We recently stumbled upon a blog post highlighting the value of saying “no” in business. Being able to reject things that deviate from a core focus is invaluable to growing and building a business. And one has to look no further than everyone’s favorite technology company named after a fruit to see this practice in play – Apple.
Apple is famously controlling – from the way their stores look, to the incredible standards it holds its employees to. And part of this level of control is an unwavering view to the future of their business.
Apple’s success stems from being able to anticipate market opportunities in a way no one else could at the time – from the iPod to iPad. These devices were decried as useless, and consigned to the scrap heap of history before they even launched. Tens of millions of units later, Apple has had the last laugh. But to get to this point, they did it by saying no – a lot. They controlled their product vision with a level of authoritarianism not seen since the fall of the USSR. While not quite of a complete FIFO mentality, once Apple finds a vision, the whole company devotes its energies to it.
You can look no further than to the creator of the Nest thermostat, Tony Fadell (recently acquired by Google). Fadell was also the father of the iPod during his tenure with Apple. His exit was something of a shock, with rumours circling that he started butting heads with the untouchable Jony Ive, and that led to his ouster. Whatever the reason, it shows that in Apple’s world, very few people are free to disagree with the company’s philosophy, once the key people have decided. Fadell didn’t agree with the future vision, and as a result, he moved on.
Does this lead to a culture of double-speak, where everyone just goes along and doesn’t challenge? Not particularly – Apple is also famous for the confrontation amongst its employees (although less so with the passing of Steve Jobs). Apple is always about delivering the best products it can, and making them products people can’t live without. So long as the challenges people brought to Jobs were thought out, and towards that ultimate goal, they were always considered.
The most famous case of how focus can lead to success is probably General Electric. In the 1980’s, Jack Welch took over as CEO of GE, and proceeded to turn it from an also-ran into the most valuable company in the world. He did this by focusing – any underperforming employees and businesses were cycled out, as soon as it became known they were an issue. By focusing, GE was able to generate huge revenues in its core businesses, rather than being spread thin across things that it just wasn’t suited to run.
Steve Jobs has a quote that, in one form or another, is in the manifesto of many successful companies and entrepreneurs – and its one that we at Robots and Pencils believe in whole-heartedly.
- Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.
The long and short of this is that at Robots and Pencils, we don’t try to do everything. But what we do, we focus on doing exceptionally well – it is non-negotiable to us.