and clumped together some of Jobs’s responses for ease of reading.

Jobs on Solving Hard Problems

The best ideas win here at Apple. We have healthy debates in this company. We debate how to tie shoe laces and we even debate about what great is. We’re an engineering company, we think like engineers and scientists, and we think it’s the right way to solve real, hard problems. We try to have our cake and eat it too, we try to have great design and great performance. If you look at our products, that’s what we deliver. We are working really hard and we can’t run really faster. There are cars in the parking lots at all hours, people have cots in the office.

Lesson #1: Hard problems are solved by hard work and no compromises.

Jobs on Software & Apple’s Edge

When someone owns a primary technology and you use it, they are eventually going to beat you on it. In the computer business, we quickly realized that we didn’t have to make processors and hard drives. Instead it was the software that was the most important thing. We are pretty good at making software for iPods, PCS and the cloud and making them work together.

And while others like Palm pioneered, we knew software was the primary technology for the phone business. We brought that software to the phone business in a way we’d never seen before. One of the things we did was make the process of updating your software an order of magnitude easier than it was before. We can frictionlessly distribute those updates… everybody’s copying Apple now, but we’re the first to do that in a practical way.

Lesson #2: Knowing your core competence and building on it is key to success.

Jobs on Customers

We care about every user and we are not going to stop till every customer is happy. When you love your customers, nothing is off the table. But we want to be data driven. There are some things we know that we did learn here. One thing is how much we love our customers and how we are going to take care of them. And when we succeed users reward us by staying our users. That is what drives us. When people are criticizing us, we take it very personally. When users have a problem, it is our problem.

We were stunned and upset and embarrassed by the Consumer Reports stuff, and the reason we didn’t say more is because we didn’t know enough. If we’d have done this event a week and a half ago, we wouldn’t have had half the data we have today. We take care of our customers. We appreciate them and we don’t take them for granted. I get a lot of email, and my address is out there. I can’t reply to all of these emails but I reply to some because they’re our customers, and I want to communicate with them.

Lesson#3: Regardless of your business, it is always has been, and will always be, about happiness of the customers.

Jobs on Investors

There are some customers who are happy. There are some customers who are not happy. And I apologize to them and we try and make them happy. We want investors who are in it for the long haul and are for the character of the company, not investors who just saw some news cross the wire and invested in the stock. (This was in response to a question regarding if he would apologize to investors who lost money as the stock declined.)

Lesson #4: Paying attention to short-term thinking (and thinkers) is only going to keep you relevant for a short time.

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