This past week, the world lost one of the most brilliant businessmen who ever lived: Steve Jobs. I wrote some personal reflections on Steve’s life, as he was a big hero of mine and a big part of my success. You can read those thoughts here: “Thank You Steve Jobs”.
In that post, I wrote about how Steve, through his Apple products, had been – and continues to be – a major factor in the growth of Rich Dad.
At the Rich Dad offices, we're big fans of Apple. We use Apple products almost exclusively, and the innovation and vision of Steve and his company has helped my company – and thousands of others – make billions of dollars worldwide.
But as an entrepreneur, Steve Jobs didn't just make a great product.
He was a great leader and visionary. And he was a great example of what a business owner should look like.
In many ways, Steve jobs exemplified what I’ve been teaching about business for many years through the Rich Dad Company. So, in addition to the personal thoughts I shared earlier this week, I thought I’d share some Rich Dad lessons learned from Steve Jobs and his company, Apple.
Steve Jobs and the B-I Triangle
One tool we use at Rich Dad is the B-I Triangle. The B-I Triangle is simply a matrix for understanding the eight parts that make up a successful business. (View diagram to the right)
Where most people fail when they begin a business is that they think the product is the most important thing. The problem is that there are many businesses that have a great product, and yet they fail. Whenever I see a business that is struggling, I use the B-I Triangle to help me diagnose what is wrong with that company.
When you look at the B-I Triangle, you'll notice that product is the smallest part of the triangle. This is because it’s the least important part of a company. Having a great product is not the starting point; it's the end point. Before you have a great product, you must first have a great mission, a great team, and a great leader.
Steve Jobs understood this fundamental concept better than most, and by applying it, he created a company that changed the world. Let's take a look at the three outer concepts of the B-I Triangle and see why they made Steve Jobs and Apple so successful.
Though Apple doesn't list an official mission statement, most people would agree that the mission of Apple could be summed up in a simple statement: Think Differently.
That amazingly simple statement is the key to Apple's success because as Simon Sinek points out, they know why they exist, not just what they create.
Many companies use their mission statement to explain what they do, not why they do it. So a competitor to Apple might say something like, "We make great computers." Conversely, Apple says, "We think differently and want to fundamentally change the way you interact with technology. And we happen to make great computers."
Apple didn't start with a product. They started with a mission and then created a great product.
The culture at Apple is famous for being cult-like. When people hear the term “cult,” they immediately think negatively, but in a company, the term is a good thing. It simply means that everyone is on board with the mission of the company. They live it.
It also means that people will sacrifice to see the mission accomplished. They'll work extra hours. They'll give it their all. They'll not settle for mediocrity.
Apple hires only the best in the world to work for them – and they hire only people who are on board with their mission. They create a culture where brilliant and committed people can thrive. Steve Jobs, while a visionary leader and the heart and soul of Apple, understood the importance of building a great team and allowing them to work hard and own a part of his vision.
Many leaders have a hard time letting go. They don't trust people to help them succeed. So, they push people away by not empowering them. Steve Jobs did the exact opposite. He created a culture of innovation by focusing his team on two things, encouraging debate in development and making his teams cross-disciplined. He understood he couldn’t succeed alone.
A big part of Apple's success is the quality of its team.
And of course, Steve Jobs was a great leader. I could go on and on about him, but I'll let this simple story related by Bill Lee in the Harvard Business Review show you how great he was:
Jobs is supposedly obsessed with every detail that goes into Apple devices. Not so. He focuses on the details relevant to the customer's experience. When one of Apple's design teams was tasked with developing a DVD-burning software program for high-end Macs, developers spent weeks putting together a plan. On the appointed day to present it to Jobs, they brought pages filled with prototype information, pictures of the new program's various windows and menu options, along with documentation showing how the application would work. When Jobs walked into the meeting, he didn't so much as look at any of the plans. He picked up a marker, went to a whiteboard and drew a rectangle, representing the application. He then told them what he wanted the new application to do. The user would drag the video into the window, a button would appear that said "burn," and the user would click it. "That's it, that's what we're going to make," he said.
Steve Jobs was a brilliant leader and entrepreneur because he reminded his team that Apple existed to think differently. It was not Apple’s products that made them great. It wasn't how they created those products that made them great. It was why they created those products that made them great.
Steve Jobs thought differently, and he built a company and a team that set the benchmark for success.
The amazing thing is that Steve was a college dropout. He didn't work in the system. He defied it. And in the process, he built the most profitable company in the world – a company with more cash than the U.S. government.
Today, learn the lesson from Steve. Start thinking about why you do what you do, who you want to do it with, and lead those people to your promised land. Focus less on product and more on your mission, and success will come.
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