Apr 03, 2012

How Steve Jobs Broke Entrepreneurship

You can hardly go anywhere without seeing something about Apple and Steve Jobs these days.

When people talk about successful companies and entrepreneurs, Apple and Steve Jobs are always in the mix. And rightly so. Steve Jobs took Apple from his garage to the Fortune 500 in just 8 years, and it’s now the world’s biggest company.

Worldwide, it seems cool to own an Apple product, and equally as cool to talk about it and Steve Jobs’ genius. For example:

Search “How Apple” on Google and you get almost 2 billion results. Some of those include, “How Apple is Changing Kid’s Brains,” “How Apple Makes the World a Better Place,” “How Apple’s Stock Could Reach $1000.”

Then search “Steve Jobs Entrepreneurship” and you get more than 10 million results, littered with Steve Jobs’ quotes, advice, traits, and business lessons for entrepreneurs.

Wherever you go, Steve is there.

Fortune Magazine named Steve Jobs the greatest entrepreneur of our time saying,

“Steve Jobs has been our generation’s quintessential entrepreneur. Visionary. Inspiring. Brilliant. Mercurial.”

With all that success, and all the inspiring work he has accomplished, those words — visionary, inspiring, brilliant, mercurial — might be exactly what broke entrepreneurship.

How many people will say, “I can’t start a business. How can I be as visionary and as brilliant as the late Steve Jobs?”

How Steve Jobs Ruined Entrepreneurship

With many putting Steve Jobs and Apple on that entrepreneur pedestal, you might be saying, “What are you talking about? Jobs is the ultimate entrepreneur!”

Yes, he probably is. But to try to emulate Steve Jobs’ success might doom your entrepreneur dreams.

Jim Beach, author of “School for Startups” said in an interview on Entrepreneur Addiction Radio that in a lot of ways, Steve Jobs broke entrepreneurship for the rest of us.

“So many people are sitting at home going, ‘Oh, I’d love to be an entrepreneur, but I’m not Steve Jobs. I’m not Bill Gates. I can’t go do something like that.’ And so, they don’t do anything because they’re afraid that they’re not creative, that they don’t have a super idea yet,” Beach said.

3 Ways to Be Successful Without Steve Jobs’ Creativity

“Ask 100 people on the street and 99 of them will say creativity is a fundamental ingredient for successful entrepreneurship. More importantly, they will say that their lack of creativity is the reason they are not an entrepreneur,” Beach said.

Related Post: Is Creativity Part of Entrepreneurship?

Creativity is the first myth Jobs reinforces about entrepreneurship, Beach said. You don’t need Steve-Jobs-like creativity to be successful. That’s the No. 1 thing that can frustrate people when starting a business.

“We need to realize that creativity does not need to be part of the process,” Beach said. “Remove creativity from the process and then just go find an idea.”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Beach advises that we first “remove the desire to be creative, and simply say, ‘I’m going to be an executer, instead of a creator,’ and go out and start a business.”

People like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, in some ways, might be an excuse for people to not start a business. When instead, many should look to the everyday entrepreneur next door: the person that makes a great living owning a small business, or several small businesses.

“With technology, it’s the least expensive time in history to get into business on your own, on your own terms. I’m a firm believer of that,” said Rob Basso, author of “The Everyday Entrepreneur,” on Lendio’s podcast. Basso’s book has running themes about how ordinary people can have extraordinary careers and lives. And none of them are even close to the level of a Steve Jobs.

“You have no excuse for not being an entrepreneur,” Beach said. “Entrepreneurs are the people that stand up and say, “I am going to be the one to execute that idea better than anyone else has ever done it.”

Here are 3 ways to start and build a successful business, even if you don’t have Jobs’ same genius mind:

1. Get sales immediately

“You’ll remove a tremendous amount of risk by going directly to sales first,” Beach said.

Other successful entrepreneurs have similar advice.

Rich Christiansen, author of “The Zig Zag Principle,” has founded or co-founded 32 businesses. He talks extensively about never driving straight for your goals, and that the first thing you should do is make a profit first, even if it’s something you don’t want to do.

“What is the quickest path to get me to profitability?” Christiansen said in a podcast interview with Lendio. “Of the 50 or 65 things that I come up with that are in general alignment with that, what’s the quickest path to cash? What is it that maybe I really don’t want to do but it can take me to profitability quickly?”

2. Experimentation, measuring, testing and learning

While you’re getting sales, you can afford to experiment with your product or business idea.

Ash Maurya, the author of “Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works,” says most business owners spend the majority of their time and resources building a business or product that nobody wants.

“When entrepreneurs get hit by an idea, they almost always rush to building a solution for it,” Maurya said. “The problem is we tend to fall in love with the product, and spend too much time building and not enough time testing. Then we end up building something nobody wanted.”

Related Audio: Interview with Ash Maurya about his book “Running Lean”

Sometimes, at the beginning, what you think Plan A is, should really be Plan X or Plan Y. Maurya said the initial goal should be all about learning. During that phase, you’ll learn what the real problem is, what the real solution should be, what your real customer will be, if anyone wants to pay for it, how you can reach those customers, and what’s the riskiest part of your business.

“It’s not about where you want to end up, it’s about testing along the way,” Maurya said.

3. Optimize and determination

After you’ve tested your product or service adequately, you can then build and optimize a business with confidence. This is where you can start building your team, secure funding, develop partnerships, identity key engines of growth, look for key acquisitions, and move forward with determination because you know from your testing that it will work.

