Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Bruised Apple

Apple have made a number of cardinal errors that have combined to make a noxious cocktail in the last few weeks.

The first is in allowing too much of the value of the business over time to be vested in the CEO.

There are many other businesses, of course, that take similar risks by putting their CEO front and center at every opportunity and having he/she lead all communications with the outside world. The trouble is that when it comes to valuation, it soon becomes difficult to separate the enterprise and the leader.

It is far better for a business in the medium / long term to let people see and hear from a cross-section of talent from the leadership team.

Ultimately, this is better for the business as it mitigates investor concerns if the CEO is unwell or decides to leave the business. It is also better for customer perceptions.

In Apple's case, the issue is compounded by two factors:

First, they run what looks to many journalists like a dysfunctionally tight ship when it comes to media relations (information is hard to get, access is restricted - all acceptable in the context of a product launch of course, but it is actually a wider problem as any google search or glance at the twittersphere will confirm).

The second factor - and one where I have more sympathy is in relation to Steve Jobs' health. He values his privacy, which I respect.

However, if - as seems to be the case with Mr Jobs - you see yourself as the brand, you run external "communications" with a rod of iron and you add a deep desire for privacy to the mix - well, you're asking for trouble.

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