Last Friday at our First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson for the first time. I repeated it to another audience on Tuesday and, I suspect, will do so a number of more times in the weeks/months to come. I have found that a book synopsis is a great conversation starter, and then, a valuable and useful “let’s think about things” catalyst. Isaacson’s book is terrific for just such a purpose.
So, on Tuesday, a man walked up and wanted to talk about Steve Jobs (the person, the business leader – not just the book). This is a sharp man. He earned a PhD, he started a successful company, and he is involved in an exciting new start-up. He is extremely well-read. (In this conversation, he told me of a book that I have not read, and I immediately downloaded into my iPad). Oh — he is also a long-time Mac user.
He had quite a few observations about the leadership style of Jobs. He asked me if I knew the MobileMe story, when Steve Jobs let the team “have it” for their failures. I did know the story. (I forget where I first read it. You can read about it here). Here’s the key part of the story:
Jobs asked his team what MobileMe was supposed to do. Upon receiving an answer he quickly fired back, “So why the f*** doesn’t it do that?”
This astute observer then said this about Jobs:
“Steve Jobs was the greatest advocate for the customer I have ever seen in a business leader.”
That may be IT! – the insight about what made Steve Jobs great. As a business leader, Steve Jobs cared about, was passionate about!, was demanding for, the customer and the customer’s experience. He cared that his products made the life of the customer better, and easier. And his products do exactly that.
And though he was hard to work with/for, this was his motivation. From the Isaacson book:
Business Week asked him why he treated employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better.
In other words, according to the insight of this Tuesday night participant, Jobs wanted to make the company better in order to make the customer experience better. He was hard on his employees in his role as advocate for the customer.
This is the insight of the year!
This brings a real clarity to my understanding of Steve Jobs, and to business success in general. You have to care for the customer. You have to be an advocate for the customer, all the time. Because, without the customer — without a happy, genuinely satisfied customer — your days are truly numbered as a business.
You can purchase my synopsis of Steve Jobs, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.