You don’t need to look far to see how Apple has changed the way we live and shaped our future. The humble fruit symbol and white earphones, are now synonymous with the most valuable company on the planet today.
The world waited with baited breath for the moment when Steve Jobs would announce his successor.
And he chose wisely - if the media’s response and company’s continued growth is anything to go by. The spotlight has been on Tim Cook’s every move since he was announced as CEO in August 2011.
Filling Steve Jobs’ shoes was never going to be an easy task. Being the public face of an entity like Apple is not for the faint-hearted. Indeed, bumpy changes of leadership are not uncommon in Australia.
Only last week the CEO of wealth management company Perpetual, Chris Ryan, was sacked after less than a year in the position. Perpetual will continue with Ryan’s cost savings plans so was he doing such a bad job? The mixed messages have done little to raise confidence in the organisation.
One thing is certain; leadership is paramount during times of change.
In Cook’s case, his team has handled the change well. Since taking on the role, Apple's market share has risen to 23.8 percent (from 15.8 percent from the previous year.) The company sold 37 million iPhones over the past quarter, breaking its own record, and its share price topped $US500 this week for the first time.
After six months as CEO, Cook is coming into his own and setting himself apart from his late predecessor.
His most recent appearance at the Goldman Sachs Technology Conference in San Francisco has been reported as a success. The New York Times went as far as to call Cook Apple’s next big product in an appearance that showed more of his “personality” than previous addresses.
Cook touched on a variety of topics from investor relations, workplace issues, product plans and even the culture of the multi-billion company since Jobs’ passing.
The success was largely because Cook ticked the boxes needed to build trust with stakeholders. Here’s how he did it:
- Tell the truth. Be honest, keep your messages simple and avoid jargon. Cook was prompted to discuss the future of Apple TV. While he was reluctant to discuss details Cook was upfront and admitted there were some barriers in the television market and that Apple would need a product that “could go more main market” in order to compete in that space.
- Nip issues in the bud. Address issues immediately before they turn into a crisis. Following a recent investigative article in The New York Times about the workplace conditions among Apple’s overseas suppliers, Cook stated at the Conference that Apple had no tolerance for suppliers that violate its labor and human rights standards.
- Be accountable. Tell your stakeholders what you intend to do, and stick to it. To this end, Cook said the complete elimination of these violations was a “top priority” for the company. He announced Apple would publish monthly reports about factory working hours on its website, in addition to providing this information in its annual report.
- Demonstrate commitment to your stakeholders. Be relevant to any party with an interest in a business, whether they are customers, clients, suppliers or the media. Cook acknowledged that Apple has a responsibility to live up to the high expectations held by the company and its customers, and reaffirmed that it would continue to do so. Later, Cook treats investors to talk about the potentials for Apple’s $US98 odd billion in investments – something Jobs rarely discussed, and if anything, loathed to do.
- Keep stakeholders informed. Maintain contact with stakeholders with up-to-date information. Cook discusses the next opportunities for Apple. He talks about emerging markets, the future of tablets and PCs and how Siri and iCloud fit into Apple’s strategy.
- Reinforce the key message. Any opportunity to bring in mission or purpose is a way to affirm a company’s position. Cook shows his commitment to the Apple culture that underpins the brand, instilled by Steve Jobs. “The company should revolve around great products. We should stay extremely focused on a few things, rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well. We should only go into markets where we can make a significant contribution to society....We’re always focused on the future.”