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Lessons That Every Startup Can Learn from Steve Jobs

Bindu swetha
One of the most inspirational business leaders of all time, Steve Jobs' style of management has been appreciated by many. It was through his vision and leadership skills that Apple is where it is today.
"I hate it when people call themselves 'entrepreneurs' when what they're really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on." - Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs started his career at the video game maker Atari in the year 1974. However, his first encounter with innovation was when he along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne decided to sell the Apple I computers that the three had built in Job's garage. This was the stepping stone of Apple's success. In the years to come, Jobs' vision led the company to produce and launch many products that became a rage.
Once Jobs returned to Apple, after his resignation in 1985, he had the vision to enter into consumer electronics. Thus, the iTunes and iPod mini were launched. These visionary skills have made Apple the company it is today. It is not that Jobs had a cakewalk to success.
His struggles, experiences, and key decisions are a management book in itself. This BusinessZeal write-up has enlisted some of his skills that can help startups in their businesses.

Note: The image has a quote taken from Brent Schlender's collection of interviews of Steve Jobs, which he recorded in three dozen tapes. Jobs quoted the above in 2004.

Startup Lessons from Steve Jobs

Get What You Want

The biggest hindrance when any new business is being set up is arranging for resources. Without them, any startup will be of no use. Here, Steve Jobs can be a great example. His motto was to get what he wanted without wasting any time. He was of the opinion that when you are in need of something, you should make the maximum efforts to get it, even if it means going to the highest level. If you need it, you need it!
It is said that when Jobs was twelve years old, he wanted to make a frequency counter but wasn't able to find its parts. So, he looked up the phone book for Bill Hewlett (founder of HP) and contacted him to order the parts!

Risk Taking is the Key

Any new business venture is a risk in itself. But once you have made the tough decision of starting a new enterprise, the next important step is to make it a success. During this journey, there may be investments that might seem to be huge risks. Also, your decisions may affect the company adversely if the outcome is not as expected. But, if you can't take risks, you cannot succeed and will become stagnant.
Jobs decided to drop out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but later on stayed for 18 months before finally quitting. He said, "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. ... The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting. "

Have a Potential Team

A potential team is what every manager wishes for. When you have the right people in the right positions, half the work is done. One of the lessons to learn from Jobs is his ability to choose the right people. It was this vision that led to the success of Apple. A company that is full of highly potential staff will give amazing outputs. So, recruit the right people, and trust them to take your business forward.
"I've learned over the years that when you have really good people you don't have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. The original Mac team taught me that A-plus players like to work together, and they don't like it if you tolerate B work."

Take Responsibility

The worst thing to happen in any firm is the blame game. When there is no one to take responsibility of the mistakes, the customers may not consider the company to be credible enough. Thus, it is necessary to own our mistakes. There is nothing wrong in accepting that you have committed a mistake but what matters is the action you take afterwards. Take corrective measures, and improve your credibility.
"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."

Let Go of the Focus Groups

The thumb rule that is taught in any B-school or written in any management book is know what your customer wants. There are market research analysis done to know this demand, and the companies accordingly modify their existing products to suit the same.
However, Jobs rejected this idea and instead made products that the customers had never seen. So, the learning lesson here is to build a product which is your innovation rather than making one that the customers have already used.
"People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Don't Run Behind Perfection

One of the biggest problems with new venturers is their greed to attain perfection in whatever they do. However, there is nothing as "perfection". You either do your best and leave the customers to judge it, or just don't build the product in the first place. It is necessary to move on to the next project in hand rather than overdoing it in order to make it perfect.
"I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

Narrow Down the Focus

When a company has just entered the business in one sector, it may look to launch new products in that sector. And then, the temptation to venture into other business sectors arises. But, due to this diversification, the current and main product quality may be affected.
This may lead to reduced sales, and the company's revenue generation gets affected. Jobs never ventured into too many sectors. For many years, he stuck to the industrial sector, and only after attaining a profitable position in that sector, did he venture into the arena of consumer products.
"What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great." - Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Find Mentors

Mentors are very important in any field to guide us through the ups and downs we encounter in that field. But, once the entrepreneurs set up their ventures, they hardly consider advice from anyone but the consultancy firms. Choose your mentors who are knowledgeable in your field of business. Learn the nuances of technology and business from them. Even if they are not from the business world, due to their strong basics, they can be the best guides.
Regis McKenna, Jobs' mentor guided him to Mike Markkula, who was Apple's first angel investor and marketing guru. Thus, Jobs found a great employee in Markkula, whose marketing principles are still being practiced at Apple.

Innovative Marketing

Most marketers come up with innovative ways to bring out the product features in their campaigns. They try to highlight the features, which will make the product stand out from its competitors. However, if you take a look at Apple's marketing campaigns, the product features or the company name was a minute part of their marketing campaign. Their main focus would be on the people, who would use their products.
It is said that in the "I'm a Mac" campaign, there were two computers in the beginning. However, Jobs replaced those two computers with people. These people were proxies for the two different kinds of computers.
He felt that focusing on people would grab more attention than focusing on computers. In another campaign, at the launch of MacBook Air, Jobs pulled out a slim laptop from an envelope and said nothing. Yet, the audience got the laptop's distinguishing feature!

Keep the Design Simple

In continuation to the above discussion, the other aspect that most new entrepreneurs miss is the design simplicity.
The simpler the design, the more it connects with the user. If you dump too many features in a user interface, you are simply confusing your user. The person who buys your product will have to take additional efforts to find his way out of these features. You can design a product that is aesthetically appealing yet simple in its looks and usage.
"In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service."
Principles of Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs' management style has been the subject of study of many management gurus.
In one such book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, 7 principles have been drawn from Jobs' success story.

#1. Do what you love.
#2. Put a dent in the universe.
#3. Kick start your brain.
#4. Sell dreams, not products.
#5. Say no to 1,000 things.
#6. Create insanely great experiences.
#7. Master the message.
Steve Jobs was a visionary, a person who knew exactly what the customer wants. Even his competitor, Bill Gates once quoted, "He really never knew much about technology, but he had an amazing instinct for what works." It is this instinct combined with management skills that makes any venture a successful one.