Why Apple Can Survive Without Steve Jobs
Few, if any, companies publish succession plans to the extent that Apple is being asked to.With Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs having taken his third medical leave in the last seven years, there have been numerous questions regarding the company's ability to function should this or a future illness prove terminal. For every discussion of how Apple owes its shareholders an explanation of its succession plans, there's been an equally valid argument that Jobs' personal health is nobody's business but his own. The situation at Apple presents an almost perfect case study on the importance of having a clearly identified successor. I'm hard-pressed to come up with an example of a manufacturing entity that's been as closely identified with its founder as Apple is; the only one that comes to mind is Ford Motor Company. In that case, Henry Ford dominated his company for almost half a century, to the point that he almost drove it out of business twice. The first time was due to Ford's insistence on keeping the Model T in production long after competitors such as Chevrolet had emerged. The second example was during World War II, when the company's executive dysfunction following the death of company president Edsel Ford became so apparent that Henry Ford II was granted a discharge from the U.S. Navy in order to take the reins of the family business away from his grandfather.
But Apple is not Ford Motor. For one thing, there's no Edsel or Henry II in the Jobs family to act as a replacement. For another, the companies are in completely different situations. Ford Motor during the war years was an integral part of the supply chain that was keeping the armed forces in airplanes and trucks. Apple, on the other hand, is strictly about consumer technology. The company's decision last year to abandon the Xserve underscores the commitment to mobile devices in preference to big iron.