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INNOVATE

How to Start a Business, According to Steve Jobs

A look back at how it all started

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BY Vernon Velasco - 14 Dec 2017

How to Start a Business, According to Steve Jobs

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Three things happened when Apple went public 37 years ago: 300 people became instant millionaires, the initial public offering (IPO) generated a capital phenomenally greater than any IPOs since Ford Motor Co. in 1956, and the then-fledgling company’s co-founder Steve Jobs became a sensation.

The start-up was four years old when it launched its public offering in December 12, 1980. Jobs, meanwhile, was 25; his net worth on paper, a kiss shy over a whopping $200 million.

If Apple was the face of innovation, Jobs was the face of Apple, and everybody started emulating this young, cocky guy who made this company happen in that cramped garage of his parents’ Los Altos, California, home.

In 1976 Jobs co-created Apple computer, giving the world a glimpse of the future of computing. In 1984 it was Macintosh, which didn’t only change the brand, but the entire computer industry. The iPod was introduced in 2001, and in 2007 it was the iPhone. Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes the game.

Apple is the first to tell the world that a phone should be a touchscreen and that an entire music library should fit in the pocket. “It’s really hard to design products...A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” the late Jobs once said.

In every innovative idea Jobs brought into the table, his first impulse was always to ask, “What incredible benefits can we give to the customer,” instead of starting with “Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and market that.”

Apple is elegant in its simplicity. If you have a good brand, that does not only mean you have a wonderful one-of-a-kind piece of technology, it means people trust you.

But how did the father of the digital revolution build Apple—and other companies that followed (think NeXT and Pixar)—from a start-up to the tech giant it is today? Here are some pieces of advice.

One of the things that made Apple great was that passion cuts to the core of what it is; rather than being built by somebody who came in and said, “I want to build a company and make a lot of money out of it.”

Many great companies begin with a crazy idea. Often founders start a company because they want their ideas and solutions heard.

“We, too, are going to think differently and serve the people who have been buying our products since the beginning. Because a lot of times people think they’re crazy, but in that craziness, we see genius,” Jobs had stated.

The thing with Apple is that it is a deeply collaborative company and, unlike any business of the same scale, the California-based company is organized like a start-up—the biggest start-up on the planet, if you will. “You know how many committees we have at Apple?” Jobs waited a beat. “Zero.”

At Apple, a single person is in charge of iPhone OS; one, Mac hardware; and another is in charge of iPhone hardware engineering. They all meet for three hours once a week to talk about everything they’re doing. The teamwork found in the top rungs of the company translate to tremendous teamwork throughout the company.

“We’re great at figuring out how to divide things up into great teams that we have, who all work on the same thing, touch base frequently, and bring it all together into a product,” Jobs once said.

As CEO, being a good talent scout is key because, no matter how smart you are, you need a team of great people around you. That is, according to Jobs, how to build an organization that eventually will just build itself.

“If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay,” Jobs said.

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