BUSINESS CONTINUITY AND SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE ENTREPRENEUR

Let me now proceed with the second part of my critical lessons from Steve Jobs. I believe you must have enjoyed reading the first part, and are looking forward to the second part. If you are just landing on this second part, I would candidly advise you to go back and read the first part of this write-up before proceeding to read this one. It’s good to get the complete picture so that you get the whole benefit of this article. I’m more than sure that it will add a lot of value to your enterprise.  Let’s proceed now.

  1. The best and most innovative products do not always win. The war on operating systems was largely won by Microsoft though with crudely copied series of products (these are Steve Jobs’ words and not mine) despite the fact that Apple had been more imaginative, innovative, brilliant in design and elegant in execution. Apple’s restricted and not shared systems proved to be a disadvantage. So, if you are the innovative entrepreneur, spending sleepless nights dreaming and thinking about the most innovative products and services, put this point at the back of your mind and don’t get too cross because your excellent product or service has not won the battle in the market place. Ok? Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t but this does not mean that your product or service will not sell in millions.
  1. Innovative companies not only know how to come up with new products and services first, but also how to leapfrog when they find themselves behind. Lasting companies know how to reinvent themselves. Innovation is extremely powerful and determines many things about the future of a business. Unfortunately, many people get stuck in rigid thinking patterns that simply destroy the innovative and creative gifts that God has given them. Mr. Entrepreneur, if you want to be unique and move ahead of the pack, learn to innovate continuously. Take the lead and chart new paths but if you realize you have been left behind, leapfrog your company again with innovation into the unknown future. Are you following me? Do you understand?
  1. Great innovations that create tectonic shifts usually stand in contextually strange places such as the intersection of humanities and sciences, the intersection of biology and technology, etc. Jobs revolutionized at least six industries namely personal computers, tablet computing, phones, animated movies, music, and digital publishing. Jobs worked hard to infuse elements of art and perfection into his products. It is reported that the tension between design and engineering was the highest in Apple, to a level never experienced in any other company. Even marketers were part of the design. The products of this tension are the first class products from Apple you see today. Of course not everything they made was perfect, but the perfect ones were indeed perfect. No doubt about this. We certainly need more entrepreneurs and companies that can create such tectonic shifts and impact several industries at once.
  1. Building great products and services without building a great company is of little value. My dear entrepreneur, don’t tell me that for you focus on the product and service alone is your take away. You can rest assured that I will not take that from you. This is another critical lesson from Steve Jobs. In fact, useless companies cannot even come up with great products and services in the first place. If a great product or service slipped through or emerges in such a terrible environment, or if they purchase it, it will most probably not survive. Great companies are the vehicles used to design, produce, market and sustain great products and services. There is no shortcut to this. Period. I will even proceed quickly to my next point because there is no argument here. It’s closed without appeal!  
  1. There is power in focus. Deciding what not to do was as important as deciding what to do at Apple. Now, I think I like this idea of focusing also on what you should not do. I mean, seriously identifying them, isolating them and avoiding them whether they are products, services, companies etc. Many entrepreneurs cannot properly define what they should not be doing, and weave in and out of things they should not be doing. Sometimes it takes a strategic rethink or strategic planning session, serious business problems, or even a consultant to wake up executives and entrepreneurs from their slumber in useless things and ideas. This is critical thinking. I think even in the world of eating if you sat on a dining table and you are faced with just one or two things, you eat in a focused and patient way. This reminds me of a comical Nigerian man who was once reported to have said that he needed to remove all his clothes before facing the food (pounded yam with correct accompaniments) in front of him. Eating without any distractions. Talk about focus!  
  1. People are vital and entrepreneurs should guard against the ‘bozo explosion’. The ‘bozo explosion’ simply means filling the company with untalented or second rate talents. The word bozo might be too tough to use, but I believe you get what Steve Jobs meant. This people lesson is another critical lesson from Steve Jobs that entrepreneurs should not miss. People determine businesses and organizations. They determine the products and services you are able to design, create, produce and offer to the market. Oftentimes A players want to work only with A players, and you will mess up the team if you indulge B players. It’s worse for C players. The Macintosh experience in Job’s entrepreneurial journey was an eye opener for him. Jobs was very particular in selecting his team, and especially people in key positions. It’s up to you my dear entrepreneur, what you fill your business with. It’s really up to you, and don’t complain if you ignore this piece of advice.  
  1. CEO’s must deal with marketing heads on. Steve Jobs was an avid marketer. He enjoyed being in the limelight and showcasing his products. This is a thing that CEO Entrepreneurs dislike and avoid. Initially when Wozniak (Steve’s partner) was keen on giving for free some of the products; it was Steve that brought in the selling idea. Throughout his business career Steve stayed at the center of marketing. This is why he infused art and design into engineering and production. Marketing and sales is the backbone of every business, and a CEO that does not want to engage in marketing is missing out on good opportunities and giving the business a disadvantage. This is another vital lesson for you Mr. Entrepreneur. Don’t hide behind the curtains. Even if you are terrible in marketing, and you have hired the best marketing guru in town, ensure that you accompany that guru on serious customer meetings, and speak the little you have about your business. Ok? Please!  
  1. There is something indefinable in an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, sometimes people will not understand you. It’s not easy to follow you always. Your creative mind might keep on constructing and reconstructing. Your thoughts might build elevators and scaffoldings in winding patterns. You might have meetings in your head while compartmentalizing problems. You could be electric sometimes. Diplomacy and class might not be in your toolbox always. You might be wickedly intelligent and perceive many things than an average soul might not. You could negotiate until you get people angry, or make people think you are entering into an insane asylum. We are not perfect as entrepreneurs. We have some indefinable elements in us.  
  1. Be grateful and never make permanent business enemies. The last critical lesson I’m going to mention here is that you should never make permanent enemies, and you should be grateful. There is more to life than business and money. Though Jobs came to realize part of these realities in the evening years of his life, he acted on them and tried to correct the relationship mistakes he had made. You don’t need to wait that long. You should also be thankful. Steve Jobs once said that the Valley (Silicon Valley) had been very supportive to him and he should do his best to repay. This is vital for you Mr. Entrepreneur. Don’t refuse to greet or recognize somebody because you don’t agree on business issues. It’s even better to shake his or her hand and then start arguing again about your points. Jobs and Gates had serious business differences, but occasionally the two could meet alone for hours. Strange!

Candidly, if you have not been able to get some fantabulous lessons from this article (both parts), then I give up for you. May be you belong to another planet!

With every good wish – till then,

The Wise Entrepreneur

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