Tag Archives: Steve jobs

How To Connect With & Influence Any CEO

CEOs have a massive and disproportionate impact on a organization, more than most people realize. They are a vital channel if you want to something to happen, and the more senior you get, the more their reputation will affect how you personally are perceived externally.

So how do you connect with and influence your own – or any – CEO?

The reality of being a CEO is that it’s a tough job, with high expectations, lots of stakeholders to manage and huge time pressure. This means that many CEOs are often fire-fighting, and in between back-to-back meetings and trips. Often their lives are chaotic.

The first mistake most people make is that they hold CEOs in awe. Yes, anyone who reaches the top of any organization deserves some respect. But no CEO has all the answers. People often clam up when they first meet a CEO, and do themselves a disservice.

So if you want to connect, first, stop looking up to them in awe like most people they meet. Instead treat them as a respected peer, and focus on connecting properly and adding some value to their business.

So How Do You Add Value To A CEO?

CEOs actually are motivated in different ways, they have different strengths and weaknesses, and they value different things. They’re all interested in added value, but they perceive value differently.

And on top of that, it takes different communication approaches to influence them. So the key is to work out which type of CEO you are dealing with, and then tailor your approach accordingly. Then go in and be a peer.

Interviewing and coaching thousands of CEOs has taught me that, in the West, there are 7 main ‘CEO types’. These are:

(1) Commercial Executor


  • Driving focus on achieving best results in industry
  • Relentless focus & attention to details to ensure operational & strategic ambitions become reality

Example: Jack Welch, Former CEO of GE & Chairman, Jack Welch Management Institute

How To Influence:

Communicate plans based on impact on KPIs in their execution system; show then that you are focused & determined to deliver.

(2) Corporate Entrepreneur


  • Have something to prove
  • Disrupt industries because they believe in a better way of doing things
  • Excel in spotting breakthroughs & making them a reality
  • Their vision for their company is their vision for life

Example: Steve Jobs, Founder & Former CEO, Apple

How to influence:

Find a opportunity or a unseen issue and when they challenge you, push back hard in such a way that shows you know your stuff. This will earn them your respect and then you can have proper business conversation.


(3) Corporate Ambassador


  • Have a global vision with broader societal impact
  • Operate at geopolitical level & deliver transactions that transform industries

Example: Lord John Browne, Former CEO, BP

How to influence:

Share your world view & understand theirs. Explore opportunities for connection & building bridges. Bring to life the wider stakeholder benefits and their role it in up ahead.


(4) Global Missionary


  • On personal mission to make significant difference, as well as a corporate mission to make company great
  • Typically customer champions, they lead by inspiring & energizing people to tap into their potential

Example: Narayana Murthy, Chairman, Infosys

How To Influence:

Seek to understand their mission and share yours. Find an opportunity to work together where they overlap.


(5) People Leader


  • Find success through and with people
  • Positive, strong belief and empowering
  • Marshall teams to deliver their best
  • Build a trusting culture

Example: Angela Ahrendts, Burberry (Senior VP designate of Retail and Online Stores, Apple)

How To Influence:

Understand their philosophy and bring to life your passion and talent and dreams. Come up with ideas to move the commercial agenda or the soft agenda forward.

(6) Industry Technical Expert


  • Normally spent their life in an industry, believe that they know it better than anyone else.

Example: Industry dependent

How To Influence:

Get them to share their industry world view and their view on the main execution challenges. Then work out how to help them deliver.

(7) Professional Manager


  • Bring efficiency, processes and connecting systems
  • Reliable & committed, yet struggle to inspire workforce and do innovative breakthroughs

Example: Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

How To Influence:

Listen to and respect them, introduce incremental opportunities, and flag up the risk and consequences of not moving forward.


Over To You

So before you meet a CEO, remember to try and work out which type of CEO they are. Some CEO have multiple types but most CEOs usually have one primary type.

Always communicate in their world, unless – as with a corporate entrepreneur – you’re consciously trying to jolt them and mismatch to earn their respect.

Find common ground to connect on, and over time, build up a relationship with them. To sustain a relationship, you have to add real value – in a way they value – building trust and helping them with areas they find difficult over time. You may be surprised at just how much positive impact you have as a CEO confidant.


If you found this post useful in thinking about how you connect with CEOs and top leaders.


Please let us know in the comments section below which CEO type(s) you think your boss is and why. Do you effectively communicating with them, or is there something which you will now do differently?


Do follow me here on LinkedIn as I bring to life what’s happening in the World Of CEOs on a weekly basis, along with regular leadership, social media, career, hiring and productivity insights.

Signup for my weekly ‘CEO Insider’ leadership & career development email at:


Image credit: Getty Images

This article joins my leadership skills series. The goal is to share the latest best practices in a way you can put to practical use yourself. Also check out:

Leadership Skill #1: Build Trust With Anyone

Leadership Skill #2: Do You Have A Dream?

