Crazy smart. Iconic leader. Genius of all times. Many glowing terms like these are often used to describe Steve Jobs. He changed the rules of the game to reinvent the retail and media industries and his saga has emerged as a sort of holy scripture for entrepreneurs and innovators.
Like it or not, Steve Jobs was a revolutionary. He reshaped six big markets: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. And the truth is almost six years after his death, the Apple co-founder’s legacy still dominates the discussion.
As Seth Godin says, “we best eulogize someone by doing something with what they leave us”, so here are three financial lessons you can learn from Steve Jobs:
1. Use personal assets to get startup capital
Both Steve Jobs and his business partner, Steve Wozniak, sold their personal belongings to get cash for the business. Jobs sold his Volkswagen minibus and Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard 65 calculator. That gave them $1250, which they used to set up a shop in Jobs’ parents’ garage.
While all of this happened back in 1976, entrepreneurs today can also get a nice chunk of startup capital by leveraging personal assets. Do you have stocks you can sell? A vehicle that you can trade in for money? Thinking more largely, you can even funnel home equity loans into capital.
2. Focus on the product and the profits will follow
When Jobs designed the original Macintosh computer together with his small team in the early 80s, his injunction was to make it “insanely great”. Making extraordinary products was his number one priority. And he wasn’t leaving it to the sales and marketing people.
Steve Jobs had his own theory about why decline happens at companies: “They make some great products, but then the sales and marketing people take over the company, because they are the ones who can juice up profits, and when the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off”. It actually happened at Apple when Sculley came in, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft.
3. Take calculated risks
Average people choose to work for money. It’s what we’re taught in school (how to write a killer résumé, get a job, and work hard). But Steve Jobs was nothing like that. He made his money work for him by starting a company, being brutally honest and always willing to take risks in order to move forward.
In fact, Jobs wasn’t afraid of cannibalizing Apple’s products in the name of progress. Many CEOs would have been hesitant to develop the iPhone, knowing full well that it would help to make the iPod obsolete – but he did it anyway and took a huge bite out of the mobile market.
Wrapping it all up
Nuggets of insight such as “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”, “Be Revolutionary”, and “Think Different”, highlight the long-tail of wisdom that Steve Jobs left behind. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to obsess about doing it the Jobsian way. Just pick what works for you and leave the rest.
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