Dec 06, 2020

Wozniak: Advice from Apple’s ‘Other Steve’

If you’ve ever owned an Apple product or have even just heard of the brand, you likely know who Steve Jobs is. Multiple movies have been made about him, and the very thought of his intimidating turtleneck still strikes fear into the hearts of his tech rivals. Jobs became a legend while serving as the public face of Apple (the technology company, not Gwyneth’s daughter).

But behind every successful firebrand is usually a more balanced visionary. Enter Steve “Woz” Wozniak. Born in California in 1950, Woz took to electronics the way most boys his age were attracted to baseball. Not only did Woz enjoy working with tech, but he also had a knack for building it from scratch. 

As a student at UC Berkeley, Woz met Jobs—and the rest, as they say, is history. Let’s look at some business advice from Woz to see what “the other Steve” can teach small business owners.

“My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.”

This quote gets to the heart of your business motivations. Focusing on making a lot of money will never guarantee success, as you’ll likely focus on what’s best for your bottom line instead of what’s best for your customers.

If you set out to make excellent products or provide excellent services, you’ll find that the financial element usually takes care of itself.

“Find somebody who has been building things in their garage. That’s the person you’ll want to work with.”

Another excellent quote that considers where your priorities lie. If you’re an entrepreneur who only wants the finest equipment and a high-end office, you’re bound to burn through money. Scrappiness is an essential ingredient to success.

The 2 Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) did most of their early work in garages and bedrooms. By focusing on their product rather than their business venue, they were able to create something epic.

“Create solutions to your own problems.”

No entrepreneur will ever walk a perfectly smooth road. Equipment fails, partners disappoint, customers flee—you’ll need to be prepared for all manner of obstacles.

Throughout his career, Woz found ways to use his strengths to save his company. Notice that he didn’t say to “find” solutions to your problems: that implies that the solutions already exist, which isn’t always the case. You often need to get innovative and “create” a way to address your issues and propel your business forward.

“My father had different values about some things around the Vietnam War, but he told me that he hoped I always maintained my idealism. Sometimes a person with a heart of gold needs to be told they have one, or else that idealism won’t come out.”

With this quote, Woz highlights the importance of the mind. You could be gifted a beautiful office building, a fleet of trucks, and a full roster of employees, but if you don’t begin with a scintillating business idea, you won’t be able to sustain your success.

There will always be logistics and infrastructure that need to be figured out for your business, but don’t ever let the creative part of your mind go on cruise control. Stay idealistic and stay in business.

“I told my dad that I’d own a 4K Nova someday (enough computer to be useful and programmable) and he said it cost as much as the down payment on a house, even without an input/output tool. I said I’d live in an apartment. If it ever got possible for me to have my own useful computer, I would have one. That time arrived the summer of 1975. I had no money, as you can tell.”

This quote showcases how Woz balanced his dreaming with an unwavering focus on goal attainment. Not only did he really want a 4K Nova computer—he was also willing to do whatever it took to get one.

This pursuit of accomplishment is critical for small business owners. It’s important to have dreams, but they won’t amount to much unless you’re committed to bringing them into reality.

“I would personally like to be remembered for my humility, a period of genius, and the fun I had, including jokes and pranks.”

Despite the demands of running a business, don’t let the pressures deprive you of the lighter side of life. This Woz quote reminds us that the best leaders are multifaceted. They have moments of intensity and still make time to unwind. Make sure you make time for both in your life.

As you employ a bit of Woz wisdom into your life, you’ll find that your goals become clearer and your strategies more versatile. Who knows? You may even find a business partner with a penchant for turtlenecks and world-conquering marketing ideas.

About the author

Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen
Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

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