Leadership Skill #3: “Wow” With Your Career & Life Story

Leadership Skill #4: The 5 Steps To Master Happiness Through Time

By Steve Tappin



At Xinfu, Steve is a personal confidant to many of the world’s top CEOs. He is the host of BBC ‘CEO Guru’, which features in-depth, on-the-record interviews with the CEOs of the biggest and fastest-growing companies. Founder Of WorldOfCEOs.com, Steve is the author of ‘The Secrets Of CEOs’, which interviews 200 CEOs on business life and leadership.

Posted by:Steve Tappin

New Apps Letting You Down? Here’s Why

When Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, his prototype was so buggy it crashed every time a video played, randomly dropped calls and couldn’t hold a Wi-Fi connection. Still, he promised it would revolutionize communication. And it did.

But that’s Steve Jobs. For the rest of us, launching with inferior product probably isn’t the best business model. Or is it?

In the last few years we’ve seen so many sensationally-promoted new companies sensationally flop. At times, it can start to seem that “over-hype and under-deliver” is the new tech mantra. Airtime, Sean Parker’s ailing social video network, the now-defunct newsreader Flud and mobile app Sonar are just a few random examples of hot new startups that haven’t been able to take off (or stay afloat) in recent years despite loads of promise, buzz and expectation.

Part of the problem may be that, after an especially spectacular tech IPO in 2012, the Valley is flush with cash and some of its brightest minds are now eager to get back in the startup game. A cadre of well heeled alums have attached themselves to multiple companies as founders, angels and advisers. They’ve hired a lot of smart people and raised a lot of money.

But the fact is many of these folks—as brilliant as they are—have never gone through the motions of starting and building companies themselves. So they may not have internalized the entrepreneurial reality that failure—in fact, repeated failure—almost always precedes success. The first iteration of a product or service is rarely the best.

So we get yet another gala, celebrity-filled launch and yet another offering that just tanks.

There’s nothing wrong with pivoting and going back to the drawing board, of course. But perhaps this should come before the massive fanfare and promotion. Building outrageous expectations about the next big thing—be it a personal video chatting service or venue-based photo sharing app—can create all sorts of complications when things don’t go as planned. You’ve made a terrible first impression for starters, which can kill adoption rates and investment opportunities down the road. But you’ve also locked yourself into a vision that may be self-limiting or shortsighted.

The alternative is obvious; in fact, it’s really the only option for the 99.9 percent of startups that don’t have big-name backing or investors in their hip pocket. Hammer down product fundamentals first. Make sure you’ve got something that works before doubling down on promotion and marketing. Create a groundswell of organic support and only then leverage PR and advertising to spread the word.

HootSuite never had a big launch. We were lucky to even have office space. Early on, we focused on turning a useful little hack for managing multiple social media networks into a solid tool that anyone, from a blogger to a multinational company, could rely on. For months, we beta-tested changes with select groups of users, working out bugs on a small stage. At the same time, our analysts religiously tracked k-factor—the all-important measure of viral adoption. It was data-driven; it was repetitive and frustrating; and it was invaluable.

Meanwhile, rather than invest in advertising, the company cultivated relationships directly with the people who actually used our product—bloggers, social media managers and community directors. Part of this was necessity; we had no revenue and no ad budget. But it was also strategic. Many of these users became our biggest evangelists, generating the kind of grassroots enthusiasm advertising can’t match. In fact, it was three years—and nearly 5 million users—before we bought our first ads.

By that time, we were ready to tell our story to the world. The product worked. It had its champions. Then, and only then, was it time to shift the marketing machine into high gear. Had we been saddled from the start with huge media expectations, pushy investors or celebrity backers (no offense, Ashton), it’s scary to think what HootSuite would—or, more likely, wouldn’t—have become.

Bottom line: all the confetti, fancy champagne, money and clout in the world still can’t buy true love in tech. People aren’t going to fall for hype without substance. A certain level of usability, innovation, and quality is still required for success. Whew for that.

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Image By: TechCrunch

Posted by:Ryan Holmes

On Building a Mob, and Successful Startups

How to have the best marketing asset any startup could ever ask for —  

You’re looking for a silver bullet, aren’t you?

You’re looking for that Dropbox-like “growth hack” that will take your business skyrocketing to 500 employees and a multi-billion dollar valuation. It’s okay, it’s natural. It’s understandable.

Well here is a secret, those shots-in-the-dark are just that — a shot in the dark.

There will be a stunt, a key, a jolt, every now and then that can potentially spark a viral trend for a company, but they are hardly consistent and seldom reachable without some beautifully creative inspiration and a unique use-case. If you’re really looking for one of those keys, look more closely at the unique opportunities your product gives, where it lives, and where your customer’s use-cases are. Now, if you’re looking to build a consistently successful, opt-in, organic marketing stream that will beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt make your business more money and drive a ton more revenue I’ve got a secret for you.

