Running A Business

How Steve Jobs Broke Entrepreneurship

Apr 03, 2012 • 8 min read
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      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.

      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.”

      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?

      About the author
      Dan Bischoff

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