What Can Eco-Entrepreneurs Learn From Steve Jobs?

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Steve Jobs, the most influential innovator of our times is no more. Today, his biography came out and I, like many others, am waiting to get my hands on it! What made Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs? What gave him that charisma? How did he create so many fans, so many people who swear by his products and believe- if it came out of Apple Inc, it had to be great. What was it? Marketing? Technology? Quality? Innovation? How did he make people connect with his product. He created a business and a following, most entrepreneurs can only dream of. How did he do all this?

The life and times of Steve Jobs is a life-long case study. But there are some very key insights into how he built one of the most successful companies ever. Some of these are key to entrepreneurs, especially eco and social entrepreneurs who can get carried away by only the righteousness of their goals.

Guy Kawasaki, tech guru and former Apple employee wrote about some of Steve Jobs’s mantras. I have included an eco-entrepreneur angle to those values.

Make an Emotional Connection Between your Product and Consumer.

Steve Jobs has always understood that, as human beings, our first relationship with anything is an emotional one. … A device isn’t just a sum of its functions; it’s something that should make you smile, you should cradle, you should love, you should have an emotional relationship with. Social and Eco-entrepreneurs already have a strong business case in this regard. The challenge is to bring this to their customers by creating personal bonds and stories.

Lead Your Customers to Ask for Better Products.

Apple famously did not use focus groups to design great products. Steve said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. This is especially true in clean tech and other green fields, business owners need to demonstrate how much “good” can come out of being “green”. His words to live by: “There must be a better way” is a great selling point.

Design counts.

“Steve drove people nuts with his design demands—some shades of black weren’t black enough. Mere mortals think that black is black, and that a trash can is a trash can. Steve was such a perfectionist—a perfectionist Beyond: Thunderdome—and lo and behold he was right: some people care about design and many people at least sense it. Maybe not everyone, but the important ones”.  This is crucial. People are not going to buy your product or service just because it is green. You need to provide form and function. Form, because humans must satisfy their senses first and function because if it doesn’t work, you are not selling anything again!

“Value” is Different from “Price.”

Price is not all that matters—what is important, at least to some people, is value. And value takes into account training, support, and the intrinsic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple products because of their low price. This is probably the single biggest differentiating factor between Apple and its competitors and am sure businesses will kill to create the value that Steve helped create for Apple. I think I can safely say, in this regard Value = Joy!

Hire the Best People.

“Steve believed that A players hire A players—that is people who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve called “the bozo explosion” to happen in your organization”. First things first, get a great team. You are only as strong as your weakest member. Eco-organizations are no different in this regard, in fact, green businesses need a higher breed of players who constantly have to fight non-believers, political will and outdated mindsets.

Provide Unique Value.

Think of a 2 x 2 matrix. The vertical axis measures how your product differs from the competition. The horizontal axis measures the value of your product. Bottom right: valuable but not unique—you’ll have to compete on price. Top left: unique but not valuable—you’ll own a market that doesn’t exist. Bottom left: not unique and not value—you’re a bozo. Top right: unique and valuable—this is where you make margin, money, and history. Steve created products in the top right quadrant. This is where your goals should lie. Steve used innovation to get here and stay here. Make it unique, make it yours!

Do What You Love.

Whatever you do, if you don’t have the passion and drive, you will not have the grit to raise your game after downfalls. You would just give up, because it didn’t matter that much. Social and eco-entrepreneurs already care about their mission so their goals could be that much easier. Steve Jobs said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”.

Steve Jobs was not perfect, but he sure knew how to take a product and make it his own.

“When you are jumping curves, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds.”

I am sure you will agree- Steve Jobs did change a few minds.


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