How 12 lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki Applied to your Small Business

12 lessons to Steve Jobs

Guy Kawasaki

In this presentation Guy Kawasaki took a group of silicon valley CEO’s and gave them gold on lessons he learned from Steve Jobs.

This is a fantastic presentation on the mental attitude required to run a business, and provides some real valuable in lessons that we can all apply to our businesses.

Additional comments added to apply Guy’s comments on the problems faced by small businesses that don’t have dedicated marketing or business development resources.

Note:  I’ll walk you through this tailored Lessons Learned Process Blueprint, and give you a copy of it at no charge.  Just click here to grab your copy.

1. “Experts” are clueless

And particularly beware the self-declared “expert”.

Experts are clueless

Guy’s comment was, “….experts listened to Steve Jobs”.  Apple’s history on product development demonstrates an extreme focus on developing revolutionary products, on taking a solution where other’s couldn’t see. I believe that Guy’s point is that nobody can learn your lessons.

You have a specific area of expertise that your business is focused around, and your success will likely come from focusing on your domain knowledge.  No expert can help you with that vision, and your vision (for good or bad) must come from you.

(Pay close attention to Guy’s Lesson #9 below…and take advantage of specific discipline knowledge.)

Focusing on your expertise allows other team member to excel at theirs, and thus benefits your business objectives.

Small Business Takeaway: Your personal expertise is what will drive you company.  Seek guidance in other areas of your business.

2. Customers cannot tell you what they need

They can help with evolution, but not revolution.


Customers don't know

This point is excellent, and applies to virtually every business.  Your customers are trying to solve a problem.  It may be the problem your product or services were designed to solve, but in most cases there are slight differences.  Customer want extra features, integration, add-on’s, and other similar evolutionary pieces.

Pay attention to what your customers are asking and providing feedback against, and work to understand the problem they are trying to solve.

Building from the base of the problem that they are trying to solve, and how they are trying to solve it provides context.

The skill comes from recognizing that opportunity for your business to bring value to your customers, and increase your products and service offerings; evolutionary or revolutionary.

Small Business Takeaway: Focus on understanding what problems your customers are trying to solve.

3. Biggest challenges beget the best work

customer pain points

Many organizations expect the minimum, and shouldn’t be surprised when that achieve that goal.  How are you challenging yourself, and your staff?  If you set the bar low it’s difficult to achieve greatness.

Remember the energy you had when working on a difficult task?  How about on the weekly status report?

Not exactly the same level of engagement with your team or yourself.

Stretch! Give your staff the hardest problems that need to be solved, and equip them to succeed.  You’ll benefit from the best work your team can provide!

Small Business Takeaway: Challenge your team to bigger projects.

4.  Design counts

What a user sees (actually experiences) is the product for most people.

design matters

Guy relates that Steve Jobs was able to understand what people wanted before they could articulate it.  This was reflected in the revolutionary design in many Apple products.

Apply the user experience in your business.  Regardless of what business you operate in, a positive user experience, one that is different from others in your market, will win you a significant number of customers.

Small Business Takeaway:  Pay attention to the “design” of your user experience!

5. Big graphics, big fonts


graphics and fonts

This point was focused on presenting our ideas.  We overcomplicate presentations by cramming too much material into a small space. 8pt font on a presentation is bad, on a brochure it’s worse.

What size font are you using on your presentations?  Make it bigger (60 font anyone?), and use the slides as a guide.

Small Business Takeaway:  Whatever messages are you delivering to you customers…..SIMPLIFY THEM!

6.  Jump curves, not better sameness

Do things 10 times better, not 10 percent!


jump curves

Are you trying to change the world?  If you are, then to succeed you must “jump curves”.

However, most of us (myself included) do not operate in the “revolutionary” space.  We provide products and services for our customers and clients to help, support, make live better, pain free, or just plan keep the machinery of life moving.

The challenge for us is to find an element of our business that can “jump curves”.  THAT….would provide you a unique selling proposition that would stand out in any market.

Being satisfied with incremental improvement is the easy way out.

Small Business Takeaway:  New approaches for your business provide new channels to expand your market.

7.  All that truly matters is whether something works or doesn’t work

works or doesn't

Evolve, change, and ensure that what you deliver works.  Jargon of the “moment” doesn’t really matter.  If your product or service “works”, then you have a platform to build upon.

