“Apple just became the first American public company to cross $1 trillion in value. The iPhone maker achieved that big number on Thursday when the stock passed $207.04 a share. Its new all-time high is $208.38. Apple is now up more than 20% this year.” ― CNN Business [Thursday, August 2nd, 2018]
Many African churches don’t live beyond their founders. Quite a chunk of companies here develop only little after the demise of those who started it. It’s uncomfortable to admit but if Apple were to be an African tech giant, it would have been struggling to stand on its feet by now.
Steve Jobs, the brain behind Apple, died in October, 2011 but Apple did not die with him. Seven years on, it keeps waxing greater and greater, growing to have a worth of over a trillion dollars. The firm keeps doing great even without him unlike many African setups which grind to a halt when the visionary passes on.
The Apple we see today could definitely not have African blood running through it― obviously because our brands are built around founders and not customers. These founders become almost irreplaceable. At the end of the day, when they are no more, everything comes to a standstill.
Founders shall not live forever but guess what, customers will. If we, thus, build value around one person, the entity doesn’t survive beyond them. However, when we build our essence around the people whose needs we are solving, transition of power and development become automatic.
Transition is such a hard thing to do down here in Africa. The only transition we are familiar with is that from life to death. It becomes almost impossible to hand over brands from one generation to the other. Guinness has been in existence for the past 259 years and is still performing creditably on the market. Walt Disney is no more but Disney is still a force to reckon with. You should see their 2019 trailers!
Take a look around most of the institutions around. The orthodox churches, for instance, are able to outlive the charismatic ones because the former are built around the people and the latter, around the founder. The secret to lifetime brands is to build such on systems that can stand the test of time. The baton of leadership can be passed on from one generation to the next only if that system is not one person― the founder.
If you are irreplaceable in the church you established, know that it is a sign of danger ahead. If nothing is progressive in your company in your absence, it points to the uncomfortable fact that one day when you are no more, nothing will indeed move on. This means your brand won’t live beyond you!
In Africa, everything is about the founder. The institution runs at his/her pace and feelings. Company funds are his. He takes whatever he wants to do with such. At the least opportunity, he wants to show off with the little profits of the company or church.
If Steve Jobs were an African, he would have been conferred with the honor “Steve Debts” posthumously because they would have sold off some of his assets to pay up debts of his lavish lifestyle. The typical African becomes complacent too quickly. They become drunk with pride at their little success. Some would have even elevated themselves to be gods if they were close as wealthy as Steve.
Instead of reinvesting returns, it is spent on luxury. We want our firms to grow in value yet we treat their profits as our piggy bank. Apple didn’t become a trillion worth in value by spending every dime that came through their coffers. It was invested back into the business!
Elsewhere, when a man becomes a success, he remembers he needs more investments. In Africa, when a man becomes successful, he remembers he needs more wives. Should Steve Jobs be an African, his three wives would have been battling in court by now over what belongs to whose children. And… this is how the failure of big African dreams is always told.
Apple, a firm that pays its employees so well, could obviously not be of African descent. The greed of a typical African knows no bounds and it’s not only obvious in politics. Isn’t it an irony that we have filthy rich entrepreneurs whose employees are languishing in abject poverty? Obviously, it will be hard for an African company to cross a trillion value because employees are barely taken care of.
If we want our firms to grow in value, we need to value those who make up these firms. Their growth obviously extends to become the growth of the company. When the well-being of our employees matter to us, our business will also matter to them. Take care of your employees if you want them to take care of your business. This was the driving principle of Steve Jobs.
Any serious-minded leader who wants to have their customers well served must first serve their employees well. A happy employee translates into a happier customer. After all, the premium clients of every business are the employees. Returns are low when employees are famished. If we are looking at yielding enough returns―and of course value― we should be ready to invest in the ambassadors of our company. That’s exactly what Apple does!
There are many deep lessons to learn from the Apple story. Tim Crooks today is running the company as though there was never a Steve Jobs. Steve may have left with some irreplaceable ideas but the engine of the company never left with him. If it did, they wouldn’t have been making such tremendous progress.
Apple may not come from Africa but we can all birth brands that will live beyond us. Many generations will come after us. We owe them a duty to have a taste of the greatness inside us. If it’s only about today, your dream is not big enough.
By Kobina Ansah
The writer is a playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, an Accra-based writing company (www.scribecommltd.com).