Can your company be as successful as Apple?

By Steve DeCollibus


Yes. And, here’s how.

First build a culture based on the power of good design principles. This is easier said than done, because in order to do this you have to first be a company willing to forgo short-term gain for larger long-term payoffs.

Company leaders need to believe enough in themselves, their products, their customers and their employees to realize that they are capable of making products that will lead to shareholder value.

Second, they need to create a product development process that is driven by both design and engineering that allows each discipline an equal platform of expression and execution and allows enough space for mistakes and corrections to be made insuring a close-to-perfect result can be achieved on launch.

Strive to eliminate any imperfections and to improve on the perfection of the product road map so that each successive launch and upgrade is attended to by the market that desires perfection.

Third, support this with a branding and marketing and public relations program that positions the company and its products in a presentation that builds loyalty and pride in existing customers and creates a powerful attraction to potential customers.

Fourth, build products of the highest quality possible for the lowest cost possible and charge as much money for the product as possible.

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Fifth, have the best customer support available in the industry and charge a fair price for it.

I am not an Apple fanatic. (Disclosure: I have an iPhone 3G and an iTouch. I like them both. A lot.) I am an Apple observer and an observer of the electronics industry.

In general, I invest a good portion of each day slogging through our 24-hour industry news cycle.

So. By default, I read many articles and stories focused on Apple. Apple owns the news cycle. And, if we were still listing things Apple does correctly what do you think would be sixth? You guessed it! Own the 24-hour news cycle.


Apple Headquarters. Cupertino, CA. Image copyright


Do these five or six things and you win. Your company gets to be numero uno, dos or tres pretty easy don’t you think?

So, how come you’re not number one? Or two? Or three and at least on your way to beating the next company in front of your way?

Here’s why.

It starts at the top
If your CEO is incentivized for short-term gains in the stock market and you do not hear from him between quarterly reports you will never be one of the above.

If you iterate products in incremental steps based on focus groups and not your own knowledge and intestinal fortitude you are in trouble.

If your product development work is put through a process that removes the ‘risky’ as matter of course it will not be so.

You cannot have great branding and great design without great hardware.

And, you cannot have software with bugs that upsets folks after they have already purchased your great new widget when it in fact it won’t work right out of the box.

Often times, when there is a problem right out of the box that may be the result of having purchased a new brand — one whose little ‘quirks’ the consumer is yet to be familiar with — we consumers call your company’s customer support to resolve the problem.

More often than not we cannot get through or, if we’re directed to your very cool self-service Website and then directed to a live chat agent or chat room dedicated to the problem we are attempting to understand and solve.

While engaged, we are confronted with several thousand entries from other people who preceded (us) with the same problem and there is no indication, or direction, to the two or three responses that actually figured it out, forcing /us/consumers to waste precious time and productivity to find the right solution. Is there any wonder why your company is in trouble?

This happens to consumers every day.

Fixing a problem is not a social networking activity. Your company built the thing, shouldn’t you or one of your people help fix it?

There are real and valid chat groups and communities online that are talking about these experiences and telling people not to buy your gear! It is affecting your bottom line as well as your market share and shareholder value.

The failure of major electronics companies over the last few months, brands that were once too big to fail: Nokia, Motorola, HP… (and others that will follow) will be dissected and studied in MBA courses for years to come.

We will wring our hands and ask what went wrong. We will attempt to assign blame to individuals, ideas and products.

We might even point to a lack of focus on one or all of the five concepts I have mentioned above.

What Apple and its leadership have proven is you cannot do well at one concept without doing well at the others.

Corporate culture is not easy to change. I suspect that is what many of you are saying and I empathize with you, but you have to agree that taken at face value, one at a time, each one of these concepts should be easy to accomplish. So what is keeping your company from trying one? Respond below, I really want to understand this!

Readers – I wrote this article three days before Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic CEO announced he would be stepping down. I do not feel his absence on a day-to-day basis will have a huge impact on the Company or what has been discussed in this piece. It will take many years, if ever, for the Steve Jobs effect to wear off.

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