Steve’s Jobs journey to become Apple CEO

Steve Jobs was not a natural born CEO. As a hippie, without a formal higher education, with specific personality and high work expectations, he was not seen as a candidate to lead Apple, the company he created. After the first 10 years in the company he was fired. Apple did not want to give him a chance to run the company. They believed he was not ready. He had to leave to do his homework, to focus on developing his leadership, finance and communication skills. He was looking for freedom to play with innovation without any limits or boundaries. His CEO university in NeXT lasted 10 years. When he came back to Apple he knew how to lead the business, how to talk to people, how to communicate with customers, how to create the most valuable brand in the world.

“Start up” (1976 – 1986)

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, friends from high school, founded Apple in 1976 with an idea to build personal computers. It was a start up, no office, no team, no money. What they had it was an idea only that their products will change the world. Wozniak was the engineer and Jobs was the vision-idea man who kept an eye on the business.

From the beginning Apple key principle of all activities was an innovation which was supposed to distinguish between a leader and followers. First computer, The Apple One, was launched in 1976. With the price of USD 666.66 they sold 200 pieces. In 1977 they launched the Apple Two. It was an innovation, single board computer with a colour (!) video interface and with onboard ROM station. After the success of the Apple Two they continued launching innovating products. In 1984 Apple put on the market another innovation. They launched the Macintosh computer which had 128k of memory and it was expandable. The Macintosh had a mouse which was used for personal computers for the first time and had a new graphical used interface. It was the most innovative and revolutionary personal computer in 1984.

Neither Jobs nor Wozniak had an experience in running a company. One of Apple’s earliest investors and employees, Mike Markkula, had an idea to hire an external CEO. They brought Michael Scott he was Apple’s first CEO and led the company until 1981 when Apple’s IPO was executed.  In 1981 Markkula became the CEO for 2 years. In 1983 Jobs headhunted John Sculley, PepsiCo CEO, not knowing that it will be a reason of him leaving Apple in a few years time. That time Jobs wanted to be Apple’s CEO but this idea was not supported by the Board of Directors. Key problem was Jobs’s leadership and working style. During his time in Apple he earned a reputation for being difficult leader, manager and co-worker. His attention to details, open and straight communication style were reasons for many tough discussions and arguments. All that escalated in 1985. Apple launched another innovation. It was Lisa, the first-ever computer with a graphical user interface (GUI). GUI is a form of user interface that allows users to interact with a computer via icons and not via text based user interfaces. It is popular nowadays, but in 1985 it was a technical revolution. However not every technical revolution translates directly into sales. It was the case with Lisa, it was a total flop sales-wise. Apple was not able to win the PC market controlled fully by IBM. They were loosing and business was not profitable. Sculley took a decision to remove Jobs from the Macintosh project. Jobs decided to fight against this decision and went directly to the Board of Directors. Unfortunately for Jobs the Board supported Sculley. What happened next is a mystery. There are two scenarios. Jobs claimed that he was fired from Apple and Scully said that Jobs put his resignation which was accepted. He lost the power fight  with Sculley and had to go.

First decade of Apple was a constant flow of innovative products which were gaining the market but still not able to compete with IBM.

Apple struggled to find a suitable CEO as they had six. Jobs had an ambition to become CEO but nobody in the company supported it. He had to do his homework outside the company he created.

“Homework” (1986 – 1997)

After Jobs left Apple he sold some Apple stock and founded another technology company – NeXT. He wanted to create a company which will design the next generation of personal computers. A few people left Apple together with Jobs and they designed innovative and technologically developed computers. The problems was that NeXT’s computers were very expensive and sales were slow. From business perspective NeXT was a failure. From Jobs’s perspective it was a time when he could work on own ideas without any limitations. The NeXT team developed an operating system based on Unix and many others innovations which were implemented in their products.

After Jobs left Apple, Scully went full steam into execution of own strategy. The company introduced a new operation system – the System 7. The system allow to bring colours to Mac first time. They also launched the PowerBook laptop. With few other innovations and new products Apple started to lose focus and experienced some new products which did not impress the market at all. Sculley’s biggest mistake was not having a processor which could compete with competition like Intel. Intel’s products were more popular and hence cheeper. Mac prices were too high. Apple was not able to deliver earnings projections and Sculley had to go. He was succeeded by Michael Spindler who was the Apple employee. He lasted 3 years and had to go after a failure to acquisition talks with IBM, Philips and Sun Microsystems. Yes, you are not overhearing, Apple was on a market, but nobody wanted to buy it! In 1996 Spindler was replaced Gil Amelio who had a controversial idea of acquiring NeXT. He did not know that he was asking for his termination letter. In early 1997 Apple bought NeXT for USD 429 million. The transaction was supposed to put Apple’s innovation back on track. In June 1997, an anonymous investor sold 1.5 million Apple shares. Due to this massive order Apple shares reached a 12-year low. It was too much to the Board of Directors. They decided to let Amelio go and to appoint Jobs as interim CEO. The company was in a bad position. A broad range of different products generated losses. They were losing against competition.

Jobs was waiting for this moment for 10 long years. His leadership homework at NeXT was about to end. 10 years of exile tested his patience and gave him an opportunity to do business his way. He had an opportunity to design innovative products and operating systems. He pushed for a perfection and innovation to create products which would revolutionised the market. He learned politics as well. After some time, Jobs confirmed that it was he who put that 1.5 million Apple shares. His intention was to create an external pressure on the Board. He was ready to his second chance in Apple.

Apple CEO (1997 – 2011)

From the moment when he was appointed as interim CEO, Jobs started implementing changes. First, he broad a new executive committee. Innovation work on computers, systems and different tools, they did in NeXT, was put into reality and gave an adrenaline shoot to Apple. In 1998 Apple launched iMac which won the market. Step by steps the situation in the company started to improve. In 2000 Jobs became a permanent CEO. Under a new Jobs leadership Apple was changed into an innovation machine. They developed and marketed many innovative products and services. Each of us knows it best: iPhone, iPod, iPad, iMac, iWatch, AppStore and iTunes shaped the market and pushed people to queue for hours in front of Apple stores on release day. Via creation of Apple Stores they revolutionised street shops as well. There was no shop with counters and cashier anymore. Innovative, new, fresh shopping experience with Apple boosted sales. Once they focused on innovative products they did not forget about finances. Jobs implemented tools and controls to keep costs under control. It had a massive impact on business profitability. Jobs knew that this is what shareholders were looking for. In 2005 Apple net income was USD 1.3 billion. In 2007, when the first iPhone was launched, net income achieved USD 3.5 billion. From that moment if going north. In 2018 Apple’s net profit achieved his highest, USD 59.5 billions. The value of the company reached USD 1.4 trillion and made Apple to most valued company in the world.

Steve Jobs died in 2011. He was the most inspirational CEO. Apple under his leadership created products which changed our lives. He created a powerful brand – Apple.

His journey to become CEO was long and challenging. Passion and believe kept him on a course to achieve his dreams.

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