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How One Man's Purpose Turned Apple Into A Powerhouse

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How One Man’s Purpose Turned Apple Into A Powerhouse

Steve Jobs

Apple recently posted quarterly revenues of $20.34 billion, a record high.

This is a far cry from the days when Steve Jobs became “interim CEO.” Then they were on the brink of bankruptcy, now they’ve changed the world. And yet what the what turned Apple upside down wasn’t the technology or the revolutionary products–it was one man’s focus on purpose.

Great entrepreneurs start with a purpose that goes beyond making money.

Don’t get me wrong–they make money but also set out to change the world in some way.

Whether it’s a Coca-Cola:

“To refresh the world; to inspire moments of optimism and happiness; to create value and make a difference.”

Or the early Ford:

“To democratize the automobile.”

Or a Google:

“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

It’s a known fact that great companies like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and BMW are all purpose-driven.  In fact, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, recently stressed the importance of companies having a core purpose.

These entrepreneurs do more than make money…they “change the world!”

The purpose embedded in Apple’s DNA has always been “to democratize technology.” But when Apple was under the leadership of John Sculley (after Jobs was kicked out) it focused more on marketing than engineering; on pointing out past successes than looking for future opportunities.

It lost sight of its purpose.

According to Jobs,

“Apple was in very serious trouble. Apple had to remember who Apple was because they’d forgotten who Apple was.”

That set the tone for a very expensive downward spiral. It needed it purpose driven founder to bring it back from bad to good to great.

Another thing: we call Steve Jobs a visionary (which he is) but that vision flowed out of his purpose.


Let me explain. A vision always comes from a company’s purpose; but the purpose of the vision is to fulfill the purpose of the company:

A strong purpose is the starting fundamental of all great companies; and most companies get in trouble when they lose sight of it. When Jobs came back that was the first thing he focused on.

According to Nilofer Merchant, a former Apple employee, and founder of Rubicon:

“He refocused the strategy to be about one thing. That meant he killed off even good things. I led server channel management at Apple when Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and I was there when he made the decision to shut down big portions of revenue-generating businesses (including my division) because they didn’t fit with his vision for the company. Some people thought he was crazy. But he was being extremely clear, and in doing so, he ‘MurderBoarded’—eliminated many options to get one cohesive strategy—his way to greatness.”

So what can purpose do for you?

What do you think?

The following an in excerpt from my ebook What Steve Jobs Could Teach Gen Y Startups. Download your FREE copy here.

Michael Holmes is an author, blogger, speaker, and internet entrepreneur. When he's not eating Chipotle chicken burritos or screaming at fighting matches he can be found teaching Biblical Strategies for Startups on his blog

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  • Cool post mike. I always enjoy reading about Steve Jobs in particular. How can you not? It’s inspiring.
    I like the part: “He refocused the strategy to be about one thing. That meant he killed off even good things”.
    Everyone nurtures their “worldview” throughout time but only a few, like Steve, seem to have gotten the most out of it in order to achieved a remarkable vision. Others keep on bumping with their own worldview everyday…

  • Hi Mike, love it! I am in violent agreement with you that purpose (often as you say of one single individual) is the fundamental between being a good and a great company. I just wished some of our political leaders here had a drop of what Jobs clearly has in abundance.

  • I cannot remember for the life of me now, but Steve Jobs was being discussed at a recent seminar – and the conclusion was made, that it’s because of Jobs, that Apple nearly lost the plot, and it’s because of Jobs that Apple is where it is today.

    But it comes down to one fundamental thing – that is The Thing!

    Great post, great insight!

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it Fred! I am a Steve Jobs fanatic as well. What gets is the simplicity of his mindset: kill off good things for great things, focus everything on one things, cut back the product lines, then market the heck out em!

    You gotta love it!

  • Thanks Niall!

    It looks like I see a politician in the making 🙂 Maybe you need to do something about those purpose-less political leaders…and become a purpose filled one?

    I’m just saying 😉

  • Thanks Elaine! I can see where your people where coming from. In 1984-85 he was behind most of the trouble: a bloated ad budget, falling revenues, internal discord, low employee morale, and etc. And it took some maturity on his part (and almost going bankrupt at NeXT) to make him who he is today.

    But I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Thank you for this great post. I’ve been an Applehead ever since the Apple II, so it’s great to see them doing so well. Have you’ve read Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”? Would you consider Apple a good-to-great company? In some ways, I can see how Steve Jobs has the Hedgehog Concept down, but I sometimes think that Apple has too many products. They sometimes seem to lose focus on what they’re best at, home computing–the Mac. Any thoughts on this? Please give me your insight.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • Hey Hal!

    I have read to “Good to Great” and I’m not sure if I could put Apple in that category. My reasoning is: if Jobs passes on can the company sustain its growth? Does it have the leadership in place to do it? Is it the “genius and followers” syndrome?

    Time will tell.

    Concerning their products…i don’t think they have too much. Before Jobs can on board they had massive more products than they have now. And since Jobs came on they have focus their efforts towards the greatest returns. The purpose of Apple has always been “to democratize technology”…that they have done.

    But that’s my thoughts.

    P.S. Forgive the late response…this is my first time seeing your comment.

  • Hi Niall. Thanks for including my blog post in this great list! I’m in good company.

  • Hi Zuly, Thank you for the great post and super insights :)u00a0

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