Building a community, your own personal mob is the only “growth hack” you will ever need.

In this post I’ll show you:

  1. Examples of startups that have built mobs that have carried them to incredible success
  2. The benefits of building your own mob
  3. How to build your own mob
  4. The questions you need to ask yourself in order to define your voice and build your own mob
  5. And the most pivotal point of marketing Steve Jobs ever had (hint, it was while building Apple’s cult following)

So let’s get started.

The benefits of building a mob are absolutely vast, reaching far beyond the likes of simple “growth hacks” but to a level of cult-following that will propel any business forward, in any field.

Some of the many benefits of building a community are:

  1. It will drastically increase your chances of your content going viral
  2. It will give you direction for future products
  3. It will give you direction for your brand’s voice
  4. It will give you free press as you gain more attention from bloggers, columnists, journalists etc.
  5. It will give you feedback
  6. It will give you a constant feed of interaction
  7. It will simply give you more business, more money, and more revenue

Building a community, a real, engaging and influential community will give you many things that a simple “growth hack” cannot.


  1. It’s sustainable, meaning it won’t drop off after the virility has run its course.
  2. It’s compounding, every effort will bring in more reward, and due to the way social shares work and SEO chimes in to content marketing, it will only grow with the more content you stack onto it.
  3. It’s engaging, it’s not something that will bring in a ton of users and then diminish, it’s not a candy crush, it’s a long-term, humble interaction between you (the business) and your customers.
  4. It’s opt-in, people want to engage with your community, people want to become a part of that community, people want to give back to that community. You’re giving them value, so they follow you, essentially giving you the rare opportunity of a soft-sell, a hot-lead, an easy-in.
  5. It’s a mob, when people talk about “mob mentality” it’s true, the things people can do when a group of people have a single direction is just incredible. A community is your opportunity to build your own mob, one of which you control the outcome, so if you have a new resource, they will be your driving force to make it successful, they will be your source of virility, they will be your “tribe” as Seth Godin would put it.

You want a community because you want advocates. It’s as simple as this, brand advocates are the most essential asset of any business. Advocates have taken brands to billions on a number of occasions, Apple, RedBull, GoPro, they all have a mob. There is a way to build this mob in every business, and I’ll give you the steps to get started.

“You can always amplify reach. But nothing can replace genuine passion for a brand. By focusing on the most influential and passionate fans, you will always have that brand love driving organic word-of-mouth and, with that, business success.” — Mark Curtis

There is a core voice for every business, there is a core audience for every business, sometimes the two don’t meet. Focusing on aligning these two will be what makes or breaks your success in creating a thriving community.

If you don’t focus on aligning your message with your actual core audience, you will be throwing content in the dark. So here are some steps to take

How to build a successful community:

  1. Focus on the context — what your customers love, where, and why?
  2. Focus on the content — what strengths are unique to you that you can utilize as a content stream?
  3. Focus on the value — what do your customers want, what would they benefit from? Can you give it to them?
  4. Focus on the relationships — engagement with each customer, “support staff”, but more like customer engagement staff.
  5. Focus on the feedback — what are your customers responding to? What are they enjoying? What is working and what is not, evaluate and iterate.

Now these may seem ambiguous, or vague, so let me elaborate and give you some steps.

Answer these questions when you’re getting started:

  1. What are your core principles? This is what you value. Simplicity, minimalism, brevity, design, or maybe robustness of features, whatever it is, define it.
  2. What is the core solution you’re providing? Be high level with this step. You’re a task management app, okay so your core solution is “productivity” which is essentially self-improvement. People who are using your service will be interested in other ways they can be productive and other ways they can improve, so give them that sort of information.
  3. What information can you provide? To synergistically help existing users, and attract new ones. The focus was on productivity, what are your other core principles, things you value, are you highly startup-focused? Show your users other productivity startups they can take advantage of, you’re building relationships with other businesses while bringing better value to your audience. The fascinating thing here is that by showing other solutions within your lateral (or your core solution) you are adopting other business’s audiences anytime they share your mentions of them. The fastest way to grow your audience is through adopting someone else’s.
  4. What is the most apt way for you to interact? If you’re a design studio it may be on Dribbble where you can post your work and get feedback, if you’re a web startup it may be through Twitter with web-savvy users, your focus should be on one social network to start, lest you get burnt out, expand from there.

Have a home-base for your content, this should (in most cases) be a blog, but obviously different companies have different unique opportunities within their space. Gain inspiration from competitors, or other businesses in your space, sometimes it’s easiest to see what other people are doing with their core solution, and adapt it to your core principles.

