Note: This is a guest post by Fred Engel. If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information.
I was in the San Francisco airport looking for a book when I came across the Steve Jobs section. I think I saw 5 books on Steve jobs. One of them “I, Steve – Steve Jobs in his own words” seemed like an interesting read so I bought it. Quotes from Steve Jobs are always interesting.
The quotes inspired me from cover to cover, reminding me of how much I like to build products and how much my strength gets sapped in all the places that are not set up to build great products. There are many companies that build great products and many that do not.
Here are 10 quotes that I found particularly helpful in thinking about what it takes to have a company that builds great products:
1. “You need a very product-oriented culture… Lots of companies have great engineers and smart people. …..there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.”
It’s just so much harder to build good products when the company does not have a culture focused on that.
2. “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas…”
Think of all the products that have way too many features. Do you know your customers well enough to be able to say no?
3. “Sure what we do has to make commercial sense, but it’s never the starting point. We start with the product and the user experience.”
This is really a very challenging way to look at it all. It takes a lot of support in the organization to get people to have the patience to work out the economics later.
4. “What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea… and the engineers go, “Nah, we can’t do that, That’s impossible.” … the manufacturing people…go “We can’t build that!” And it gets a lot worse… And I said “No, no, we’re doing this.” And they said, “Well, why?” And I said, “Because I’m the CEO and I think it can be done.” And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit.”
How many CEO’s have the guts to do this? How many are good enough?
5. “There is a classic thing in business, which is the second-product syndrome. Often companies that have a really successful first product don’t quite understand why that product was so successful. And so with the second product, their ambitions grow….[and] they fail.”
You really have to understand your customers.
6. “My model of business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check…. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
Given all the negative spin on working in groups, I find this refreshing?
7. “At Apple we come at everything asking, “How easy is this going to be for the user? How great it is going to be for the user?”… Everybody says, “Oh, the user is the most important thing,” but nobody else really does it.”
How many products do you see that have really not focused on the user?
8. “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
9. “When we create stuff, we do it because we listen to the customer, get their inputs and also throw in what we’d like to see, too. We cook up new products. You never really know if people will love them as much as you do.”
How many of the products you deliver do you really love? Are your chances of winning better or worse?
10. “The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.”
I love the clarity of these comments. It is worth fighting to get the organization to really focus on good products.
Fred Engel is founder and CEO of Westerly Consulting, a management and advisory consulting firm based in Rhode Island.
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