What can accountants learn from Steve Jobs?

With the recent passing of Steve Jobs it made me think; what could accountants learn from this man? Here was a man who managed to create a brand where people bought the products and they weren’t even sure why – they were just the “must have” product. Here was a man who came to the helm of a dying company and transformed it in the powerhouse it is today.

Here was a man who reinvented the music industry, the movie industry and of course the IT industry. Shame he didn’t focus his attention on the accounting industry!

So what can we learn from this man?

Firstly, he was a multiplier. A multiplier is someone who can unlock and enhance the intelligence of the people around them. The opposite is a ‘diminisher’ or someone that reduces the intellectual firepower of people around them (See Multipliers by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown). Steve Jobs seems to have done this by a combination of driving his people to take risks combined with his own passion, drive, vision that inflected those around him. He was very tough on his people apparently but the talented ones stayed to be part of Job’s vision and creativity.

Steve Jobs took risks. Big risks. Here was a company that was on its knees and he decided to take on the portable music market where Sony had a virtual monopoly. Where is Sony today, the inventor of portable music, in the portable music market? What sort of risks are you willing to take? The accounting industry is characterised by the vast majority of firms doing exactly the same thing, engaging with their clients in the same way and producing the same output. Have you thought about engaging with your clients in a different way? Have you thought about producing different reports and delivering them in a different way? Have you thought about specialising in something unique and dominating that market?

Steve Jobs didn’t trust customers to know what they want. He didn’t believe in market research. He trusted his instincts, his intuition. Often people don’t know what they want until they touch it, see it, see others with it. When framing your services I suggest that you shouldn’t spend too much time asking your clients about the services they want. Spend time to understand their issues and concerns and then get with your team and innovate. What could be a service that could be a game changer? How could we deliver our traditional services differently? Can technology change the nature of our industry? Can you lead the way?

There’s some much more we could learn from Steve Jobs. Read the books, watch the inevitable movie but when doing so ponder… could I or one of my innovative youngsters do this in my industry? Let’s have a team day and find out.