On Monday, I introduced (or re-introduced) our readers to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., in an article entitled Think Different, which included an excerpt from the the book, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson that highlighted Cook’s importance to Apple’s success and the fact that his background in procurement was a critical factor in helping him succeed.
As everyone knows, Apple is an iconic company with iconic products that was founded and led (until last year) by the iconic, Steve Jobs. It is the largest company in the world (based on equity market capitalization) and one of the best-known companies in the world, possessing an intensely-loyal customer base. Having just completed the Isaacson book, I can honestly say that I developed a huge appreciation for the way that Apple was able to meld technology with art in its products and became even more impressed by the vision and execution of Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs was a visionary who relied on the talents of others to help design the next generation products that the world didn’t know it needed. Over the last decade, Apple has executed as well as, if not better than, any other global company. When it came to execution, Steve Jobs relied on the talents of others to help realize his vision – noone more so than Tim Cook, then Apple’s COO. Cook joined Apple at the age of 37 from Compaq Computers where he had briefly been the VP for Corporate Materials (basically the Chief Procurement Officer) responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaq’s product inventory.
Over the last years of his life, Jobs was quoted many times regarding his trust in Cook. Here are three quotes that I really like:
“Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed.” – The quote suggests that one of the most influential CEOs in our lifetime, Jobs, had a clear understanding of what the role of procurement is in a business context and that he had an appreciation for what the procurement function does for a business
“Before long, I trusted him to know exactly what to do. He [Tim Cook] had the same vision I did, and we could interact at a high strategic level, and I could just forget about things unless he came and pinged me.” – Steve Jobs was a visionary, a product genius, a volatile and challenging personality, and a colorful leader; Jobs was also a perfectionist and a micro-manager to the most extreme case. This quote is very telling since he is saying that he completely trusted Cook and left him alone to execute Apple’s production. Outside of Pixar co-founder and director, John Lasseter, no other employee earned this level of trust from Jobs.
Based upon a 13-year working relationship, it was no surprise that in his resignation letter Jobs wrote that “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”
Steve Jobs hired Tim Cook based upon his procurement background. Then Jobs, a maniacal control freak, trusted Cook enough to run operations in a hands-off manner for 13 years (this is the exact time period when Apple became the most successful company in the world). Along the way, Jobs promoted Cook to become COO. When it came time to resign and recommend a successor, Jobs could think of noone better than Cook to take over. From CPO to CEO!
Certainly, Steve Jobs was no “regular” CEO – he is the CEO to which (all?) others aspired; but, Steve Jobs understood Tim Cook’s importance to Apple’s success and he understood the importance of procurement and supply chain in enabling his vision.
I’ll end with the short text version of Apple’s famous “Think Different” campaign
Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs saw procurement differently, shouldn’t your CEO aspire to do the same?
Shouldn’t we all “Think Differently” about Procurement?