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LEFSETZ LETTER


Steve Jobs Rules
Posted: April 21, 2016
DESIGN COUNTS

Would Tesla have sold a fraction of Model S's if it looked like the electric cars of yore? No, it looks like a Ferrari, and therefore early adopters, who want to look cool, purchased it. Few knew it goes like stink, with acceleration times exceeding all but the highest performance cars, but that's secondary to the looks.

IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY HE WHO HOLDS BACK IS COOLEST

It's not only Jobs, but Beyonce, who dropped her new album unannounced a couple of Christmases back. Sure, if you're a nobody you've got to get the word out. But once you're a somebody you're better off proffering less information. Adele gets this. Sure, there was monstrous hype when "25" came out, but before that...crickets. If we can't know what we want to know we're ever more curious.

OUTFITS ARE PASSE

That's right, Steve Jobs wore the same damn thing whenever he was in public. Whereas the fading Hollywood stars line up with designers and the public fawns at cheap fashion, which is fodder for the masses.

IT'S WHAT'S INSIDE THAT COUNTS

Functionality rules. Hell, wasn't there that campaign "Intel Inside"? If someone is brushing up their exterior to impress you, know that they're insecure and don't get it.

IGNORE THE HATERS UNTIL THEY GET TRACTION

Steve and Apple never responded, they rarely do this day, until the sound becomes deafening. Remember the iPhone 4 fracas, about the lack of reception depending upon how you held the device? An exasperated Steve Jobs took time from his holiday in Hawaii to say it was irrelevant and give free bumpers to everyone, and that's the last you heard of it.

STREAMLINE YOUR OFFERINGS

A broad product line just confuses the customer. Sure, you can customize, change horsepower and RAM, but when Steve returned to Apple there were so many models that buyers couldn't make sense of them. Give people too much choice and they don't buy at all.

ALIGN YOURSELF WITH WINNERS

That was the "Think Different" campaign. Dead legends burnished Apple's image when it needed it.

FUNCTIONALITY IS KING

We're in a dark era where TV remotes still have a ton of buttons, all-in-ones don't work, and it's ever-harder to use too many devices, this is the downfall of Android, every device is different. Keep It Simple Stupid. Techies will always want to put in more features. Isn't it funny that the power users have bitched ad infinitum that Apple's devices were not customizable to the nth degree but it's Microsoft's Windows that has faded and apps are developed for the iOS platform first. Don't cater to the bleeding edge, it'll make your company crater. Apple is the most valuable company in the world!

PICK YOUR SUCCESSOR AND MAKE IT STICK

I can complain all day long about Tim Cook, but Steve chose him and he's remained at the helm, there's no doubt about who's in charge, as opposed to the fiasco at Disney with Thomas Staggs. You've got to present a unified front to the outside. Furthermore, Steve told Tim not to look back, but forward, that's how Disney got in trouble in the first place, by asking what Walt would do, well, Walt was dead and didn't live in a changed world so his values may have been important but as for his direction, who knows?

KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN

I know this sounds contradictory, but the truth is Jobs worked the press, all successful corporate stars work the press, they maintain relationships, no matter what is said, and cull favors and coverage. Burn relationships with the press at your peril. And know that the press is poorly paid and if you give them a first class experience, a peek, an exclusive, they're thrilled and will be on your team.

THE EXPERIENCE IS KING

Who knew what Steve Jobs owned, what his everyday lifestyle was about? Only nitwits are accumulating houses and cars to impress others under the mistaken impression that they've won. You've got to love your work and love to do it. Millennials know it's all about access, oldsters think it's about ownership. But the youth rule in the future, always.

BETTER TO GET IT RIGHT THAN BE FIRST

The iPod was not the first MP3 player and there was other music jukebox software before iTunes. If you're caught behind, you may not have lost, as long as you leapfrog the competition by doing something better.

ABANDON THE PAST

Whether it be the legacy ports that were axed on the iMac or the CD-ROM drives that were left off of later computers or the killing of the iPod by the iPhone, Jobs refused to be shackled to the past. This is the music business's Achilles heel, always trying to protect what was in a world that doesn't care. Now it's trying to protect MP3s when the truth is Napster was nearly twenty years ago!

PEOPLE FORGIVE YOU WHEN YOU PUT THE PRODUCT AHEAD OF YOURSELF

For all the b.s. about what a tyrant Steve Jobs was, the truth is Apple employees stayed on because they wanted to work on insanely great products. Steve was less about self-aggrandizement than product aggrandizement.

GETTING IT RIGHT

The little things count. Sometimes 1% makes all the difference. Don't sacrifice the product just to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

PRICE

People will pay stratospheric prices for what they deem superior.

DICTATORSHIP

It was clear who was in charge, at too many companies it's not.

Steve Jobs is already in the rearview mirror. Those who lived through the first decade of this century will never forget him, but the products he championed are already in the process of being superseded and unlike music, once your products are gone, you're done.

But that does not undercut his legacy. Jobs took on the big boy and won. That's right, Steve neutered Microsoft. And Steve was a new kind of CEO, he believed in his products and sold them himself, his personal enthusiasm made you want to buy. Hell, look at the present Apple presentations, they're flat, because no one's got the same showmanship, Tim Cook should defer to Craig Federighi or another employee with personality as opposed to dully hosting these presentations himself, hell, if Jony Ive can only be on tape, maybe Cook should only be too.

And too often we lose the thread, we experience greatness and then leave it behind.

He who proffers easy to use products that do their job and look cool will win in the end.

But too often companies ship too early or compromise the product or decide by committee and the result fails.

Jobs's lessons are forever. Learn them.

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