Examples of some incredible companies that have built a beautiful mob:

  1. Buffer. Buffer is a productivity app, that is their core solution. In reality, they are a social media sharing app. The focus is on the productivity and the self-improvement though. That’s what their community cares about, and that’s what they feed them. Science-backed, elaborate information about self-improvement and productivity. They’ve built one of the strongest communities of any startup, with only 15-20 employees currently (but expanding fast). They focus on “customer support” more than anything, guaranteeing that their mob is well taken care of in any circumstance, and that has been their most rewarding marketing channel, from word of mouth by supporting their mob.
  2. Basecamp. Basecamp is a productivity tool for designers, by designers. Project management tool, that’s their app, but it was built by web design consultants when they needed a better solution for interfacing with their clients. Design is their culture, as well as code. 37signals, which was the company that built Basecamp (which also just rebranded to be called Basecamp altogether) created Ruby on Rails, an enormously popular development framework for the Ruby programming language. This led to many Rails conferences over the years, and a cult-like following of designers and developers that loved their lean practices and outlooks on business. They wrote multiple New York Times Best Sellers, which I would say are some of my personal favorite books, Rework, Remote, and Getting Real. All of these books aligned perfectly with their audience, their target audience and the mob that they had built over the years. They built the content, built the movement, built the value and established a mob that organically made them hit the NYT best seller list multiple times. It doesn’t get much better than that. But actually, it does. Basecamp was built for businesses like 37signals, and with their mob it built steadily but rapidly across the tech industry. Soon massive corporations like Twitter used it for their internal affairs, and now it’s been so popular that churches use it, government associations use it, everyone who needs to manage something uses it. Their mob made them the height of the market, and practically untouchable in their own right, with no sight of slowing down, actually just speeding up.
  3. GoPro. I use this example a lot, but it’s for a good damn reason. GoPro is the epitome of creating a mob of a community. A movement of inspiration and incredible feats. GoPro is an inspiration, that’s their core solution. They build action sports cameras, they create inspiration and motivation for millions. They created a business based around documenting incredible things, which is what every action sport “hero” wants to do, incredible things. Their cameras were called the “HDHero” with the tagline “Be a Hero” which for any action sport fanatic would send a quaking chill up their spine. We all want to be a hero, we all want to strive for our greatest endeavor, we all want to reach for unimaginable heights, but even more than that, we want people to see us doing it. We want people to say, “That’s incredible, I want to do that.” That is what we live for, and that is the most incredibly viral sensation a company could ever ask for. We as customers have an emotional need for their product. They just supplied the tool and the avenue. Every day GoPro would post a picture to their Facebook page of a user-submitted shot from someone doing something incredible somewhere in the world. They would also post a user’s video. These pieces of content would get incredible traction from their massive Facebook following, which led to even more people following them, submitting their stuff, hoping to be featured on GoPro’s page, and to be acknowledged and inspire millions of other people to live their life to the fullest. They found their content stream by enabling their mob to post their content, the viscerally emotional need their users had to have their content seen is what made their success so apparent. Their mob made them a billion dollar business and a world-wide leader in inspiration. All rooting from a guy wanting to videotape himself surf, and strapping a disposable camera with a plastic case to his wrist.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

This was Steve Jobs speaking directly to his mob, from his heart, because his mob was wrapped around his vision of the world. Steve established Apple’s mob and polarized it with this statement, which is why it became his most well-known quote of all-time. This is the most influential marketing Steve ever did, not the secrecy of his product launches, not his decisions against the competition, this quote was the defining moment of his marketing excellence. This is where the mob was defined, this is where the rebels found their home.

Are you still looking for a “growth-hack” to take your business to the next level?

Or are you now looking to build a mob, a group of people unified under one common interest, an emotion, a need, a passion. Are you looking for your audience? The one that will push you, accelerate you, empower you, back you, love you? Are you ready to engage, to build, to unleash your group, your core “tribe” and dominate your market with the personality and vision unique to you and your company?

This is what every startup needs, you need a mob, you need the pitchforks and fiery brooms, you need the chanting, the advocates, the lovers, the fighters, they are your source, your backbone, without it you won’t last in this new age of marketing, without it you won’t have a “growth hack” to save you, you will be lost in the ether, while another mob takes your lunch.

Build your mob, define your mob, empower your mob, and watch them fight for you.

I’m a content marketer and SEO consultant, having worked with brands like Best Western, Holiday Inn, MFG & Baker Hughes to boost revenue through clever content and organic search. I’m also a consultant for hire.

If you dug this post, I’d love it if you hit “recommend” below and chat with me on Twitter!

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Screw Focus! Get Creative, Form Connections, And Step Away from the Herd

Like most of my other articles, this was inspired by a conversation on twitter. It was a short one but it left a lasting aftertaste of… disappointment.

You see, a guy was wondering whether he wanted to start a fitness blog or football news site. I offered my crazy solution to mix the two to provide a unique service. The response was a quote by Steve Jobs.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Sigh. Him again. Like my friend Kate Hodson says:


Let me ask you something. Do you think that Steve Jobs was couped up in his office reading entrepreneurial advice all day? No, he wasn’t.

