Apple's Executive Team Is Steve Jobs' Greatest Creation
This recent swoon, after moving from $360 in November to an all-time high of $644, has brought out a chorus of Apple-worrywarts. They are saying this is just the start of a broader pullback. They're saying this is due to investors who are worried about carriers pulling their subsidies on future iPhones.
Any pullback in Apple shares also seems to bring out the concerns about whether the largest company by market capitalization can still keep growing.
The other day, I spoke with a good friend of mine who worried about Apple's stock that: "Steve's no longer there and their markets are brutally competitive."
Apple could have the most amazing management team in the world, but none of us would talk about it, because Steve Jobs was that good a CEO. He was so charismatic, that he could overshadow Bill Clinton and the Vanity Fair after-party at the Oscars, combined.
Jobs' stories have now become legend within Silicon Valley. Given that, it's completely understandable that his management team -- now left to run Apple completely on their own devices -- would be overshadowed by the media.
I'm quite sure that neither Jobs nor his team care much about how the media and bloggers judge their abilities. They know that all that matters is how their accomplishments are judged years from now, as well as how they're judged by their peers around them at Apple.
Five stars stood in the shadow of Jobs: Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall and Jony Ive. (I should also include a sixth, CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who does a great job in his role.) Despite worries by some after Jobs' death, they're all still at Apple.
There was a another member of this group, Ron Johnson, who helped make the Apple stores into what they are today. However, Johnson chose to leave Apple to become CEO of JC Penney
I saw a stat recently that, if Ron had stayed at Apple over the last year, the stock and options he walked away from at Apple would be worth $170 million today -- due to the explosion in Apple's stock price from $332 to $568 today.
Now, I don't think Ron or any of the others on the Apple management team are primarily motivated by money. I also know that Ron Johnson was paid well to go over to JC Penney and sprinkle some of his Apple magic. However, Ron's lost money does serve to remind how "in the zone" Apple is and the massive opportunity that's still in front of it.
The rest of the Apple management team sees that opportunity clearly and they all bring to the team a different set of skills that are complementary -- from supply chain management, to design, to marketing and product.
The common thread between all of them is they are far less charismatic than Steve (who wasn't?). They are quiet, focused, determined and -- I believe -- quite self-confident. They're confident in a healthy way, not in a boastful or destructive way. The other commonality is a desire to win. These guys are killers. They're relentless. They're going to keep coming after you until the battle is won.
I've said before that I believe Steve Jobs' final act of brilliance -- his gift to all the great people who built Apple into what it is today -- is going to be his succession plan. And not just at the upper levels of management, but throughout.
George Colony, the CEO of Forrester Research, has argued -- citing a 1940s Max Weber typology -- that Apple is destined to fail because Steve Jobs was charismatic and his organization learned to adjust itself to such a leader. Now, without that charismatic leader, he believes employees won't know how to respond to challenges in their competitive landscape. Basically, the remaining employees remained stunted in their growth and never learned to think for themselves because Steve Jobs was such a dominant and final arbitrator on all decisions.
We're going to see. But I think Colony and most of the media and blogosphere are going to be surprised just how good these guys -- and the rest of the Apple organization -- are. Even as the biggest company in the world, they're used to being underestimated for their entire careers.
They're going to feel comfortable continuing to exceed others' expectations.