When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after being fired, he had his work cut out for him.
During the final quarter of 1996, Apple’s sales had plummeted by 30%. They were in big trouble.
What did he do? Famously, he made cuts. He laid off over 3,000 people.
But more importantly, he cut back Apple’s hardware and software products by 70%, leaving just four products: one desktop and one portable device for each of the consumer and corporate markets.
Why did he do this? There are lots of reasons that I won’t get into nor do I have the expertise to comment on all of them.
But importantly—perhaps even philosophically, strategically, or practically, depending on who you ask—he did it to take back control. He needed to have only products on which he and the rest of Apple could focus to make them exceptional.
Many of us run complex businesses. We have long lists of products and services. A lot of moving parts. Operationally, it’s a lot to manage.
We have websites that grow into behemoths, and more marketing and communications channels than we can count.
While we can’t always pare back our businesses to the point where we are back in complete domination over it, we should always be thinking about (and moving towards) closing the gap.
While that doesn’t mean we need to micro-manage our business, it does mean constantly trying to simplify what we do in order to allow the business to be clear and focused on all fronts.
Use of the word ‘dominate’
Domination is a strong word, and I use it for the sake of contrast.
I’m not talking about dominating your clients, staff, or suppliers. I’m talking about having firm control over how your business operates.
We lose this control as a business grows and our offerings become more complex, but the areas in which we no longer have a firm grasp deserves our attention.
The natural tendency is to add. Add new products, new people, new managers; always adding layers.
But if we’re not careful, our businesses will begin to run us.
This website and my services as an example
This website is an example of being very “pared back”. It started with a blank slate and only the essentials are being added on as I go.
As it continues to grow, there will be more and more pages to manage. More information to keep up to date. More work involved to maintain it.
It’s purpose-built. I have complete control over it. Even though there are likely to be a number of small mistakes, typos, and errors (I work quickly and iterate out loud), it is manageable.
And that’s how I’m looking at my business and service offering as a whole.
Under this umbrella, I offer one service with two core components: digital strategy consulting and implementation management.
This is a service that doesn’t require many client and allows me to go deep with each one.
Operational complexity is low, which means I can focus on my client work and completely own how the service is delivered to continue to making my work the best it can be.
What are you doing to take back your dominance over your business? Leave a comment below and be sure to subscribe at the bottom of this page.