Steve Jobs’ Lessons for Growing a Business

Apple iPad Event

What’s the key to growing a lasting tech business? According to Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley executive and one of the first Apple evangelists, there are actually 10 of them—all of which he learned from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Kawasaki spoke this week at CeBIT Australia, a massive tech conference (other prominent speakers at the event included Andrew Ng, founder of Google X, and David Shing, AOL’s so-called “Digital Prophet”). As related by The Australian, Kawasaki gave his keynote audience the following tips, all derived from his time at Apple in the mid-1980s, when the company was helping define the personal computing space:

Stay Optimistic: You can’t hope to persevere without a positive attitude.

Ignore Customers’ Immediate Wants: In other words, follow your vision and passion, rather than what customers might want at that moment. According to The Australian, “[Kawasaki] said customers in the mid-1980s wanted a bigger, faster and cheaper version of the Apple 2, but Apple instead built the Macintosh—a totally unrelated device.”

Innovation Always Lies Ahead: In the technology business, if you’re not thinking ahead to the next great evolution or breakthrough, you risk becoming obsolete as other competitors out-innovate you.

Design Is Important: Coming from someone who worked at Apple, this point seems especially logical; after all, Apple managed to create a multi-billion-dollar business out of superior hardware and software design.

Democratization = Also Important: Selling your product to a handful of people or companies isn’t the recipe for a sustainable business; if you want to build something that endures, you need to target your business at the maximum number of people.

Kawasaki’s other tips included recognizing that value isn’t always correlated with price; hiring people smarter and better than yourself at a particular job; using “big graphics and big fonts” in presentations; making sure your products are unique; and possessing a willingness to change your mind.

Much of this is standard-issue advice, of course: You don’t need a Kawasaki or Steve Jobs to tell you that innovation and strategic flexibility are crucial. But Apple’s meteoric rise over the past decade means that the pronouncements of anyone associated with the company’s executive suite are treated with an extra degree of reverence. There’s more from Kawasaki over at The Australian, including an interesting story about a time in which Steve Jobs subjected him to a “business IQ” test.