The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

An Iconic Capitalist

As I read and watch the tributes to Apple’s Steve Jobs, I’m struck by how a successful, very, very profitable corporation, lead by an iconic innovator, can change the world for the better. In fact, in many ways, Jobs’ company has done more to better the human condition, provide jobs, educate the young, and establish a role model for future entrepreneurs than all the politicians and "activists" who currently criticize corporations in America.

Steve Jobs has been lionized as an innovator by virtually every writer and pundit. Yet many seem to forget that in addition to being a true visionary, he was a hard-nosed businessman and the leader of one of the most influential corporations on the planet. In fact, for a time, Apple’s market valuation exceeded that of Exxon.

Back in August of this year, The Wall Street Journal wrote this about Jobs:
… let's also acknowledge that coupled with [his] vision and the pursuit of excellence was hard-headed business strategizing. The triumph of iTunes, the App Store and the incipient Apple Cloud ushered in the era at Apple of network-esque complexity as well as the possibility of network-esque revenues. It made Mr. Jobs, despite himself, an empire builder. Success brought rivals like Google and Amazon. There came the need to anticipate moves and countermoves, the need to play defense. This was an unsung part of the Jobs C.V. in later years. And almost tactless to mention is the garish side effect: the rise of Apple to exceed Microsoft and on some days Exxon Mobil, as the world's most valuable company.

Now this was an almost inexplicable business success, a miraculous reversal of fortune of the sort that inspires banner headlines and hyperventilating on cable TV when it happens on the ball field. It was an astonishing achievement, emblematic of a man meeting his moment completely, when few men get a chance to meet their moments even partially.

Apple is an American corporate success story. And few would argue that Steve Jobs was the driving force behind that success. Jobs demonstrated how a dedicated entrepreneur can build something important—something that has set the stage for computing throughout the reminder of this century.

He made no apologies about striving for profit. He was unabashed about creating wealth for those who invested in his company. And he had few regrets about his competitive attempts to defeat his business rivals. Steve Jobs was a capitalist. He exemplified the very best of that breed. In his short life, he certainly contributed his fair share.