Tim Cook Is Just As Responsible For Apple’s Success As Steve Jobs, Says PR Guru Regis McKenna

Tim Cook Is Just As Responsible For Apple’s Success As Steve Jobs, Says PR Guru Regis McKenna

Silicon Valley marketing guru Regis McKenna is an old friend and colleague of Steve Jobs. Their history goes back to when McKenna’s firm designed the famous Apple logo back in 1977.

You know, then, that when McKenna talks about Jobs, the Apple founder gets his love and respect. Even so, McKenna says that Steve Jobs is just part of Apple’s recent success… and Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, just hasn’t gotten his fair share of credit for Apple’s massive growth.

McKenna says Jobs is undoubtedly a genius, but Tim Cook hasn’t gotten his fair share of the credit for Apple’s massive growth.

“He is as responsible for Apple’s success as Steve is,” he said. But why?

In an audio interview with The American Entrepreneur radio show, McKenna argues that Apple’s success wasn’t just breakthrough products, it was building a massive, perfectly tuned logistical machine that delivered those products in their millions all over the world.

Apple is a huge business, McKenna said, and requires a lot of planning. “Selling iPads and iPhones in such vast quantities, they need to have a massive logistics operation,” he said.

Prior to Cook, Apple was a logistical disaster. Logistical forecasting at Apple was akin to “holding a finger up to the wind,” McKenna said.

Apple’s massive machinery was built by Cook, and as such, he deserves a lot more credit than he’s generally given.

“Tim Cook has been there for twelve, thirteen years,” said McKenna. “He is as responsible of Apple’s success as Steve is.”

But does Cook have the artistic chops to replace Jobs? McKenna said it’s hard to say because he’s been in the background for so long, working on the engine of Apple’s logistics machine But there are others in Apple’s executive lineup — primarily design chief Jony Ive — that have been nurtured and grown in Apple’s culture.

“Apple is not only a good logistics company now, but there is a creative process there that will be sustained for some time,” he said. It has momentum.

As for succeeding without Jobs, McKenna said there are lots of examples of successful companies that survived — and even thrived — without their visionary founders, such as Ford, Intel and Toyota. As long as they groomed CEOs from within the company, they were fine, but run into trouble if they go outside.

McKenna cited Hewlett-Packard as an example, which thrived after its founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard, stepped down. But as soon as they stepped outside to find leadership they foundered.

“Any entreprenial company that has a history to it is strongly dependent on the culture that evolves from its founders,” he said. “To look at HP; it has struggled with its CEOS since it went outside and changed its succession process to go outside from one that went on within.”

McKenna noted that HP traditionally had a very strong corporate culture — it was called ‘The HP Way’ — which sustained the company for many years after its founders left. As soon as HP went outside of the company to bring Carly Fiorina in as CEO, though, there was massive change… and massive revolt.

“[Fiorina] changed everything in dramatic fashion,” he said. “The people internally rebelled they really struggled with the culture.”

McKenna noted that another Silicon Valley giant, Intel, was fine after founder Bob Noyce stepped down; and that was because it nurtured leaders inside the company.

McKenna cited Pixar as another example. Jobs put the creative team in place and it pretty much ran without him, becoming the most successful animation studio in Hollywood. His involvement with Pixar was mostly strategic.

If McKenna’s right about this, we should only see a decline in Apple’s fortunes after Tim Cook steps down as CEO.

McKenna’s interview starts at the two hour mark. Check it out.

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  • bppump911

    Consistent with what we have heard elsewhere – Tim Cook makes sure the trains run on time.  But will he know when it is time to switch from train travel to air travel?  And will he have any clue how to design an airplane that will be loved by the public?  These are the questions left open from the departure of Steve Jobs.

  • Tcrowns

    The only questions are from people outside of Apple, I suspect that for those inside Apple it’s business as usual. Jobs has hand picked all the execs at Apple and almost all have been there since day one of his return and I would argue that they have all been involved in all the successful products that have been produced. Also everyone seems to loose site of the fact that Jobs is still at Apple and will be for some time but now in the background essentially doing what he has been doing for the last 3 or 4 years, giving guidance and fine tuning products with Jony Ive.

  • Sam

    Despite everything else… That dog is awesome.

  • lonepine

    I agree. Tim Cook might be all prose, but that’s in service to the great poetry set in motion by Steve Jobs.  Not to lionize him like the rest of the Mac boys, but really if you look at all the patents he’s on, for example, clearly his vision is on everything, from the design of desktops, mobile devices, UIs, even plugs and the glass stairs at Apple Stores.  A man of this vision is what attracts and keeps all that great talent.  

    People talk about intellectual mashups as a key to innovation: take a portable music player and its easy desktop interface, and add a phone and internet capability.  Any monkey can do a mashup.  But you need more than a mashup- you need purpose and design.  Apple’s competitors come up with new gadgets all the time, but they pale in comparison to Apple’s recent innovations in terms of design, execution and ultimately meaning.  That said, it’s very true that when you think of Pixar, you think of John Lasseter, Brad Bird, and other creative geniuses.  You think of Jobs as enabling them to do their work.  Is Apple really like that?  Even with as creative a force as Jonathan Ives, Apple’s soul seems really to be Steve Jobs.  That’s why an Apple without him, to those of us on the outside, is hard to fathom.  Maybe Jobs played a role at Apple similar to what it was at Pixar- the Chief Enabling Officer, but he just got all of the limelight.  As soon as the iPhone turns into iPhone Quadra, iPhone Centris, or the iPhone sprouts a physical keyboard; and once we get the Macbook xi and Macbook se, Macbook se2, we’ll see how true that is.

  • pixelbud

    The second and third paragraph say the same thing in the same words. And a link to the audio on the very last line would be helpful. I was looking for a video at first :)

  • bppump911

    Well-said, lonepine.

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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