A rigid approach to a single methodology will limit your product or service options.  Keep evolving, use new channels, embrace the reality that if your product or service is static you are losing ground to your competition.  (Or, the new business that you haven’t heard of yet!)

Small Business Takeaway: Keep adding products or services to your offering(s).   

8. “Value” is different from “price”

value not price

There are people who care about value vs. price.  Apple has built the largest company in the world by building value into their product.  Put another way, people are willing to pay more for “value”.

What “value” is your business bringing to your customers?

Competing on price is very difficult business to operate, grow, or sustain.

Here is the traditional 2×2 matrix that Guy discussed:

2x2 matric

Your objective is to create a unique and valuable product or service!

If you’re Unique and Valuable (Block 2), you are in the ideal location and people will pay more for your product or service.

If you’re Valuable and Not Unique (Block 4), you must compete on price.

Unique and Not Valuable (Block 1), you are in a bad business location.  You may be passionate about it, but no-one will pay for your product or service.

If you’re Not Unique and Not Valuable (Block 3), this is the worst place to be.  The analogy Guy used was the bubble. Unworkable business models that were being duplicated because, hey everyone’s getting rich on the Internet!

Work both axis well, and your business will be in the idea position to deliver value and a price point that is good for you and your business.

Small Business Takeaway:  Work on adding value to every aspect of your business!

9.  A players hire A players (or even A+ players)


"A" Players

As a business owner, you need to have the confidence to hire A players.  You should be proud of hiring somebody better than you!

A great qute from Guy, “Fight the bozo explosion”:  B players hire C players, C players hire D players, etc. The spiral continues so they can avoid others getting ahead of them.

One of the best points that Guy made during his speech:

  • Finance isn’t easy
  • Sales isn’t easy
  • Marketing isn’t easy
  • Operations isn’t easy
  • Engineering isn’t easy

Hire A players in these spaces, and set them up to succeed.  Great CEO’s know to hire A players in their functional leads, as nobody is an A player in everything.

Small Business Takeaway:  Capture and leverage A players in supporting verticals to help grow your business.

10. Real CEOs can demo.


CEO's demo

Guy was pretty blunt on this, “If you can’t demo your own product, then quit”.  As the owner, you should be able to demo your product or service.

If the CEO of the largest corporate in the world is performing demo’s, I’m not sure what my excuse would be!

In the small business world this is common.  The CEO is leading from the front, and the team will follow.  It builds confidence, and sets a fantastic example.

One of the principles that I take from this is, when the CEO is willing to participate within customer facing efforts brings everyone’s effort and motivation to the front.

Small Business Takeaway: The boss must be fluent, and be able to operate the company’s products.

11. Real entrepreneurs ship, not slip.

Ship don't slip

You cannot wait on the perfect product.  The first version of a “revolutionary” product will have elements that are “crappy”.  Ship it anyway!  (This is different than shipping a crappy product!)

As the CEO if you are not accountable to the deadlines that are created, that attitude will permeate the company.  Products are not going to be perfect (EVER!), so make the deadlines and ship your product.

For service businesses, look at your business in short cycles, rather than 1 long continuous service.  Find deadlines or milestones that align with your customers different uses, then “ship” and create that urgency to use your service.

Small Business Takeaway: Delivery your products when you say…no excuses.

12. Some things need to be believed to be seen.

Guy’s final lesson that he learned from Steve Jobs:

believed not seen

If you don’t believe, need proof, or require customer validation…it won’t be seen.

Your vision is unique to you.

What your company will look like is up to you, and how you bring it to life.

Small Business Takeaway:  Embrace your vision, communicate it, and believe!

Want to watch the whole video from Guy Kawasaki’s presentation on the 12 Lessons he learned from Steve Jobs:

Note: the 12 Lessons are covered in the first 28 minutes, with the rest being Q&A.

Did you enjoy this easy tutorial on how to apply the 12 lessons Steve Jobs taught Guy Kawasaki to your small business? Let me know what your thoughts are on this video here. Do you have any other lessons learned that you’d like to share?

That’s why I created this site, I want people to be more in touch with other entrepreneurs and realize that there’s a lot of things that we can learn from one another.  I’d love to hear from you and create a community of business building enthusiasts where any execution blueprint is just a click away.

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