Dead Company Walking

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You know what I miss about Steve Jobs? I miss the passion.

Say what you want about him (and lots of people have taken their turn) but when Steve was around you never had to worry about someone really caring about the products his company produced. Those days are gone.

Check out the rumors about grand new Apple products for 2014. It’s all tinkering around the edges, making this thing bigger or faster or lighter. One “big” innovation, the iWatch, “will primarily function as an accessory to the iPhone and the iPad.” Well, whoo-hoo! I don’t think that one’s likely to change the world.

Check out the news for Apple. It’s about yet more patent suits, once-important people leaving the company, Apple’s position on various bits of legislation, and the stock price. It’s sad, but I can’t decide if Apple is in stage two or three of my four stage corporate lifecycle.

In stage one, the product people rule. The excitement is about products and services and making them better. That was Apple whenever Steve Jobs was there.

Apple briefly slipped into stage two, when they got rid of Steve and turned the company over to John Sculley. That didn’t end well. Jobs came back to save the day by pumping passion back into the company.

Apple may be going all marketing again with the hiring of Angela Ahrendts from Burberry. Or they may have slid to stage three where the accountants and lawyers take over. They get the big offices with oil paintings and the engineers wind up working in bullpens in parts of the building where the air conditioning doesn’t reach. That precedes stage four: death.

I miss Steve and I really don’t like what I’m seeing. Great companies pay attention to the products and services they sell and the people who buy them. That’s what they talk about. That’s what they’re passionate about. That’s where they innovate.

When that happens, companies are alive and vibrant and successful. When something else becomes more important that what you do for your customers, death follows, even though it may take a while.

Listen to John Wayne, playing himself, but pretending to be Davy Crockett in the movie The Alamo

“There’s right and there’s wrong. Do the one and you’re livin’. Do the other and, you may be walkin’ around, but you’re deader than a beaver hat.”

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