I’m addressing every entrepreneurial soul out there.

Stop copying successful people and start making your own success.

They say oddballs succeed, more than anybody else. I agree.

It’s because they don’t think in terms of “tried and tested” methods, but in terms of innovation, of making connections where there weren’t any.

I hate re-directing people away from my writing because there is a risk that I’ll lose them, but I’ll make an exception for Buffer. I love their blogs because they focus on Psychology, which I believe to be indispensable in business.

According to Buffer, the ability to form connections is The Secret to Creativity, Intelligence, and Scientific Thinking. Not long ago they tweeted the image below and it got more than 1000 re-tweets.

Image by Hugh MacLeod.

Well, duh. I thought that everybody knew that!

To quote the article, connections fuel creativity, nothing is new.

I am afraid that every startup employee out there is doing the same thing: stalking growth hackers to adopt actionable ideas, trying old-fashioned marketing tactics to keep the bosses happy, and overall trying any piece of advice out there to see if there’s a fit. But why?

Why is it that most people are happy to be a part of the herd?

Perhaps because trying new things is quite risky for a business. But it is also the one thing that repeatedly makes companies viral and successful.

Nobody had put “PS I love you” in their email signature before hotmail.

Those guys knew that with big risks come great rewards and with no risk comes… well, average growth, if any. Nowadays, competition is so high that new startups are popping every minute, and unfortunately, most solve the same problems and try to disguise it by adding bells and whistles.

I’m all for innovation but if you think you have a marketable idea that’s been done before, you have to be down for trying new things. Taking risks will get you farther than any bell or whistle, than any feature or update, or even growth hack. What you need is to build the habit of forming connections.

Everything’s been done but there are billions of connections out there waiting to be made. Get on it!

Let’s make an example. Say you want to be a Mum blogger and write about parenting. You like following other mums’ feeds and reading their articles, but you also have set opinions about game apps for children.

You’re thinking, do I want to write about parenting or game apps?

I’m thinking, why aren’t you doing both?!

Just start a blog, put down some words about children and apps, and try to send some of your articles to other Mum bloggers who are well connected. Who knows, eventually you might be providing this service: writing app reviews and being the go-to-tech-mum of the community.

Now I want you to do this exercise:

  • pick two or more hobbies that you like
  • write down 10 ways to mix them, the crazier the better
  • write an intro blog about your idea and unleash it on social media

If you already have a business, maybe you want to branch out because things have been getting stale. I agree with Steve Jobs, actually, focus is very important. But I also think that if you can identify different user personas for your business, you can expand the focus by reaching out to more people.

Here’s another exercise you can do if you‘d like to branch out:

  • write a list of any person who would use your product
  • check if you are reaching out to all those people
  • if not, think of ways to do so and not compromise your business

You can keep your focus AND extend your reach with side projects.

Side projects are a gift of the Gods and The Gift that Keeps on Giving because when more roads lead back to your business — the point of back links — it becomes stronger and you reach a lot more people.

One great example of a side project is Unsplash, which was created by Ooomf to give designers high-res photos for free. Now everybody uses them for blogs and designs. And Ooomf is not stopping there. This year they will release Launch This Year: a quality curation of articles for entrepreneurs.

If you can provide value to your customers, they’ll love you for it.

In fact, BeTweet did its own side project this week called HackCrab. Nevermind that the crab is plain scary and wants to “hack” everything, it’s working wonders — sign ups have already doubled overnight.

Awheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Muah.

found on pixabay.com

Now that you see that side projects are the Holy Grail of startups — okay, maybe that’s an overstatement — you can use it to your advantage. Don’t wait for people to give you advice on how you should run your business. Do like me and be the one who gives advice. Come up with your own revolutionary ideas and never be a part of the herd again.

Thank you for reading and happy brainstorming!

P.S. Funny thing, my personal “brand” is Polygamous Passionista. Is it any wonder I’m encouraging people to mix everything up? Haha.

P.P.S. Want free growth tips and “hacks” in your inbox? Sign up here.

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You are not Steve Jobs

can I get a hell yeah?

can I get a hell yeah?

A young CEO storms through his start-up, a tiny Godzilla, crushing the feelings of his staff like so many Japanese paper maché buildings. He rubs his forehead in meetings and loudly ponders why no one is as smart as he is. No ideas are to be considered for the product unless he initiated them. He is trying his damnedest to be just like his recently departed hero — Mr. Steve Jobs.

