Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs has had an amazing impact on the company. He transformed it from barely relevant to VITAL in the lives of its customers. This is what you can learn from Jobs’ amazing career.
It’s impossible to understate the massive impact that Steve Jobs has had on Apple.
A co-founder of the company, he got ousted in the 1980s. And when he returned in 1997, Apple was in a dire situation. The company’s sales had fallen by 30% in the final quarter of 1996 alone.
And as for competing with major brands, like Microsoft…
Forget about it. Apple had all it could do to stay solvent during this turbulent time.
But Jobs changed everything. He saw that the company had become bloated and overly complex since he’d left. So he embarked on a process of simplification as one of his first courses of action.
And after that, he had much bigger ideas in mind.
Jobs pivoted Apple from a computer company into a consumer product company. Innovation after innovation followed. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad established Apple as a giant in its new niche.
In the space of a few years, it went from near death to absolutely VITAL.
That’s what you want to achieve with your accounting firm. You need to become VITAL to your customers so that they’ll never want to work with anybody else.
And who better to learn from than Steve Jobs?
These are the top tips that Jobs has to offer for every entrepreneur.
Tip #1 – Embody Your Brand
Think about all the qualities that Apple embodies.
It’s innovative and dedicated to creating cutting-edge technology. There’s an air of cool about it and a mystique that draws people to the brand.
These qualities didn’t appear out of thin air.
They’re all characteristics that Steve Jobs embodied. Jobs was a big believer in living your brand. He said that any leader must bring great passion to their work:
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.”
When you have passion you can inject more of yourself into the business you’ve created. It’s your passion that creates the alignment between your personal and professional goals.
Jobs became the figurehead for Apple because he embodied everything that the brand was about. He brought such infectious passion to his work that people couldn’t help but get on board. And of course, this feeling of connection to Jobs led to a connection to the brand that he represented.
Do you show the same kind of love for your brand? Do you embody everything that you want your brand to represent in the eyes of your clients?
Jobs shows us that the best way to stand out from the competition is to inject as much of you into your brand as possible.
Tip #2 – Create a Different Experience for Your Clients
Jobs once said:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
This is such an important lesson. And it’s one you can see in practice if you go to any Apple Store. The experience is quite unlike anything you’ll find with any other brand. Apple positions its stores as places to learn, both about the brand and its products. Its Genius Bars take customer service to a new level. And in recent years, Apple has encouraged people to use its stores as gathering places.
This creates a powerful community of like-minded people who share the Apple experience with one another.
And when we get to the meat of this lesson, it’s actually pretty simple.
Your clients don’t really care about the tech behind your products. They don’t care much about how it works. They care about the experience they get from you. Your clients need a sense of community – and they need you to solve their problems.
Start with those needs and build your offering so that it serves them.
Tip #3 – Quality Always Beats Quantity
It may be strange to talk about quantity in the context of Apple. After all, it sells millions of products every year. However, the reason for such massive sales is that Steve Jobs focused on quality from the outset. As he put it:
“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
The point he’s making is that you can’t sell sustainable quantities if your product doesn’t offer value. Sure, you could create a slapdash product and put a low price tag on it. And that product will sell…for a while.
But eventually, the lack of quality will come back to bite you. The short-term boost in quantity disappears. And now you have a reputation for offering a poor product.
Contrast that to Apple’s approach.
Everything they create is of such high quality that it’s become a prestige brand. There’s a certain luxury attached to Apple’s products that make them desirable. The company’s high sales are a direct result of the quality of its product.
That’s why it’s so important for you to examine your own product.
Does it provide enough value to your clients? What could you do to improve your offering? And finally, are you focused more on selling than on providing quality?
If you are, you may find it difficult to grow your firm past a certain point. In fact, you’re more likely to turn your service into a commodity, rather than something VITAL.
Tip #4 – Don’t Allow Mediocrity to Become Your Standard
There’s a story floating around about an encounter that Steve Jobs had with a photographer. This photographer had a simple goal – to take Jobs’ photo for Fortune. And he thought he’d found the perfect location.
He asked Jobs to stand in front of the giant Apple logo in the company’s corporate headquarters.
“You must be kidding me. Apple’s CEO standing in front of the Apple logo?! I won’t be part of such a mediocre effort!”
This statement may sound harsh, but it’s also indicative of the approach that Jobs took to business.
If you do what everybody else does, you’ll get the same results that everybody else gets. Jobs wanted this photo to stand out, which meant that the same old “picture of a CEO in front of a logo” wouldn’t cut it.
He wanted something different.
Think about how this idea applies to your services. If you’re offering the same thing as every other firm, you’re settling for mediocrity. You’re telling your clients that you’re happy to go along with the crowd and that you don’t provide anything special.
So of course, they’re going to treat you like a commodity. If somebody comes along with something better, they’ll drop you in a heartbeat.
Mediocrity is not the goal here. Be it your service or the way you present yourself, always aim to stand out.
Tip #5 – Let Your People Influence Your Business
The traditional business structure is one of hierarchy. You have your CEO at the top and then tiers of management, support staff, and so on.
Now, we’re not saying that Apple doesn’t have a similar structure. However, Steve Jobs also understood how important it is to circumvent the hierarchy to find good ideas and keep great people. As he said:
“If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions.
“You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win. Otherwise, the good people don’t stay.”
You are the main decision-maker in your accounting firm.
However, you are not the only person in the firm who can come up with ideas. The people who work for you can often provide unique insights into your systems and processes. They’re working with those things every day, which means they’re best placed to come up with improvements.
Jobs’ approach allowed him to open himself up to new ideas. He understood that great people want to contribute to the success of the business. And instead of holding himself above his people, he welcomed their ideas and encouraged them to contribute.
Create the Jobs Effect in Your Firm
Few CEOs have managed to create as remarkable a transformation in a company as Steve Jobs did with Apple. He took a business on the brink of bankruptcy and turned it into something VITAL. And his penchant for innovation lives on even after his death.
It is these achievements that make him such an inspiring figure for budding entrepreneurs – and established businesses as well.
Consider how you can apply the advice that he’s shared over the years. Could you give your people more freedom to express and experiment with new ideas? Do you place enough focus on delivering a quality product that stands out from the rest?
Is the passion you bring to your work evident in your business?
Becoming VITAL means taking the road less traveled. It means escaping the humdrum offers that every accounting firm has and doing something different.
That’s what Jobs achieved with Apple…and it’s what you should aim for in your firm.
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