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5 min readLessons From The Past -1: Steve Jobs’ Blunder & How He Got Fired From His Own Company

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How often do we hear inspiring stories of entrepreneurs, and their journey to the top? As aspiring young entrepreneurs, we often get inspired with motivational quotes by famous personalities and visionaries, without paying much heed to what went into attaining that goal. By portraying the journies as effortless, we as young entrepreneurs are doing a grave injustice to ourselves. Almost every successful visionary had to go through boulders of failures to reach the ocean of success. This facet holds true even for the most coveted visionaries like those of Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, or even the legendary Steve Jobs. As Winston Churchill quoted “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”, every business entrepreneur who wants to invent, create or innovate must be willing to commit mistakes, as long as they learn the necessary lessons from it.

Through Pick My Story, we’ve showcased inspiring quotes of visionaries and the works of not-so-reputed entrepreneurs among others, but now, we feel it is time to share some of the blunders famous entrepreneurs have committed and what one can learn from them. In this post, first of the series, we speak about the grave mistake committed by Steve Jobs, and what we as young entrepreneurs can learnt from it.

A Star Among Silicon City’s Young Entrepreneurs:

When one speaks of Steve Jobs, there are umpteen figurines that seep into our mind, thanks to his impeccable persona and relentless drive for innovation. His pursual for perfection has been exemplified through his ideologies that never oversaw the release of any underwhelming software or shoddy hardware. But Steve Jobs wasn’t always immune to committing a mistake. While he was an innovative genius, Jobs was still a human who made no shortage of missteps along the way. One of his biggest mistakes was to give up control of his company, Apple.

In the present day, Steve Jobs is known as one of the greatest innovators and CEOs of all time, where he lead Apple to profits that till date are considered gargantuan. Between 1997 and 2011, Jobs with his leadership abilities, unparalleled charisma, and an astute eye for innovation lead Apple into what now can be regarded as the most significant organisation in the history of mankind. While the period between 1997 and 2011 were his glory days, Jobs did go through purgatory for having given up his control of Apple Inc. in 1977.
Founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976, Apple was a partnership owned entirely by Jobs and Wozniak until Jobs enticed seasoned entrepreneur and angel investor Mike Markkula out of retirement in 1977. Markkula provided Apple with the much-needed business expertise and capital by raising a funding of $250,000. During the first three years of operations, the revenues grew exponentially, with an average annual growth rate of 533%, but it was just the beginning of the dark age for Jobs where he would eventually end up losing control of his own company.

By 1983, when Markkula stepped down as CEO, Jobs felt he was ready to mantle of his organisation. But, it no longer remained Steve’s decision, and the Apple Inc. board wasn’t too keen on having a 28-year-old to run the future-driven company. Powerless, Jobs approached John Sculley to become the CEO, who at that time was the vice-president at PepsiCo where he successfully made Pepsi come out on top in the Cola Wars. He was inspired by Jobs’ visionary ideas and questions like the iconic “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley took the challenge, but a power struggle ensued between the two of them, who were defined by their strong-willed nature. With the conflict breaking out in 1985, Markkula sided with Sculley to remove Jobs from his post as the vice-president of Apple Inc. and as the leader of the Macintosh division.

Fast forward to the 90’s, and one could see Apple no longer thrusting its usual dominance in the personal computer space, which till then was considered monopolistic in every front. Without the tenacity and vision of Jobs, Apple Inc. began to falter, which opened the door for competition from other driven business entrepreneurs like Bill Gates.

It was not until 1997 that Apple resurrected itself, with Jobs acting as an interim CEO. It was during this time that he began restructuring the company’s product line, which started a revolution in Apple Inc.’s fortunes. The organisation grew to such unfathomable levels that in 2011, thanks to the American debt-ceiling crisis, Apple’s financial reserves for a brief time were larger than those of the U.S. Government.

After one of the most famous scuffle by the once-upon-time dynamic duo, John Sculley just had this to say:
“Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice…

The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO. It would have been much more honest if the board had said, Let’s figure out a way for him to be CEO. You could focus on the stuff that you bring and he focuses on the stuff he brings.”

The lesson:

Steve Jobs was not the most obvious choice for the position as the chief executive officer of Apple, but as someone who founded the organisation, he loved it and understood it better than anyone else on the planet.
As young entrepreneurs, for the company to grow, it is imperative for us to give up some control. But it is also imperative to be careful about how much of the control is given to anyone. All the young entrepreneurs out there would not want to be the position Jobs was in, where he was betrayed by the very person who he put in power.

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