Now, here’s where I burn my bridge and never work at Apple ever again. I only have two personal experiences with Steve Jobs:

  1. In my first two weeks of being hired, he cut in line in front of me and a co-worker at the office cafeteria sushi kiosk. I said to my co-worker, “Who is this douche?” as I had never seen an Apple keynote at that point. My co-worker whispered, “That’s STEVE.” Okay, I noted to myself, Steve is a bit of a dick.
  2. I worked on the MobileMe team, now iCloud, as an Engineering Project Manager, and we had a notoriously bad launch when we re-branded and created an awesome new product out of .Mac. There were three to four levels of bosses between me and Steve (thankfully) and we had been telling our bosses that we did not feel confident about our launch date for a long time. We gave any number of suggestions of what we could do to launch that wouldn’t be such a giant production, but would totally have worked. Somewhere up the chain of command, it was decided it was not the Apple-way to launch something without a million fireworks. “But it’s the web!” we cried to no avail. We had our marching orders, and we walked single file to our collective doom.
    Then it fell down launch night. And all the lovely troopers (because everyone who works at Apple is completely kick-ass and does the hell out of their jobs), worked literally around the clock to fix it. Sleeping under desks, shuttling from hotels nearby, tagging in the next coder for their shift, until it was back up.
    Once it was up, we (at least a hundred of us) got called into a meeting with Steve Jobs. We all walked over to the building like we were headed to the guillotine. He stood in front of us and yelled at us, told us that we should be mad at each other, said we could have done a staggered launch and complained that we didn’t even try to do all the things that we (those on the ground floor of production that actually make the fucking products of the world) had been begging to do. It was the world’s best de-motivational speech.
    Now, regardless of whether no one in the inner sanctum of dudes-that-Steve-listened-to-at-the-time told him all the things we told our bosses, or who-up-the-chain-of-command was not brave enough to suggest we do something not-Apple-like — this was the system that Steve created. He made himself so fearful and terrible that an entire group of amazing, talented, hard working people, ended up getting screamed at wrongfully. It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours.

Even Steve Jobs wasn’t Steve Jobs initially. He only outed himself as a giant jerk after he had a company that could afford to have a huge turnover, and he had a pile of minions that hero-worshiped him no matter what he did. He was an abusive husband to an entire company. But at least he had a track record of success. If you do not have his history, maybe consider being nice to your staff. And even if you do, consider this a cautionary tale. The best thing you can do for your product is to have your staff tell you the truth, and listen to it. Godzilla-CEO, you cannot build a product all on your own, you rely on your staff, who you presumably hired because they were smart and competent. If you treat your staff with respect and incorporate their good ideas into your product, they will give you the adoration that people gave Steve, without the downsides that come from ruling with fear. So go forth into the product sphere, play nice, and build great things together with all of the talented people who are working so hard on your behalf. You, your product and your staff will all be better off.

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Why You’ve Never Heard About Steve Jobs’ Skateboarding Prowess

There would be few adults in the western world who have not heard of Steve Jobs. A pioneer of personal computing, an entrepreneur of unrivalled clout, one-time owner of the world’s most successful digital animation studio, the man who took the helm of an almost bankrupt computer company and transformed it into the most valuable business in the world.

But have you ever heard about Steve Jobs’ skateboarding skills? Did you know he was a world class skateboarder? No? Well there’s a reason you haven’t heard about that before. He wasn’t. In fact, I can’t find any record of Steve Jobs being any good at skateboarding at all. Which is surprising, because the guy was good at everything, wasn’t he?

Before you decide this article is just a total waste of time with a sneaky headline hack, I’m going to let you in on the dirty secrets of 7 other famously successful people: Tony Hawk doesn’t like people to know this, but, unlike Steve, he’s never built a hugely successful technology company. Usain Bolt has never succeeded in attaining a position as permanent representative at the United Nations; Ban Ki-moon hasn’t ever published a best-selling work of fiction; J. K. Rowling has never been sent on a diplomatic mission; there are no works by Bill Clinton hanging in MoMA; Cindy Sherman has never been at the top of the Billboard chart; and nobody can even recall Michael Bublé‘s foray into Olympic sprinting.

Why is that? Why are all these famous people so constrained in the things that they’re good at? I mean, they’re really good at that thing but, when you take the breadth of human experience into consideration, their achievements seem to be pretty limited.

Of course, you’re pretty smart, so you probably already know why famous people are typically only famous for being good at one thing, but let’s say it together…

‘Tony Hawk invert’ by Raka18 (CC via Flickr)


They focus. They focus hard. It isn’t by chance that these people happened to find themselves successful at these enterprises. They focussed on being absolutely awesome at something, and they got there.

What do you think would have happened if Usain Bolt had taken half the time he’s spent training for sprints and instead used that time to write a novel? Do you think he’d be the world’s fastest sprinter and a best-selling author? No, you just never would have heard of him.

But what has all this got to do with you? Yes, you. You’re the reason you’re reading this. Not Steve Jobs. His name may have pulled you in, but only because he was successful and YOU admire him and YOU would like to learn from his success.

