Industry profile: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

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By Larry Banks



Tim Cook - Apple CEO (JPG)

Tim Cook means business. As CEO of the most successful tech company in the world, he has come a long way since his formative years growing up in Auburn, Alabama. Likewise, Apple (NYSE: AAPL) is a very different company to the one that Steve Jobs found when he returned to the CEO role in 1997.

As COO back in 2007, Cook was known as an expert in supply chain management and helped the company, largely behind the scenes, manage the complex web of Asian suppliers who make the parts found in most of the company’s hit products like the iPhone and Mac.

Tim Cook’s persona

He is undoubtedly a workaholic. Waking at 4 am each day, he spends hours emailing before hitting the gym, and is widely regarded as an obsessive who sticks to a punishing routine. Unsurprisingly, until recently not much was known about Cook, who preferred to stay in the background until he was thrust into the limelight as the company’s new CEO.

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On first appearances, he appears to be the opposite of Jobs – quiet, calm, collected and rational. He is softly spoken yet persuasive, preferring to win people over rather than bully them into submission.

You can only do so many things great, and you should cast aside everything else – Tim Cook.

Jobs was known to lose his temper and showed little patience for those who did not seek perfection, whereas Cook is steely-eyed, calm and collected.

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An article in Business Insider last year described observations of Cook by Yukari Iwatani Kane (a Wall Street Journal reporter), who said “Cook also knew the power of silence. He could do more with a pause than Jobs ever could with an epithet. When someone was unable to answer a question, Cook would sit without a word while people stared at the table and shifted in their seats”.

Kane’s book, “Haunted Empire: Apple after Steve Jobs”, also had many more revelations about Cook:

  • He had an “inhuman” level of stamina
  • He wakes up every day at 4-5 am. He works out then heads to the office. He eats protein bars all day and has simple meals such as chicken and rice
  • His hobbies include rock climbing and mountain biking
  • He’s generous. He volunteers at soup kitchens, he gives away frequent flier miles as presents, and he’s participated in bike rides to raise money for charity
  • Cook values “collegiality and teamwork” in comparison to Jobs who “reveled in divisiveness”

Apple reaches all-time highs

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As CEO, Cook has suffered intense criticism from the press, investors (like Carl Icahn) and even Apple fans. As for the comparison with Jobs, there has been speculation whether Cook can take Apple forward with radical new products that will drive growth.

As long as people invent their own stuff, I love competition – Tim Cook

Under Cook’s leadership, Apple’s share price reached an all-time high, and the company’s value ballooned to $700 billion. Furthermore, he has guided Apple to sell record numbers of the iPhone 6, the single largest contributor to the company’s revenue.

A watershed moment in terms of Cook’s credibility was at the Apple Watch announcement in September 2014. That moment proved to be his chance to show that it’s truly his Apple and that they can still innovative. It was a great moment – the “just one more thing” line cemented his leadership and seemed to win over those who doubted he was right for the job.

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Cook also has immense support inside Apple. UBS Evidence Lab recently polled employees at the largest tech firms to evaluate their workplace. UBS found that Apple was the leader amongst companies surveyed, and took first place in every category.

Apple itself has undergone dozens of changes reflecting Cook’s management style and beliefs. For example, more transparency surrounding Apple’s environmental program, supplier responsibility efforts, and increased openness with the media. His approachable style was demonstrated when Apple launched its own Maps app – many considered it a sub-par offering compared with Google Maps, but Cook issued a rapid apology and management changes to oust those responsible. Would Steve Jobs have done the former?

New blood and ideas

Tim Cook deservedly won the Financial Times’ Person of the Year award in 2014. This was a clear sign that he has already confounded those who may have bet against him. The Times praised Cook’s “infusion of new blood and ideas into the company as one of the driving forces behind Apple’s big year”, in addition to implementing his own company values and priorities, changes to its financial side, and a focus on social issues as some of his biggest achievements.

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The Financial Times also noted Cook’s hiring of women in several high profile roles, such as Angela Arhendts who came onboard as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Sales). The Beats buyout was also noted, and not least the enormous success of the new iPhone 6 and the great potential of the Apple Watch.

Going into 2015

Tim Cook - Apple CEO 2Apple is certainly a different company under Tim Cook. This year should be just as important for Apple, with the launch of new products (like the Apple Watch) and major updates to the current products (a new 12-inch MacBook Air and an iPad Pro are rumoured).

The success of the Apple Watch may be what Cook is measured on more than anything else. It’s the first product that he has overseen from the start, and a lot is at stake in terms of Apple’s reputation. It it’s successful, and particularly reaches the $1 trillion valuation this year, Cook will be regarded as a truly worthy CEO that led Apple to new highs.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos