Steve Jobs is one of the few people who became a worldwide legend during his lifetime. His death, naturally, has many wondering what will happen to Apple, the company that he co-founded and led for so long. For many people, Steve Jobs was Apple. He filled many roles at the company, including visionary, supreme marketer, demanding taskmaster, innovator, and unsurpassed strategist. In fact, Jobs has been called this generation’s Thomas Edison. Like Edison, he was one of those rare individuals who changed the everyday lives of much of the world’s population. What will happen to Apple without such a man?
The answer is that Apple will be just fine. It’s a lot more than just one man. In fact, in terms of market capitalization, it’s the world’s second largest corporation behind Exxon Mobile. Sometimes, Apple even surpasses Exxon, depending on stock prices. Right now, Apple is worth about $350 billion compared to Exxon at $359 billion. Apple also has $80 billion in cash in reserve. The company’s huge cash cushion gives it room for some missteps while it adjusts to life without Steve Jobs. In addition, Apple is trading at the rather modest P/E ratio for a technology company of 12 to 1. James Altucher, a prominent tech investor, believes that Apple could become the first company in history with a market cap of $1 trillion. Analysts are skeptical of this, but many of them agree that a stock split could lead to a substantial increase in the company’s value. So, even without Jobs, Apple will remain a valuable company for years to come.
Apple also had many assets beside Steve Jobs. Tim Cook, the new CEO, has a reputation of being quite the visionary himself. He’s also a manufacturing guru and a master of managing the supply chain. In fact, while it was Jobs who roped the wild stallion, it was often Cook who put a harness on him and put him to work making money for Apple. Remember also that Johnathan Ive, the guy who oversaw the design of most of Apple’s biggest products is still with the company. So, too, are many of the other key people who made Jobs’ visions a reality. Jobs put together a dynamic team at Apple. It’s the best team in the entire tech world, and it remains in place. Considering that Apple’s strategic plan for the next three to five years is already in place, Apple’s prospects as both an innovator and cash cow seem secure for the foreseeable future.
Other companies have also had to deal with the loss of brilliant, charismatic leaders and have done just fine. As noted above, Jobs has much in common with Edison. But, Edison left General Electric and the company carried on without him. Today, it’s the world’s sixth largest company. GE also lost a dynamic, innovative leader when Jack Welch left. While the company isn’t as corporately sexy as it was during Welch’s tenure, it still rakes in $150 billion annually. Ford Motor Company remained successful after Henry Ford’s death and is still a major global automotive company. Walt Disney was the creative genius behind his company, but decades after his death, his company is bigger and more profitable than ever. Possibly the worst thing that Apple could do would be to try to emulate Jobs and try to run things as he did. Steve Jobs was an original who can’t be replaced. Apple should learn a lesson from Sony. Remember when Sony was the leader in electronic innovation with products like the Walkman? Sony’s two founders were dynamic men with unique styles. Their successors tried to run the company as the founders had and it didn’t work. Sure, Sony is still an important company, but it’s no longer an innovation leader. Apple has rivals, but it’s the innovation leader. Their rivals are simply trying to copy them, and that’s not the way to take leadership from Apple. As long as Apple remains the innovator, it will remain the leader, even without Steve Jobs.