So, what do YOU want to be successful at? Do you want to be a successful entrepreneur? A pretty good skateboarder? A loving and intimate spouse? A celebrated author? An inspiring public speaker? A nurturing parent who’s always available? An effectual human rights campaigner? A championship-winning amateur basketball player? A creator of world-renowned software? A child who cares for their elderly parents and in-laws? A reform-leading politician? A thought-provoking street artist? A half-decent piano player? A producer of mind-blowing music videos?

Well, that’s my list. I’d love to be all those things. Maybe you wouldn’t, but you probably have your own list that’s just as long. I know I can’t be all of those things, though, and if you’re honest you’ll probably see you can’t be everything on your list.

Interestingly, if we took lots of the adjectives out of our lists, we could deceive ourselves into believing that by trying to do all these things we were somehow achieving something through each of them. For instance, being an entrepreneur that isn’t successful is probably quite easy! Being a parent wouldn’t require much investment if you’re not aiming to be nurturing and available. I can campaign for human rights on countless websites with the click of a button, but can I really expect to have much effect if that’s all I do?

‘Piano’s Wake’ by Daniel Hoherd (CC via Flickr)

To have a chance of being successful at our life-defining pursuits, we will need to focus. And what does that really mean? When we’re talking about the context of life achievement, focus is really just a gentle way of saying: stop trying to be successful at so many things. It doesn’t work!

The greatest companies focus on being great at a very small number of things. Successful people have often focussed on being absolutely brilliant at only one single thing. If we are to succeed as individuals, we must pick those few ideals where we want to absolutely excel and shoot for the stars on those while ignoring the rest.

“Ignoring the rest” brings us to the flip-side of focus which is just as synonymous with successful people as focus is, and that is: sacrifice. We’ve all heard stories of the Olympic swimmers who train for hours before and after work every day. You’ll no doubt have seen several retirement speeches from politicians where they’ve thanked their families for the sacrifices they made. Perhaps you know someone who has sacrificed career success so that they can focus on caring for their parents or their children? What we see here is that people who make a conscious choice to be successful at something also make conscious choices to not pursue lots of other things. They choose.

So, as we begin this new year, I encourage you to ponder this question:

Who will you choose to be?

Sure, make a list of everything you’d like to achieve, but then do the next bit, the hard bit, the bit that successful people have done: cross most of it out.

Figure out which of your goals are really important to you. Try this: picture yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years time and consider which achievements you will be most upset about not having strived for. Perhaps you’ll discover that you’d really prefer not to be an entrepreneur if it means you won’t have time to learn how to skateboard. Maybe you’ll have to put off learning the piano for five years so you can really focus on getting those first few books published.

‘Entrenando’ by Bastian Sander (CC via Flickr)

Decide what you will focus on. Make those tough choices about the things you will sacrifice. Whatever you do, don’t deceive yourself that you can “have it all” and then find yourself coming up short on everything.


Who will you choose to be?

This post was originally published on www.grahamlea.com

You can follow Graham on Twitter

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I’m a Software Engineer and a thinker with a passion for sharing what I learn. I try to think of myself as a work in progress. @evolvable

7 reasons why appstores are doomed

Initially Steve Jobs invited developers to create web 2.0 ajax apps on top of the safari browser, a few weeks before the iphone launch. Then in 2008 he did a 180° turn and opened the native appstore. Why ? Simply because the technology (browsers, devices) & the networks weren’t ready (and also because the 30% appstore cut would become a nice revenue line).

Timewise, Steve Jobs was right in 2008. But what about today ? Here are the 7 main reasons why I think appstores are doomed in the long run.

1° the download / access flow is just bad

let’s take the following scenario: you receive a link to an app via email, you open the email in gmail on your mobile, tap on the link (same scenario applies to twitter, facebook,…), 2 possibilities: either you see a splash page inviting you to download the app (or proceed to a — not always — responsive mobile website, subpar experience in most cases) OR you are redirected to the appstore (iOS or googleplay or another independent provider), then you have to tap again on “download”, enter your credentials if logged out, wait for the download to be completed, tap on “open” and, finally, you can sit back & enjoy the content. If there’s a bug or if the experience is crappy, you simply delete the app and never come back again. Hum hum…

With a mobile web app, you tap on the link, it opens the web app either in the associated browser or even as a web view in the messaging app itself (twitter / facebook) and you enjoy the content straight away. No redirection, multiple taps, waiting time, etc… Frictionless. Think about the impact just in terms of advertising conversion.

I’d like also to mention the “international issue”, i.e. that some apps are only available in some regional appstores, whereas the web is global by essence. Countless times I bumped into a “country warning” telling me that I couldn’t download an app advertised on the web. Bad UX.

