It’s often easy for us to think that it takes big and bold moves to keep a company successful. That’s not always the case. Small tweaks or simple changes can move mountains and lead to big success.
This reminded me of a story I read about how Tim Cook guided Apple to new heights, despite Steve Jobs’ death.
Since he took over the reins in 2011, Apple’s market valuation soared from $348 billion to $1.9 trillion. That’s larger than the GDP of Canada or Russia.
The company also amassed a stockpile of $81 billion in cash. That’s after returning a total of $475.5 billion to shareholders.
Of course, if your business has massive things wrong with it, then for sure, it's going to need massive changes. But it pays to know when the smallest changes can have the biggest impact on your business.
The Wall Street Journal credits small changes Mr. Cook made, and not massive transformation, for the continued success of Apple. This brings us to our unofficial list of Cook's eight small tweaks.
8 Simple Changes Tim Cook Applied for Big Success
- Constantly hone (and excel in) what you’re good at. Mr. Cook rose up the ranks by being a master in supply-chain management. He wasn’t a sales guru like Steve Jobs or a design master like Jony Ive. Nonetheless, the value he brought to Apple was immense. Look at your strengths as an entrepreneur and as a company. Zero in on those and strive for excellence all the time. At the right moment, your efforts will reap rewards.
- Do not let your standards wane. Mr. Cook once got irritated that the company mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of Japan. “We’re losing our commitment to excellence,” he said. It might seem trivial for a company that sold more than 18 million Mac computers in 2019, but that commitment to excellence, and the vigilance to keep it, is one thing that makes Mr. Cook an excellent steward for the tech giant.
- Know when to let your team shine. He is not a maniacal micromanager. Quite the opposite. When the senior leaders of Apple gathered at a hotel in 2012 to review an early prototype of the Apple Watch, the first new product after the death of Mr. Jobs, Mr. Cook was not present. If you’ve put in place a wonderful team, trust them to do what’s best for the company. You picked them for a reason. Be open to them about significant decisions and let them do their job.
- Listen to outside perspectives. It broadens your understanding and may even be a way to find more success, in strategies that you may not have considered at first. By letting his team handle the nitty gritty of the creation of new products, Mr. Cook had time to focus on other areas, like investor relations. He even met and listened to activist investor Carl Icahn. As a result, the company has returned so much cash to investors that it has attracted other big names, like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
- Lean on data to inform your decisions. It might seem like a small change, but having evidence that a certain product or approach works best can mean the difference between a lot of work and a small payoff and a lot of work and a big payoff. He is methodical in his approach to develop new offerings. For him, small but carefully considered steps are what bring the company to its goal. He assesses new product ideas with caution. This brings us to our next small tweak.
- Look at what products to add to your existing products or services. One observer tells WSJ that for Apple, “incremental is revolutionary.” Mr. Cook has built a fortress around the iPhone. He’s launched the Apple Watch, AirPods, and the subscription services to surround it. He’s built the fortress one small piece at a time, showing the power of owning your own niche with excellent products that speak for themselves. Not that every product will be a success.
- Be calm and learn from criticisms. Insiders said Mr. Cook was “not rattled” when criticism immerged about Apple Music and Apple TV+ after their respective launches. Instead, he stuck to his calculation that the services will gain a subscriber base over time. The Apple team also overhauled Apple Music and added more and more content to TV+ to address the criticism.
- Understand when to be a good manager and when to be a good leader. Dr. Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University, Mr. Cook’s alma mater, said that management works with logistics, like moving a team from point to point, WSJ said. Leadership is moving a group to somewhere never thought possible. Leaders must know how to keep their teams running smoothly, as well as how to make them reach new heights. Sometimes, doing the simple tweak makes all the difference. What are some small tweaks you can adjust that might have a big impact?