If I’d stayed at Apple, I’d never be an entrepreneur

I “should have” practised more yoga and I “could have” started when I was younger. “Could have”, “would have” and “should have” are all statements of regret, and not ones that I tend to use. So, I rarely look back.

But when I do reflect on what life might have been like if I had not left my job at Apple, I can see that leaving the corporate world was a great move for me.

Painting the picture, retrospectively 

I was a marketing manager at Apple Australia in the early 1990s (way back when, last century!). I remember celebrating Apple’s 10-year anniversary at the Sydney Opera House with my colleagues. In fact, I still have the 10-year celebration coffee table book, which documented the timeline and significant moments of the first 10 years.

John Sculley was the CEO when I joined Apple but he left during the time that I worked there. He was famous for his publicised “biggest” corporate salary ever and his showdown in the boardroom with Steve Jobs during his tenure (which caused Steve to leave the company he founded). Mike Spindler had taken the helm of the global operation.

Apple was at an interesting moment in history — it had started to license its operating system to hardware suppliers, it had shipped a handheld device called Newton (which touted handwriting recognition), and for all intents and purposes, the business model and range looked very similar to those of its competitors. Market share was dropping, margins were shrinking, and the marketing had become uninspiring.

Apple had completely strayed from the original vision created by Steve. In 1987 (two years after Steve was ousted by the board), John Sculley set aside a $60K (a lot of money then) budget to produce the video Knowledge Navigator. Those at Apple at the time told me it was his way of trying to align the team to the last of Steve’s vision. Maybe someone can clarify that for me. But, if you take a few minutes to look at this video you will see that everything in this futuristic video has now manifested itself into reality.

The bigger and clearer your dream, the bigger and clearer other people understand it and are likely to support it.

Looking back

When I left Apple I wondered where it was going and what its purpose was. I didn’t think it had a future… as what the organisation was doing was so far from this vision. I have a few old colleagues still at Apple, and how different it is now!

Steve Jobs returned to the helm in 1997, after spending 12 years growing, learning, creating and discovering… and what a difference his return made.

If I had have stayed at Apple I would be working for the top-ranking tech company in the world, which has created technology that has modified the way we live our lives. There are many others now in the space doing amazing things that we could not have even dreamed up back in the 90’s.

(Financially if I had kept the Apple stock options I was issued as an employee, my finances would be slightly different too.)

Alas, if I had stayed at Apple, I never would have done my own thing.

I wouldn’t have created an organisation that supports thousands of small businesses across Australia and New Zealand.

RedBalloon wouldn’t have been a ‘best employer’, a leading Australian brand or a great tech success story.

I’m grateful for my Apple experience. I learned about brands and distribution; I learned about customer experience and employee engagement, and I learned to dream. With my knowledge gained over that time I created an online course “Building Your Business Brand” because as we know, a strong brand is vital in this marketplace.
I left Apple because I didn’t see a career for myself there. And despite everything Apple has achieved since I left, I am still glad for the choice I made and for the road I chose to travel.

Grow & Scale Your Business by Naomi Simson

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