2° updates are a pain in the ass

both for the app creators and for their users. If you want to adapt your design / content, you have to submit the update to the appstore and, if accepted, the users have to download the update. Ok, in iOS7 you have “automatic updates” as an option but it’s even worse when you have 50 apps constantly updating in the background, slowing down your device :-(. As a user, if you don’t update the app, you simply run an outdated version and most users don’t even know it…

Iteration based on customer feedback / market evolution + adding new features are critical for any fast moving startup and it’s much easier in a web environment than via the appstores closed systems. You simply commit the update & next time users open your app, it’s totally fresh. Frictionless, again.

3° discovery is terrible

Searching for apps in an appstore is almost like looking for content in the dark ages of the early internet. Even Apple’s appstore gets a bad score http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/18/apples-app-store-discovery-20x-better-than-google-play-report-says/

There are some discovery apps offered by independent vendors but, for obvious commercial reasons, their results are biased and they don’t give a comprehensive picture of the ecosystem. http://www.148apps.com/news/real-reason-appgratis-pulled-selling-top-10-placement/

On the web you simply use Google (or another traditional search engine) and, if you apply SEO best practices, you mobile web app will surface as any other website. Your app will always be one click / tap away from the user. Don’t reinvent the wheel when you can use proven powerful tools and integrate your content in a vibrant open ecosystem.

4° 30% transaction fees are a steal

As a developer, on the open web, you can easily implement solutions like Paypal with a maximum fee of 3.4% (it can go down to 1.4% with a merchant account). On the appstores, it’s 30% for in-app purchases (+ potentially extra processing fees depending on how you want to get paid by the store). This makes a huge difference in terms of margin. One could argue that you also pay for “being in the appstore” but if you’re not a best “seller”, you won’t surface and users won’t be able to easily find you (other than by typing your app name, but they could have done this in Google with a direct access to your mobile web app ;-)).

5° native doesn’t equal quality.

Even in the most curated app store, the iOS one, you come across a lot of really bad apps with an awful UI/UX. At least on the open web if you land on a bad app, you can leave it straight away whereas on the appstores, you need to login / download / open / see the crap & delete it. And if you’re disappointed, the pain of the flow means you’ll never come back.

6° most apps need the web anyway

If you offer an app plugged to realtime data or an app displaying a live feed or some dynamic rich content, you need the web anyway. So why not simply develop a mobile web app, seamlessly connected to the web ?

You could argue this doesn’t apply to most single-player games (e.g. Angry Birds or Temple Run) which are so popular on the appstores. True and at the moment games are certainly the most difficult thing to execute in the mobile browser at a UX level comparable with their native counterparts, especially if you want to play in a non-connected environment. But it’s also evolving and we would just need more local storage / caching possibilities to free offline games from the appstores.

7° why would you wrap your app in a web viewer ?

Nowadays, a lot of developers actually make html5 apps shipped to the appstores via different wrapping providers (e.g. Phonegap). Why would you do this if your app can immediately run in the main browser ? OK, granted, you bet on the “appstore effect”. But did you know that half of the revenue in the iOS appstore goes to 25 developers ? http://www.kinvey.com/blog/1913/app-ecosystem-weekly-app-store-revenues-grow-for-apple-google-and-microsoft Market yourself in the open web, use SEO and other growth hacking methods to get noticed, you will have better odds to find your target audience.

Techies will argue that you need a wrapper to access some functions in the device. It’s partly true http://www.w3.org/2009/dap/ & http://mobilehtml5.org/ but browsers are evolving (especially Chrome). Did you know for instance that since september 2012 it’s been possible to access your device camera via the browser ? (shooting pictures + using photos from your camera roll). Something “critical” you can’t do at the moment with a mobile browser is notifications but it’s coming http://www.w3.org/TR/push-api/ and in the meantime you can always send essential messages via transactional email, they will pop up as native notifications through gmail for instance (or via SMS using Twilio).

You could also argue that a wrapper offers a neat full screen experience (vs opening the app inside a browser window). Correct but if you want to interact with web properties outside the app (and it happens a lot) the links will open a separate browser and you won’t be able to get back to the full screen hybrid app, which will close (you will have to re-open the app from the homescreen). When everything takes place in the browser, you can easily switch between tabs (for instance after a Paypal payment). Moreover, here again, browsers are evolving, with less and less chrome around the content experience. An invisible browser would instantly solve the “problem”.

To execute mobile web apps properly (making them as sexy as their best native counterparts in terms of UX), you need outstanding developers. That’s the main challenge today. But I can tell you there are talents out there who are truly excited by this new frontier: reaching app excellence on the mobile web. Helped by technological (hardware + software) & networks (3G to 4G to ?) evolutions, we’re getting there. That’s why I think appstores are doomed in the long run.

Here is my personal take on the future of mobile: https://medium.com/html5-css3/4764411a2f27

Further Reading

The future of the web is mobile and the future of mobile is… the web

 — our take on the evolution of mobile applications

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