The Wise Entrepreneur

Critical Lessons from Steve Jobs That Every Entrepreneur Must Know – Part 1

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Greetings to you once again! Please accept my apologies for the recent lull in my blogs. The good news is that I’m back, and we will pick up from where we stopped.

Entrepreneurs learn from each other, and today I would like us to share some critical lessons from Steve Jobs (Rip), the Apple guy.  I know that there are literally thousands of articles on this guy but I would like to base my points on a few things I got from his story as narrated by Walter Isaacson in the book entitled Steve Jobs. Again, different people read books and perceive different things, so don’t blame me for what I got and what I’m going to write here. In any case, if you think otherwise or want to get the complete thing, simply get and read this great book. I candidly think this book is a must-read for entrepreneurs that plan to build great enterprises.

Steve Jobs has the legacy of building innovative products and a great and lasting company. Even if you don’t use his products or you live in a part of the world where Steve’s products are a rarity, I believe you have an idea about this man. However, what are some of the things that made Steve very great? What are the things that we can learn from his story? What are the critical lessons from Steve Jobs that every entrepreneur must know? Are there some takeaways from Steve that entrepreneurs today can benefit from? Let’s consider some of the issues which I think cannot be missed. Ok?

  1. If you must produce a product, do it with perfection and with the customer in mind. Steve had a passion for perfection and an intense personality. He emphasized on designing great products yet with simple capability, sometimes insisting on revisions upon revisions to the extent that it could irritate and frustrate some of his people. He wanted perfection even in ads and product launches. Jobs favourite expression of enthusiasm was ‘insanely great’. He looked at the world in binary terms. A product was either great (amazing) or not. Indeed Job even once commented that perfection was an evidence of the existence of God, a good argument for this since some feats could only be achieved with God and not with only human capabilities. He is reported to have made this comment while appreciating Yo-Yo-Ma’s classical music performance on his cello at one time in Job’s house. I think this is an important lesson for all entrepreneurs. This drive for perfection should even go to the unseen parts of your products and services. Perfection should apply to both goods and services. Markets today are filled with second rate products and services. Art is meant to chase ugliness away. With a perfection mentality, the world would have infinitely great products and services!
  1. You could have a serious business discussion while taking a walk. It is documented that Steve had the unusual habit of taking a walk, sometimes alone and sometimes with a person whenever he was making serious considerations towards critical business decision making. This was Job’s way of doing things. Though not all of us can follow that approach, I think it’s a great and somehow relaxed way of thinking and making decisions. Don’t you agree with me? Candidly, sometimes we get too serious with business decision making and we end up missing the key issues. Critical business decisions need not be thrashed out and made only in the board room with very serious looking, stern-faced and heavily suited and dressed up people. The powerful specs and neck ties including big corporate grammar might not after all arrive at great decisions contrary to what we oftentimes think. Do you get the point?
  1. The best way to create value in the 21st Century is to connect creativity with technology. Technological development is the key thing in the 21st The pace of technological development, disruptive or not, at this time in history is simply fantabulous. Great things are emerging out of the combination of creativity and technology, and yet some entrepreneurs are so dull and boring that they can’t even see or make use of an iota of this phenomenal development. Come on Mr. Entrepreneur, can’t you see how you can advance your business with technology? Can’t you see that creativity and technology can launch you into a higher realm of business success? The market is constantly searching for value, and that search today is largely focused on the internet, which is a part of technology. Technological solutions to the challenges of mankind including hunger, disease, communication, ignorance and whatever you name it, are on the rise. When you create value, money comes knocking on your door as an entrepreneur! Try this and let me know.
  1. Think different. Find the future. Think profit. I have written before about differentiation and innovation in my blogs, so I’m not going to bore you by repeating my points. What I’m simply saying is that when you think and act different as an entrepreneur, you most likely will keep the lead while the rest will follow you. Look into the future of human needs and wants, and build your business around that. This is another very critical lesson from Steve Jobs that every entrepreneur must know. Additionally, think profit. When Jobs was ousted from his own company and made a comeback after some years, the business was bleeding money and Jobs had to think profit fast enough to turn around the fortunes of the company. This is not to say that he was not thinking profit before. In fact he started thinking profit much earlier than his business colleague Wozniak with whom they started the computer company. The business sense and case is a must for every entrepreneur. You are not a charity! Are you? If you want to be a charity, simply go and register an NGO. Ok?  
