I had started reading the biography of Steve Jobs some months ago.  It’s a long book…..on a recent vacation trip to Yellowstone National Park and other beautiful places out West…..I was able to finish the story.  Among the beauty of our National Parks I could not help but think about what differentiates people, leaders, and companies from each other. 

Not surprisingly…..I think there is much to learn from this complex person and company.  Even for those in the Middle Market.  Some of the insights that struck me include:

 – Follow your own path – not necessarily that of others
   Jobs was a person with rebellious habits and a disdain for authority or the rules.  It sure helps to differentiate if you approach your products, your services, different from the rest.

 – Develop your own drive & passion
   Jobs had a need for perfection and a love for product.  His was a curious blend of technology & art….an appreciation based on studying other cultures.

 – Drive for simplicity & create a focus
   Jobs learned much of this from his years of living in India and studying the Zen lifestyles & principles.  It was not about accumulating material possessions but rather getting comfortable with the inner self.
In firms, it is much easier to add projects or products and lose focus or priorities.  He was obsessive about eliminating choices, …products… and creating a priority on just 3 or 4!!  This helped drive clarity through the firm. 

– Challenge your people….even more than they would themself
  To those that did not understand Jobs…he seemed arrogant and abusive.  He either loved your recommendation or said it was “crap”   in no uncertain terms.  This was not personal.  His belief was that people truly did not understand how much they could really accomplish.

 He believed that A players wanted to be around A players.  And B or C players (mediocre or inferior) will be comfortable around other B or C players and lower their expectations.  He challenged people to do things that they believed were impossible…..somehow, they actually achieved them. 

 –  Drive for an enduring company and not profits
 His drive was to create a lasting enterprise…..one that could create innovation and change the world.  The way that people used or interfaced with technology & tools.  Not a drive to maximize profits. 

Unfortunately he died too young.  Because of some of his extreme habits….of vegetarian and homeopathic beliefs….he rejected the medical prescription of chemotherapy and surgery until it was too late for his cancer.  A sad ending to a remarkable and different life.  His contributions will last for generations in a new way to use technology in our lives and that of our children. 

So, consider which of the above principles might just apply to your firm.  You might surprise yourself and your people.