By Gaurang Donovan
Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook gave a commencement speech as his alma mater Auburn [Georgia] University on 14 May. It received a modicum of media coverage but that is not totally unexpected given how Apple is often covered in the past.
The coverage was hardly on par to what other current public appearances of other much smaller or less successful companies’ executive leadership receive at times. But Cook’s commencement speech reiterates much of what has been practiced quietly at Apple to achieve such a successful comeback over the last 13 years or so and it does provide me with even more confidence that Apple’s leadership team is still very well grounded in what it is trying to achieve. Just keep doing it.
You can view the speech as an iTunes U podcast or YouTube video.
While it was a commencement speech and uplifting in nature, it was still encouraging and refreshing to see Cook’s state his priorities of family and hometown support, dedication to entering higher education, the importance of preparation, learning from failure, practicing hard work and “attending to every detail”.
There are now more than enough stories coverage of Cook in the last decade to realize his actions in his job have supported those expressed values of his delivered commencement speech despite the missing media spotlight. It is a boring story to cover – engineer, head down, hard work, attend to the details, every detail. And those few public and quotable leaders of Apple seldom wear a tie or business suit. Almost never. (I am sure I saw a photo featuring European Commissioner Ms. Kroes and Apple’s Eddy Cue dressed in a suit and tie no so very long ago.)
The executive Apple leadership is top-notch and world-class but hardly recognized for the achievements under their tenure in business or technology media coverage. Why? I believe it is because they don’t take up every speaking or interview engagement and thus eliminate opportunities of self-promotion. They speak of their company’s results or saleable products in financial conference calls and product announcements and work the rest of the time.
The individuals making up the Apple executive leadership spend their time running a company, attending details, building very good products with a level of unsurpassed support among its customers and not putting on makeup for the video cameras.
Meanwhile they are achieving some of the best corporate results in recorded business history and should be recognised for it. The speed of the build-up of some of the highest corporate cash reserves levels (I have written several articles here in the past of this) earns them that distinction alone without even considering the dissection of individual products they handle.
Just how do you explain the impressive $42 billion in cash reserves that Peter Oppenheimer, Chief Financial Officer reported on last quarter? Up from $29 billion a year previously? I wonder what other company had sizeable build-up in cash reserves in that order of magnitude? And all signs are indicating that trend is continuing.
As a result of this hard work effort and “attending to every detail”, Apple leadership have earned a corporate brand loyalty second to none. And this is especially true since Tim Cook joined them in 1998.
The international launch of the iPad this weekend reflects that user loyalty as thousands again waited in line or at their front door for an entirely new experience brought to them by hard work, the iPad and Apple. Estimates of 500,000 to 900,000 units for delivery this weekend have been written about. No matter what the real number turns out to be, one can conclude there was a frenzy, there are shortages at present with demand outstripping supply, this wild demand for a consumer product is occurring in May, not a shopping or religious holiday anywhere they have launched, and this was in only nine new countries after a such a successful single country launch in the US in April. They were forced to delay the first of an expanded international product launch.
I am thinking the next nine countries scheduled for launch “in July” will likely have to wait until the last weekend of that month as supply is so constrained now and given it will take some time to build up the production and supply to support that expansion of the international launch. There are many a corporate leadership wishing they had that kind of overwhelming success of a product launch supply problem to deal with instead of facing overcapacity and high inventories.
The chief officers of Apple have done an excellent job executing their business since Steve Jobs’ return to the company. Despite their few public speaking engagements, their repeated stated goals in developing and making the best of a certain product at affordable prices are being achieved. Others may speak of it, but Apple leadership is doing it. Time and again, quarter after quarter.
May this leadership remain very focused on their work, keep their feet on sound ground and know and acknowledge the support of thousands on their teams below them in the corporation as they strive toward achieving those lofty goals. I can’t hardly wait to hear of technology and product developments during WWDC in a week’s time nor given we are just past the halfway mark for the financial quarter, to hear CFO Peter Oppenheimer say those precious financial success comparative measurement words in the next financial results conference call in August, “Turning to cash,…”
War Eagle Tim Cook. Keep up the hard work.
(Columnist Gaurang Donovan is an Australian “mystery man” who wishes to keep his identify secret for personal and business reasons)