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What Can Small Businesses Learn From Apple?

When it comes to building a successful business, it’s important to stay hungry, foolish, and inspired. There are many successful brands in the world to draw your inspiration from; however, none of them are quite as influential as Apple.

While Apple has launched many successful products since its inception, the historic success of the iPhone has given the company a cult status in the global technology industry. Recently, Apple’s new release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X once again attracted enormous media attention.

When Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, first unveiled the iPhone on June 29, 2007, he described it as “a revolutionary mobile phone” and a “breakthrough internet communications device.”

The unprecedented growth of iPhones over the past decade stands testimony to Jobs’s vision:

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Interestingly, the iconic technology brand had a pretty humble start, with its founding members operating out of a garage. However, their sheer passion to innovate new products, and overthrow industry giants such as IBM, catapulted them to the pinnacle of success.

Indeed, there are many things small business owners can learn from Apple’s success, and Steve Jobs’s rise to superstardom in the technology industry. Let’s take a look.

Identify the Gaps

Entrepreneurship is all about identifying a problem and innovating a solution that is simple to use. A creative entrepreneur often sees a problem that isn’t visible to others. That’s what offers a business a winning edge over the competition.

The first iPhone was born out of Steve Jobs’s determination to do away with styluses. He obsessed over building a smartphone with a touchscreen that doesn’t need styluses. Moreover, cell phones back then had smaller displays and limited functions while the “smartphones” were complicated for the average user. Steve Jobs saw that as a problem and invented the iPhone which was truly smart, simple to use, and filled an unmet consumer need. Ever since then, the iPhone has revolutionized the way people use smartphones in their lives.

Tips: Indeed, recognizing the gap and filling it changed Apple as a company. This approach can change the fortune of your small business as well. However, you won’t be able to discover potential opportunities (the gap) unless you roll up your sleeves and conduct some market research. Find out the areas in which your direct competitors are NOT performing well enough, and try to fill the gap with better products/services. Moreover, try to understand their target customers, marketing and pricing strategies, strengths and weaknesses—as well as yours. This helps you create unique solutions to the existing problems, offering you the winning edge over your competitors.

Stay Focused

Steve Jobs was known for his penchant for downsizing projects that would potentially weigh the company down. Shortly after rejoining Apple in 1997, he stripped the company down to only focus on a few products. Consequently, his approach paid off big time and Apple achieved much more with fewer employees.

According to Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’s biographer, Jobs would stand in front of his whiteboard and ask his group the ten things they should be doing next. After much brainstorming, he’d slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can only do three.”

Tips: Staying focused is critical to the success of any business. However, focusing on too many things can distract you from your main goal and derail your progress. Whether it’s your products or work culture, learn to optimize your goals and simplify the process.

Learn from Unexpected Places

Steve Jobs once said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

That’s right! Starting from design to services, it seems Apple has been greatly inspired by many industries.

Both Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, Apple Industrial Designer, greatly admired the work of the iconic industrial designer Dieter Rams. Their admiration reflects in Apple’s products, especially in the hardware and user-interface design. Dieter Rams’s work in consumer appliances was said to have been the inspiration behind Apple’s minimalist design principles and unrestricted functionality.

Besides products, Apple also emulated the exemplary hospitality services of Ritz Carlton, the luxurious hotel chain. In fact, the hiring managers at Apple Stores often ask themselves if they could hire candidates that could offer Ritz Carlton level of hospitality with the right training. From approaching customers with a warm welcome, to anticipating unaddressed needs, and to ending with a fond farewell, Apple Stores employees have been trained well to replicate the gold standard hospitality Ritz Carlton is famously known for.

Tips: When it comes to learning from accomplished brands, small businesses can take a leaf out of Apple’s book. Follow a variety of topics while you read the news and browse the internet. Go out of your comfort zone and expand your interests. This will help you stay inspired and incorporate the best of everything into your products, services, and day-to-day business operations.

Tell a Story

What’s that one thing every ambitious entrepreneur would like to take away from Steve Jobs? It’s undoubtedly his profound corporate storytelling ability.

Steve Jobs was the greatest storyteller of the technology industry. He’d mesmerize his audience at every Apple event, making his fans around the world wait with bated breath, before announcing the new products.

Even today, his presentations are captivating enough to garner millions of page views on YouTube. Indeed, he possessed magical storytelling prowess.

Tips: In the age of social media and influencer marketing, your presentation skills will add a recognizability to your brand. Just as people can’t think of Apple without Steve Jobs, your personality and presentation skills can help your brand stand out.

So where do you use those presentation skills?

Well, you may not need to make presentations often, but you should always frame the benefits of your service or product in stories. Instead of telling people what you do, tell them about your customers and delightful stories about how your business served them. That will help people remember you and effectively expand your network.

Pay Attention to Detail

What makes Apple products a cut above the rest? They are built to not just live up to your expectations but surprise them as well.

Products with such engineering and artistic precision wouldn’t be possible without Steve Jobs obsessing over minute details.

Vic Gundotra, who was the Senior VP of Social at Google, wrote an interesting post on how Steve Jobs once called him on a Sunday morning about Google’s logo on iPhone display. He wanted Gundotra to change a tiny detail in color because it wasn’t looking right.

With his admirable and insane attention to detail, and the ability to take quick actions, it’s no wonder Steve Jobs turned a nearly bankrupt company in 2007 into one of the most powerful brands in the world today.

Tips: No matter what type of business you’re running, you can offer more simply by being focused on the details. It can be tempting to launch a half-baked product in a hurry to meet a deadline, but it will backfire when your customers find issues and turn their back on you in the future. Staying focused on the tiny details means you’re committed to offering utmost satisfaction to your customers.

Final Thoughts

The legendary success of Apple is inspiring enough for any business that aspires to think big and succeed in a competitive business landscape. From exploring potential business opportunities to striving for highest customer satisfaction, small businesses can certainly take a cue from Apple.