“Once you apply that plan that’s starting to work, you can then really apply rocket fuel to your startup and make it really take off, vs. exploding,” Maurya said.

“Once you have figured out what keeps you in the black, you must document these processes so you have a successful formula in place as your business grows. Then add the appropriate resources,” Christiansen said. “This is the point where you start adding team members, employees, scaling it just a little bit, and documenting what worked and what didn’t work. Phase number one, you’re figuring out everything that works, everything that doesn’t. That second phase you start documenting it and bringing other people in and actually having them repeating and duplicating the process that you did while you become the coach.”


While Steve Jobs and Apple might be something to shoot for, entrepreneurs like Jim Beach, Rob Basso, Rich Christiansen, Ash Maurya, and someone next door, might be more realistic role models. And failure to reach the entrepreneur heights of Steve Jobs might not be so bad. It’s OK to be someone like Rich Christiansen:

“Realize that it really is the journey, not the destination. It does require a lot of hard work but, boy, it’s the most glorious and incredible and amazing way to take control of your life that can happen,” Christiansen said. “Just enjoy the ride and realize that failure is part of the equation and just acclimate to it. But just build systems in place that when you have little failures or little bumps it doesn’t end up killing you.”

Your Turn

Do you think I’m sacrilegious for saying Steve Jobs has broken entrepreneurship? What other business owners should entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs look up to? Who’s been your inspiration?

It takes a little cash to change the world.

So what are you waiting for?

About the author


  1. Many times it’s not about being creative; it’s about bringing back values and customer service to a “new” idea. Just listening to what potential clients are wanting/needing is a basic foundation that is sometimes overlooked in the search for the next “creative” move. Why keep adding “bells and whistles” to a product/service that no one will ever really use that simply adds cists and reduces reliability or efficiency?

    • Great comment, David. Thanks for stopping by. As Ash Maurya (who I quoted in this post) says, we spend too much time building things that nobody wants.

    • David,

      I’m laughing at your bells and whistles comment thinking about everything Google is trying to do to compete with Facebook/Twitter. Why? No one uses it. Customers do love Droid though. I wish I could tell them to stick to search/mobile platforms integrating their search results much better. Google the search engine lately these days seems like it is getting luke warm on algorithms.

  2. I can agree that most people will stay sitting on their couch creating excuses because they don’t think they are creative or a genius like Steve Jobs. However, usually those type of individuals were not brought up or have entrepreneurial blood in them to start. I believe it’s all about who you are or something dramatic that happened in your life to make you who you are to want to be in business. This article seems biased against non-entrepreneurs. I have attempted probably 20 start-up businesses – only which one was successful in which it bored me so I sold it – big mistake. I 100% agree that your first focus should just be on making a profit – screw glamour and goals. If you can just get one happy customer that’s a big success for any small entrepreneur to motivate them to continue.

    And remember Jobs wasn’t the only genius. He was surrounded by tons of brilliant people he worked with. Everything wasn’t just created by him – it was a team work of working people – not entrepreneurs that created those products – however they made off very well with those stock options I might add (never having to start a business).

    • Hey, Paul. Didn’t mean to slant it against non-entrepreneurs. The main point I was trying to get across was, we don’t have to be like Steve Jobs to have success in entrepreneurship. You’re probably right that most people that create excuses don’t have the entrepreneurial bug to start off with. And, you nailed it on the last sentence, every famous entrepreneur also had a great team.

  3. amazing accomplishment

  4. The advice towards the end of the post is good but I don’t agree with the overal theme that Steve Jobs (and other uber successful entrepreneurs) are killing entrepreneurship.

    If looking up to somebody’s success stops you from even trying. Maybe you weren’t cut our for it to begin with. People will always find excuses to not start on the entrepreneurship path.

    I might be never be Steve Jobs but I firmly believe that in this country, in our current society, I have a fair chance.

    Look up to the successful people, learn from them and apply what you learn to your situation. They inspire me, not stop me. Most didn’t have any unfair advantage when they started out. The next one could be you!

  5. Steve Jobs was a bright fellow; indeed a visionary. The thousands upon thousands of his Apple Comrades, however, are what, through their hard work, pushing themselves to their own limits in the effort, turned his vision into tangible realities. This should not be overlooked and too often is.

  6. David and all:
    The word creativity includes more than the surface may reveal. A good idea has the depth of business planning, the breadth of market study and the germ of regeneration, whithout which the “idea” is hollow or shallow. The creativity of an entrepreneut is the ability to work with the tools and reources that one has. Those include (not necessarily in this order) indefatigible drive, the ability to critique and rethink the idea in search of flaws or opportunities, listenning for the points of rejection or disenchantment of the prospective buyers, recognizing the importance of timing in conversation, presentation, introduction, etc., and the courage to find people to complement one’s weaknesses. The thing about creativity is to be creative wherever and whenever it is needed. Too many entrepreneurs end creativity at the first blush of success or encouragement as if creativity is only initiation. Creativity is perpetuation. Creativity embodies anticipation and recovery too. It is prepared to find a way out of loss, failure and discouragement. One is not born creative any more than one is born to survive. Creativity is recognized when one has discovered a new path as well as each subsequent step. What better way to discover one’s creativity than as an entrepreneur? Steve Jobs and the others mentioned in your article are excellent examples to follow without regard for the zeroes in their earnings.

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