  1. Where you start experimenting with your crazy entrepreneurial ideas pretty much does not matter. Instead, what you are doing and creating and where you are going are what matters. This is another critical lesson for every entrepreneur, from Steve Jobs. Jobs started his company in a garage and even started assembling computers in that same place. What an approach? Some entrepreneurs today spend zillions of money setting up extremely expensive offices without revenue flow. Cash flow is the in-thing, and you can get this without an office. Do you understand what I’m saying here? Get me right, I’m not stopping you from setting up an office or contact point for your business, but be wise if you must. Is anybody going to sue you if you don’t have an office? Obviously not! So be smart with your moves. Many of us today buy great products and services online from folks we have never met and might not even meet in our entire life on earth. In fact you can’t even tell whether their real office is located in some stinking place, far different from the good office photos sometimes posted on websites.  
  1. A socially awkward personality is not entirely bad for business success but could cost you dearly. You don’t need to be suave and very polished to succeed. Jobs thought and felt that the normal rules of social engagement did not apply to him. He was generally a rebel and at odds with regimented systems and rules. He is reported to have had a terrible personality. This was one of the important issues that led to his ouster because he simply could not be a leader of the company though he could produce nice gadgets. He was more destructive to the company at some point, though he was the very man who later salvaged the company after his come-back. The gist of the matter is this; I’m not teaching unruly behavior and swearing unprintable words at staffs and business associates here. I’m simply saying that your personality limitations should not stop you from building a great business. Being a school dropout or social misfit is not a license or condemnation to failure. Jobs left college but ended up being a very successful entrepreneur. Bill Gates also dropped out of school. He dropped out for good. So, if the school system or any other regimented ways of man cannot contain your intelligence, creativity and thought patterns, feel free to walk out and follow your dream. Period!  
  1. Intuitive understanding and consciousness is more significant that abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis. Intuition can be more powerful than intellect. This is another critical lesson from Steve Jobs for today’s entrepreneurs. I have also mentioned before in my blog that entrepreneurs use more of the right side of the brain, which is creative and intuitive, compared to the left side of the brain that dwells on the logical. My dear entrepreneur, you can never build extremely great products and services, and even companies, by focusing on logic or reasoning. Your intellect may be your undoing, because you will see the people that you think are dumb intellectually passing you by with their business success while you calculate your numbers, do iterations, logic, sequence, algebra, refine your risk estimates etc. and yet remain small. Let me leave this point just here!  
  1. The absence of capital does not stop an avid, determined and focused entrepreneur. Now, there are people who will postpone their entrepreneurial dreams until the grave, on the reason that they do not have capital. This is very old thinking, and I’m not going to have kind words for you if you are that kind of person. The point is this, small start-ups with hardly any significant capital usually get great financial backing the moment people start seeing some sense and potential in the business idea. Steve Jobs and his friend Wozniak raised $1,300 to start a computer company that sparked the beginning of the mighty Apple Empire. To raise this capital Steve sold his Volkswagen at $1,500 and Wozniak sold his HP 65 calculator for $500 though both buyers claimed or held something back, leaving the duo with $1,300 to begin their dream computer company with. Now, if your financial status is such that $1,300 could make you have a heart attack, don’t run. Ok? We could scale that down to $300 or even $100 and you could still start a business with that. Don’t laugh. I’m very serious! People have started enterprises with such moneys and they never looked back, and ended up employing tens and even hundreds of people after some years. Talk about the entrepreneurial mind!  
  1. Simple is good and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. You can make less but better. Less is always more and simpler is always better. Simplify. Make it beautifully simple. This is another critical lesson from Steve Jobs. Don’t think that Jobs was simply joking about this idea because you can see that his products are not that simple. In fact, some of us could have irreparable mental damage trying to decode his work, even if we opened up an ipad and scattered all the parts on a large table and tried to understand the logic. Don’t you agree with me? There is a simplicity that comes with every product. Ease of use for example is a form of simplicity. If you can get a rural shepherd boy use your products without going to class or for consultations with other people, then you have a good starting point. Jobs also liked very well engineered products with hardly any hanging bits that could make a good product look like a clown. This is another form of simplicity. This was Job’s aspiration and I think he achieved this to some extent.

I’m going to terminate it right here for today. By the way, I guess you took note of the Part 1 element above. I still have a couple of points regarding critical lessons from Steve Jobs, and the only way for you not to miss it is by visiting my blog next time, or at some other time because I could trick you and write something else in my next blog.  Perhaps this is how I’m going to be innovative enough to keep you reading this blog, amidst all the noise in the internet and blogosphere.

So, see you next time! Cheers.

The Wise Entrepreneur

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Clayton W. L. Mwaka

Clayton W. L. Mwaka, a Ugandan chartered accountant and motivational speaker with 24 years of diverse experience, specializes in business administration, international consultancy, and lecturing. He advocates for personal empowerment through balanced living, qualitative leadership, and paradigm shifts, aiming to unlock individual potential globally.

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