Cultural Revolution at Apple: Lessons for SMEs

Marketplace Interview:

This Marketplace interview is relevant to the tricky issues surrounding the transformation of business culture of SME's. Since the death of Steve Jobs, Apple has been struggling with transitioning its corporate culture into a post Jobs era. 

SME’s whose business brand and culture is often associated with the founders personality and ego creates transition problems when the founder leaves or refuses to alter the business model due to the inability or reluctance to change themselves. 
Apple has been phenomenally successful, and continues to be due in large measure to the culture of product and marketing innovation Jobs created. Apple remains incredibly profitable. It has a portfolio of “insanely great, world changing products”, a loyal client base and a healthy product pipeline. So some may ask, why make changes if it ain’t broken? 
Well in a sense Apple already is broken. Apple’s products and marketing panache has always been identified with Steve Jobs. In the public mind the Apple brand is synonymous with Steve Jobs. Jobs’ demise immediately decoupled Apple from his earthly presence and future managerial control. 
Though his entrepreneurial drive and spirit of innovation continues to be central to the Apple ethos, over time his absence diminishes its influence as market conditions forces changes on the company. 
I see this pattern often repeated in my work with SMEs. Beth Wood, from Mass Mutual put it well when describing family owned businesses "often steeped in tradition and not as flexible to change, tend not to have formal plans in place to respond to crisis. When confronted with challenges they just can't react fast enough.” 
Ms. Wood makes an interesting observation about the importance of business agility. The need to assess the rapidly changing market dynamics is a critical exercise that SMEs must undertake. Business as usual will not get it done. SMEs must begin to transform to better align its business model to rapidly changing markets. 
Family owned businesses or company cultures closely associated with a “cult of the principals personality” have difficulty overcoming the gravity of generational culture that inhibit and resist change.  SMEs will survive and thrive if they can identify and adapt to the emerging opportunities current business cycle create. 
A challenge for older SME's is to encourage cultures of innovation that fortify the will and resourcefulness to promote change. These qualities are key ingredients for sustainability and growth. Business as usual is giving way to a "New Normal," where adaptability to structural market changes drive asset appreciation and wealth creation. 
We honor the contributions and virtues of visionary business leaders like Steve Jobs. But we cannot afford to make them sterile icons that chain us to the nostalgia of the past. 
Get risk aware with our business assessment apps on Google Play. All of our Mobile Office apps run on MS Office and Android. Our apps help SME’s assess risk factors to profit from the opportunities shifting markets present. 
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risk: transition, exit strategies, change management, innovation, sustainability, sme
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