7 lessons that every startup founder can learn from Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was a visionary; a brilliant man who revolutionized how the world works, plays and interacts. The co-founder of Apple Computers did more in his lifetime than many people can even dream of doing in 10. Under Jobs’ leadership, his company pioneered a series of revolutionary technologies. No wonder he’s described as a “creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionised six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing”.
Jobs’ life holds umpteen lessons for every startup founder and those who would like to live their dream. We list down seven of them.
Love what you do
Unlike most people who think of their business venture as a way to profit, Jobs thought only about his product. His dream was to make products that were beautiful, engaging and helpful; this he knew would satisfy customers and profit would follow. It sure did. Jobs best advice to anyone keen to start their own venture would be to remember that your “time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life”.
Your takeaway: When you love what you do, work doesn’t seem like work. Focus on the process; you will get the result you desire.
Think about the consumer
Apple’s marketing philosophy stressed on three points: empathy, an intimate connect with the customer to “truly understand their needs better than any other company”; focus, to do a “good job of those things that we decide to do”; and the strangely named impute, which emphasizes on the fact that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals it conveys. It worked and continues to work extremely well – an Apple consumer will rarely consider any other options. Ever!
Your takeaway: Like Jobs, try and personally connect with customers and potential customers for their feedback. They’re the reason you’re in the market.
Simplify, never complicate
The headline of Apple’s first marketing brochure in 1977 said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs was passionate about design, but even more passionate about simplicity in design. He often told his teams that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. “The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,” he said. Sleek design doesn’t often go hand in hand with simplicity but he was categorical about this principle. “It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions,” he said. This simple philosophy led to Apple’s iconic designs and fuelled a revolution in product design.
Your takeaway: Whatever it may be, designs, processes or production channels, keep things as simple as possible.
Pick A-level talent only
You may be surrounded by B and C-level workers but it doesn’t make sense to pick them. Especially when you’re launching a startup! Choosing people with an A-game will ensure that you get things done, get to market, beat the competition and succeed. Hiring smart people lets you raise the bar. As Jobs said, “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.” But once you have your A-team in place, trust them to do the best they can. Jobs believed that it “doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.
Your takeaway: Don’t get into the habit of surrounding yourself with yes men and women. Smart people push each other to work harder.
Impossible is just a word
Critics are omnipresent but you need to look beyond them. Jobs never let any sort of criticism faze him. He truly believed that nothing was impossible. Avie Tevanian, former chief technology officer of Apple, has said that Jobs had a “reality distortion field” that “led him to challenge conventional ideas about the boundary of possibilities”. Under his watch, materials unused till now were explored, products that no one had imagined were designed and marketed, and software was produced in less than four days. All because he thought impossible was just a word.
Your takeaway: Keep pushing yourself and your team. Your project may seem impossible but who would have believed in the idea of internet a long time ago?
Acknowledge your mistakes
He may have been stubborn and a perfectionist, but Jobs never shied away from acknowledging his mistakes. “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations,” he said. His errors in judgment were often huge, but he believed that they were essential for learning. Like he said, “I'm the only person I know that's a lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year.... It's very character-building.” It’s imperative for anyone on a startup team to be willing to learn from their mistakes and move ahead.
Your takeaway: Have a deep and abiding belief in your plan, but be big enough to step back if you are wrong.
Work towards perfection
The entire world knows that Jobs’ defining quality was perfectionism. He let the development of the Macintosh take more than three years, because of his obsession with detail. He asked his engineers to redesign things all the time, drove his hardware team nuts and never stopped till he was satisfied. He famously said: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” His perfectionism – and desire to produce the best - had a lot to do with Apple’s success.
Your takeaway: Continually strive for perfection in what you do and expect others to deliver.
Even if your idea is radical, there’s no need to fit in. As Jobs said: “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 ... the ones that change things.”
Inspired to take your work to a level of perfection? Find something that’s perfect for you here.