Tim Cook was from small-town Alabama with a great career for the top personal computer brand at the time when Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered him a job.
His friends thought he would be nuts to take it.
“It was just minutes into talking to him when I decided I want to do it,” Cook recalled during a wide-ranging interview on The David Rubenstein Show: Peer to Peer. “There was a sparkle in his eye I had never seen before in a CEO. He was turning left when everyone else was turning right.
“The conventional wisdom was that I was working for the top personal computer maker (Compaq) in the world. Why would you leave? You’ve got a great career ahead. It wasn’t the kind of decision you could sit down doing the engineering analysis saying ‘Here are the pluses and here are the minuses’ because that analysis would always say ‘Stay put.’ It was this voice in your head that said, ‘go west young man, go west.’ It may be the best decision of my life.”
Don’t expect to hear about new devices in Apple’s production line. This sit-down interview didn’t offer much news. Apple’s philosophy on public comments is not to make any.
So anything Cook says publicly offers interesting tidbits about Apple work culture and the values from its top executives.
Cook characterizes the scrutiny Apple gets during quarterly earnings as a “bizarre” that the reports mean nothing to the long-term existence of the company. That Apple’s cash value has skyrocketed during Cook’s tenure is “not even in my orbit.”
“We view the stock price, revenues and profits as a result of doing things right on the innovation side, on the creativity side, focusing on the right products and treating customers like they are jewel,” he said. “We run Apple for the long term so it has always struck me as bizarre that there is a fixation on how many units are sold in a 90-day period. We don’t run the company for people who want to make a quick buck.”
Below are some of the nuggets from the Rubenstein interview, which included privacy, his recent meetings with President Donald Trump, how Apple is spending its cash and whether he has thought about running for president.
On working for the oft-described mercurial Jobs: “I found it to be liberating. You could kind of talk to Steve about something very big and if it resonated with him, he would just say OK and you could do it. It was like a total revelation for me that a company could run like this because I was used to these layers of buracracy and studies…Apple was totally different. I realized that if I couldn’t get something done, I could just go to the nearest mirror and look at it and that was the reason.”
What he told Trump regarding tariffs and possible immigration changes for DREAMers: “I talked about trade and the importance of trade and how I felt that two countries trading together make the pie larger and that, it’s true, I think undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from that in either country and we’ve got to work on that, but I felt that tariffs were not the right approach there and I showed him some more analytical kinds of thing to demonstrate why. We also talked about immigration and the importance of fixing the “Dreamer” issue now. You know we’re only one court ruling away from a catastrophic case there.”
An eventual run for president?: “I’m not political… I love focusing on the policy stuff, but… I think I can make a bigger difference in the world doing what I’m doing… You’d love to be President, but not ever run and that should never happen in our country and that kind of eliminates me.”
On Apple’s growth: “We’re going to create a new site, a new campus, within the United States. We’re going to hire 20,000 people and we’re going to spend $30 billion in CapEx over the next several years…We’re investing and we’re investing a ton in this country. We’re also going to buy some of our stock because we view our stock as a good value.”
On ego and remaining modest and self-effacing: ”When you work with Apple there is a high expectation on everyone to perform. Because of that high bar, we never quite get there, including. Including the CEO. “If I ever (got a big ego), it wouldn’t be for very long.”
The interview can be found on Bloomberg’s video channel.