Steve Jobs is one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in history since he co-founded Apple, a company now worth over $2 trillion (Source: Investopedia). There are currently more than 133 million iPhone users in the United States, which accounts for about 47% of all smartphone users (Source: Statista).
However, Steve Jobs wasn’t always widely successful. There were times in his career where Apple was nothing more than an idea in a cramped garage. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss Steve Jobs’ entrepreneurial journey and a few lessons he learned along the way.
An Entrepreneurial Drive
In 1976, at 20 years old, Jobs and Wozniak started Apple from a garage with money from a sold programmable calculator and Volkswagen minibus. What started off as a simple idea, turned into a widely successful company, built on Jobs’ innovative ideas and ability to push forward despite fear of the unknown. As entrepreneurs, we should strive to develop a strong motivator that can give us the drive we need to launch our businesses off the ground.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” Jobs said. “So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Apple Computer became successful faster than they would have imagined, and in 1981, Apple had a record-setting public stock offering and by the time he was 23, Jobs became a millionaire. However, the initial success didn’t last. While his drive got him started, he needed persistence to power through the obstacles thrown in his way.
Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
In 1985, Jobs was fired from Apple. He and John Sculley had a power struggle, and Apple’s board sided with Sculley (Source: ABC News).
However, this setback ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to him. While Jobs was away from Apple, he learned valuable lessons that helped him achieve his future success. He took the time to develop new ideas and technologies.
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations,” Jobs said.
In 1996, Apple Computer asked Jobs to come back to the company as they were on the verge of collapse. Jobs returned as Apple’s CEO and led the company in the creation of great innovations, such as the iPod and iPhone.
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life,” Jobs said.
Over his career, Jobs helped Apple become a trillion dollar company through his thought-leadership and innovation. Even though he had little funds to begin the company, he pushed forward, working from a garage. Even though he was later fired from Apple, he pushed forward to discover new ideas and make his way back to CEO. As entrepreneurs, if we want to overcome fear of failure or difficult obstacles thrown in our path, we should develop a strong drive and persistence like Jobs if we want to get our business off the ground.
In addition to his drive and perseverance, Jobs largely became successful because of his ability to leverage changes in the marketplace early on.
Tectonic Shifts Jobs Leveraged
Here are two of the business tectonic shifts Jobs leveraged to create Apple.
Advancing Technology: The Personal Computer
Early on, Jobs recognized the value in the personal computer and helped Wozniak develop an improved model, the Apple II, with a complete keyboard. After working to gain financing and publicity, Apple Computer officially launched in 1977 with the completed Apple II (Source: Britannica).
Jobs became one of the first entrepreneurs to recognize the shift of the personal computer. He continued to develop Apple III and eventually the Apple Macintosh. Apple made history and helped create the trend of personal computers as other entrepreneurs eventually hopped on the bandwagon.
One of the reasons Apple is so successful is because Jobs was able to identify a new shift early on. The first personal computer was introduced in 1975 as kits and Jobs was not far behind. One year later, in 1976, Jobs and Wozniak created Apple I. Because Jobs was able to leverage the advances in technology so early, Apple grew with the trend, rather than following behind it.
“Creativity is just connecting things,” Jobs said. “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Jobs saw a shift in the marketplace before nearly anyone else did, and used his creativity to connect the dots to create a trillion dollar company.
Not only did Jobs leverage the shift of the personal computer, but also other advancing technologies. In 1994, IBM developed the first smartphone featuring a touchscreen and built in apps (Source: WeForum.org). However, the technology was still extremely limited. In 2001, Apple launched the first iPod and in 2007, they launched the iPhone (Source: Poynter). Apple’s smartphone wasn’t just a touchscreen with apps, it gave everyone access to the internet and a camera.
While Apple didn’t create the first smartphone, their advanced technology built into the phone helped them leapfrog all of their competition and revolutionize the movement. In 2006, Apple generated $1.9 billion, but after they launched the iPhone, their sales increased 63% to $45.6 billion of profit (Source: Vox).
Apple didn’t stop with the iPhone either. While they continue to improve their phones with features such as face recognition, they also helped create other technologies such as Apple Airpods. By staying ahead of the game and recognizing the tectonic shifts in the marketplace, Apple has become one of the most well-known and successful companies in the world.
Unlimited Options: Passion Marketing
In today’s digital world, there has been a tectonic shift in the amount of choices our ideal customers have for spending their time and money. With the rise of the internet and new technologies, customers can easily get overwhelmed with options. Just think, those who love podcasts have 850,000 active podcasts to choose from, not to mention more than 48 million different episodes.
In order to leverage this tectonic shift, we should begin to implement passion marketing. Generally, people only care how our products or services are going to affect them. Their big motivator is, “What’s in it for me?” So, to stand out, we need to be pitching our products with the viewpoint of how it will affect our customers’ lives. We need to connect to our customers’ passions. This is how we can implement passion marketing.
Steve Jobs uses passion marketing to stand out. He doesn’t just sell computers, phones, or technology; he sells creativity and innovation. Jobs found a way to connect to his customers’ passions to resonate with them.
“What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think ‘outside the box,’ people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done,” Jobs said.
In 1997, Apple released their famous “Think Different” commercial. The advertisement showed video clips of famous rule breakers and forward thinkers, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali. During the commercial this quote is shared:
“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 genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
This video was so much more than an advertisement. It became an anthem. A figurative call to arms. It’s inspiring and motivating to people who see themselves as changemakers.
Apple saw a passion, the desire to change the world, and then they associated their brand with the people who had that passion. Wanting to achieve greatness and break the mold is a hugely motivating passion, and Apple has successfully encapsulated that passion for their ideal customers. That’s one of the reasons the brand enjoys such a loyal following.
When we leverage current tectonic shifts in the marketplace, we gain the capability to beat our competitors. Even a start-up business has the potential to take down big companies if they constantly look for new opportunities they can take advantage of. To learn more about how you can leverage current tectonic shifts, check out my podcast episode on Entrepreneurs of Fire.
Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- We can’t connect the dots looking forward; we can only connect them looking backwards. In order to create a great business, sometimes we have to take a leap and trust that everything will work out.
- When we innovate, we are bound to make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and work to improve as best we can.
- Our failures can help us learn things we never could have without them. Sometimes we need our failures to help us grow.
- We should strive to leverage business tectonic shifts as soon as we see them happening. If we can do this, we’re more likely to have success.
- Two of the business tectonic shifts we can leverage today are advancing technology and passion marketing.