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Small-Business Takeaways From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’ recent resignation as the CEO of Apple has generated a storm of headlines across the blogosphere. Jobs is a widely admired figure, primarily due to his performance in leading Apple’s remarkable resurgence over the last decade. Since Jobs returned to lead Apple in 1997, shares of Apple stock have appreciated in value by over 9000% with the development of such innovative products as the iPod, the iPhone, and more recently the iPad. His departure will leave a void at Apple and in the technology sector, but his vision and the lessons he imparted will live on. While his work at Apple has inspired many corporations to follow his example, many of Jobs’ leadership principles are equally relevant to small businesses. Below are three lessons small businesses should learn from Apple and Steve Jobs:

1) It all starts with a vision.  Above all else, Steve Jobs is known as a visionary. And he wasn’t afraid to think big. He describes the Apple vision this way: "Apple at the core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better." This grand vision is what led Apple to develop its game-changing product line. What is your vision? 

2) Sell benefits, not products. Many business owners make the mistake of focusing on the details of their products or services while marketing. Jobs understood that consumers aren’t interested in the product, they are interested in what the product can do for them. Think back to the iconic iPod commercials—they weren’t focused on the details of the device, they focused on how fun and convenient the iPod was to use. Are your marketing efforts focused on the benefits you provide, or are you focusing on your product?  

3) Never stop innovating.  Apple constantly pushed the envelope because Jobs recognized that as soon as a business stops innovating, it loses its position in the market. As Jobs put it: "You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new."  A successful business never stops looking for the next big thing.

Steve Jobs was a once-in-a-generation leader, and Apple benefitted tremendously from his vision. The good news for you, as a business owner, is that the principles that led to Apple’s success can do the same for your business. Start with your vision, focus on the benefits you provide, and never stop innovating. The value of your company may not increase by 9000% in just over a decade, but putting these principles into action is guaranteed to get you moving in the right direction.  

[Image: Flickr user shoothead]