Back in 2009, Tim Cook stepped up to fill in for Steve Jobs at Apple during what everyone assumed would be a single medical leave of absence. The temporary stint turned into a permanent position starting in 2011, and now, almost 10 years later, Cook is thriving as the tech company’s CEO while carving out a significant legacy for himself. But when you’re following in the shadow of one of the greatest technology giants the world has ever seen, how do you warrant bringing about so much change to the monolithic corporation he left behind, let alone make sure changes are positive? It all comes down to a rather simple business philosophy: Don’t try to be Steve.
This is in no way a snub. In fact, after Jobs brought Cook into the Apple fold during his campaign to return profitability to the company in 1996, the two made a formidable team. Cook’s deviation from the previous mold has its roots in something we all learned in pre-K: “The only person I can be is the person I am.” As Cook once said in an interview with Charlie Rose, “I’ve tried to be the best Tim Cook I can be.” As contentious as his first couple of years at Apple’s helm may have been, it appears that Cook has succeeded in not only sticking to who he is, but also making sure the company has grown in a way that demonstrates his ideals too. So, what does the world of Apple look like today? It follows a little something called the Cook Doctrine.
Originally outlined in his very first quarterly earnings callback in 2009, Cook was praised for having a keen grasp on the “DNA” of Apple. In its most boiled-down version, this Cook Doctrine affirmed that excellence, simplicity, control, collaboration, and selectivity stood as the core pillars upon which Apple functioned. Cook also included this gem: “We have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.” In the past few years of Apple’s output as a business, we’ve seen just that.
Cook has taken incredible strides to make Apple a company deserving of its fandom. Through Cook’s influence, Apple has made it a priority to become more transparent about major functions while still keeping their trademark production secrecy. Cook is somewhat notorious for saying, “I don’t think about the bloody ROI.” He, and subsequently Apple, have taken a hard stance that the top priority is improving the world, not just profitability, and has become an environmental and charitable leader in the business world. Cook has integrated another value into their business model that “regardless of their color, regardless of their religion, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of their gender … everyone deserves respect” since “inclusion inspires innovation.”
Creating Your Business Philosophy
When it comes to the work you do for your own customers, you have a specific philosophy that you likely operate with. It should come through in your product or service, but it should also come through in your marketing and the way you interact with your customers.
When creating newsletters and other marketing content, the No. 1 thing we always remind people about is to really let themselves shine through in the words they share. Establishing yourself as the expert is certainly a key, but there are lots of experts out there — what sets you apart are the unique ideas, personality, and stories that you have to share. Being adamant about this type of relationship marketing can help you define who you are, what your goals are, and build connections that matter to your customers. And that connection is what will turn them into superfans of what your business has to offer.
Whether you’re the successor to a long tradition or you’ve struck out on your own, it’s important to ask yourself who you are trying to be. Even if it might feel silly, take a moment to ask yourself out loud: “Am I being the best version of myself, or am I chasing a mold that doesn’t fit with who I am?” Develop your own doctrine, unleash it on your customers and your team, and truly take hold of your company’s DNA.