People Innovation Excellence

Extraordinary Comeback : Steve Jobs

WHEN STEVE JOBS GOT KICKED OUT OF APPLE, THE company he founded, he described it as being punched in the stomach, getting the wind knocked out of him, and not being able to breathe.

The firing was not “just business” either it was personal. He was ousted by the man he had hired to run the company, John Sculley, former president of Pepsi. While recruiting him, Jobs threw down the gauntlet by asking Sculley if he wanted to “sell sugar water” the rest of his life or change the way people live and work. Phrased this way, Sculley could not turn down the challenge; he came to run Apple in 1983.

By 1985, the relationship had gone south. In July of that year, Sculley told security analysts that Jobs would have no role in the operations of the company “now or in the future.” It was the coup de grâce.

Bitter, angry, and defeated, Jobs sold more than $20 million of his Apple stock. Still feeling lost and betrayed, he tried to relax, to get his breath back, so to speak. The digital genius spent time bicycling along the beach and toured Paris and Italy.

After some six weeks of this respite from the corporate grind, Jobs felt a little better. He started getting out. He had lunch with Paul Berg, a Nobel laureate in biochemistry at Stanford University. Berg talked about the time-consuming trial-and-error methodology he used to analyze DNA. Jobs suggested computer simulation to speed things up. Berg said that the necessary computers and software were not available. He said it to the right person.

Fueled with this new vision and playing off his strengths and interests, Jobs created NeXT, a computer company that manufactured workstations and developed the NextStep operating system. Its computers were chic, expensive black boxes that stood out against the beige PC world. The new operating system featured “object-oriented programming,” allowing developers to more easily write programs. The company launched in 1986 (the same year Jobs bought the graphics division of Lucasfilm for $10 million and named it Pixar), and sold its first PCs for $10,000 in 1988. The company had its partisans (educators and financial engineers loved it), but it was a mixed success. Still, the company was successful enough that Apple bought it for $400 million in 1996; Apple also got Jobs as interim chief executive officer in the deal.

Sculley had gotten the boot in 1993, and on his comeback at the helm of the company he founded, Jobs was vastly more successful. He introduced new products such as the iMac, the iBook, and the blockbuster iPod. These successes cemented his appointment. Apple shares went from $7 in 2003 to $97 in early 2007, defying the bear market in the NASDAQ and tech world.

John Sculley? After leaving Apple, he worked variously in politics, business, and consulting, never achieving the same prominence he enjoyed while at Apple.

Jobs enlarged his already-mythic status in the tech world by leading tech giants Apple and Pixar. Disney announced plans to acquire Pixar in 2006, and Jobs became Disney’s largest shareholder (6 percent). His iPod achieved success in consumer electronics that had eluded the popular but niched Macintosh line. He had avenged his painful ouster personally and in the marketplace and achieved one of the most amazing comebacks in business history, not to mention another type of comeback in 2004 from a rare but treatable form of cancer. How did Jobs do it, create products that were, in his words, “insanely great”? He says creativity is really the business of connecting things, of seeing and synthesis. This ability to connect comes from more thinking or more experience. He also said that design wasn’t something you put on top of a product but its “fundamental soul.”

Sumber : Sarkett, John A. 2007. Extraordinary Comeback : 201 inspiring stories of courage, triumph and success. Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebook, Inc.

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