Apple’s First CEO Says Young Steve Jobs Could Be Trusted With Detail, But Not With A Staff

Apple’s First CEO Says Young Steve Jobs Could Be Trusted With Detail, But Not With A Staff

Apple’s first CEO wasn’t Steve Jobs, but rather Michael Scott, who ran the company from February in 1977 to March 1981. Installed by Apple’s first backer Mike Markkula because Jobs and Steve Wozniak couldn’t be trusted to run the company, Scott has a unique view of Jobs in his youth: a hot head who ignored people and talent in favor of an anal-retentive attention to aesthetic detail.

You’ll want to read all of Business Insider‘s incredible interview with Michael Scott, but this anecdote about Steve Jobs’ attention to detail is fascinating:

[Steve Jobs] was maybe more particular [then than he is now]. The Apple II case came, it had a beige and a green, so for all the standard colors of beige available in the world, of which there are thousands, none was exactly proper for him. So we actually had to create “Apple beige” and get that registered.

I stayed out of it but for weeks, maybe almost six weeks, the original Apple II case, Jobs wanted a rounded edge on it so it didn’t have a hard feel. They spent weeks and weeks arguing exactly how rounded it would be. So that attention to detail is what Steve is known for, but it also is his weakness because he pays attention to the detail of the product, but not to the people.

Scott continues to say he has no idea of what Jobs’ management style is now, but during his tenure as CEO, Steve Jobs couldn’t have a staff, because he wouldn’t actually supervise them, or give them reviews, or get them raises or health insurance. He’d just yell at them.

Obviously, even if Jobs hasn’t mellowed with age, he’s at least taken Scott’s advice and made a habit of growing the people and talent he needs for Apple to succeed, not just the products. If Scott is to be believed, though, it took almost twenty years for Jobs to get there, though.

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  • OS2toMAC

    Must have been quite a step down when he moved on to Dunder-Mifflin.

  • Dae6

    He could live under his desk in a dark cold office for all I care as long as he keeps pumping out the hits!!

  • CharliK

    From what I have heard, Jobs has not toned down. 

    Apple bought a freaking quarry in Italy because he wanted all the stone floors to be exactly the same. He demands that every store is 100% compliant to the visual layout the company gives and has a whole huge office tasked with creating that layout and rules for everything down to what they use to tape down the cables under the table. 

    I heard a story once that he had all the railings in a new store replaced a week before the opening (The Sydney store I believe it was) because the railings had been polished the wrong way. 

  • Alexander530

    Now if only he can be more keen on light bleeding on the ipads :)

  • stevewoz

    Mike Markkula was our original mentor and company organizer. Steve Jobs was anxious to learn that role and presented his ideas openly about everything. Steve and I interviewed Markkula’s friend Mike Scott and were impressed by his openness to new thinking and quality. Mike Scott insured that we published as much as we could about our hardware and software and many learned from it. The world never knew how important Mike Scott was, but he was our CEO (President) from the start until we went public, and beyond.

  • 3jw

    i’m just like steve jobs :/

  • DrM47145

    Fact is Michael Scott is… who is he? I mean who is he now besides being able to say he was Apple’s first CEO by accident…

    And on the other hand, Steve Jobs is…? Just the most successful and respected CEO on earth. One who’s vision is just unmatched.

    I would say “shhhh….” . 

    Let Steve Jobs do his job, for he’s clearly doing it pretty well. As for the rest, the excipient in history, let them talk and dream of what they could have been.

  • cheesy11

    guess he can handle staff now

  • mjselvig

    So that’s what he did before he started selling paper.

  • Jay Floyd

    I used to love Jobs.  Now I just see him as an abusive wank.  All that hostility has to take a toll on your insides — I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’….

  • cheesy11

    is steve jobs picky?

  • Mark

    In your dreams, sunshine

  • gareth edwards

    Interesting thing about Jobs is that his specific style of working with other people can either work very well or be the single most destructive force in a business. It’s a fine line, where on one side if you are a megalomanic you become hated but on the other you become respected as a man/woman of focus and vision.

    I don’t doubt that for the average person, you would find it hard to almost impossible to work with a Steve Jobs BUT, and I think this is the important part of the Apple equation, if you but other people that have very high personal standards and are happy to be driven to excel the results can be staggering.

    It’s like being in the military, the drill sergeant is a knob BUT a committed team know they need him to be the screaming, psychotic monster to drive them to be able to do what, without him they would struggle to do. Neither would do well without the other though.

  • Austin Schoepflin

    Whats funny is Michael Scott got let go from Apple for firing too many employees without consent from his partners and staff. One day he showed up, went around asking the engineers and other employees what they did for the company. If he didn’t like their response, he sent them packing. I just find it funny that he’s giving Steve Jobs grief about that way he manages and treats his employees. Fact is Steve has gotten a lot of grief throughout the years but none of that really matters, the man is a legend and a huge part of tech history.

  • Kendall Tawes

    Steve Jobs himself said he was humbled by the experience of being kicked out of Apple. An experience like that can change a person drastically and would explain why he would have been terrible as a CEO then and great as one now.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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