Every now and then a mastermind of an entrepreneur comes along that doesn’t just create a business but disrupts an entire sector. We’ve seen it with Christian Dior, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Richard Branson of Virgin and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. When those founders depart, they leave an immeasurable visionary-shaped hole in their business.
While that hole will always remain, much of it can actually be filled.
The reason some founders are considered such figureheads is that they embed their ideologies, creativity and personality within the very DNA of the company. They pass on their knowledge and their employees retain it.
Current Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in an email to staff last year after Jobs announced his resignation: “Apple is not going to change”. Perhaps he should have amended that sentence with “dramatically”. Apple has changed in the past year but it’s definitely stayed true to its roots.
Apple still shuns big technology shows to launch products on its own terms. The difference is that no longer is the presentation a one man show. Tim Cook now invites far more of his colleagues on to the stage to offer their expertise on aspects of its new devices and software that they actually built or managed.
You still don’t see many Apple employees giving interviews to the press, but at least you see some. Apple’s PR policy used to be a strategy of saying precisely nothing. That protocol seems to have relaxed somewhat: Sir Jonathan Ive appeared on the front cover of Wired magazine earlier this year, among the many other column inches he – and some of his colleagues – have notched up in the past few months.
Ive and Cook have also represented the company at tech events, whereas the former Apple might have avoided such conferences to build up more anticipation for its own shows – and perhaps avoid being asked some awkward questions.
The new face of Apple isn’t afraid to blush. Cook showed humility earlier this month by taking to the Apple website to publicly apologise that it’s mapping product on iOS6 was not up to standard. He even pointed customers towards rival map products while Apple sorted the problem – an unprecedented move that prompted many to retort “Steve wouldn’t have done that”.
Cook has also served to make Apple a tad more ethically minded – particularly in his move to donate around $100m to charities and by ordering checks of its welfare conditions in its plants in China by the Fair Labour Organisation.
All the while, Apple has still maintained the things that matter, namely the holy trinity of its products, its financials and its brand value. All of which have not only been maintained since Jobs’ passing, but have actually improved. IPhone 5 sales topped 5 million in just three days (The 4S sold 4 million in the same time period last year), the company posted $8.8bn in profit in the third quarter (compared with $7.8bn the previous year) and last month Apple overtook Aston Martin to become “the world’s coolest brand’.
Apple has changed in the year since it lost its founder and guardian, but it isn’t a revolution. Its edges have just become a little more curved.