Steve Jobs and Lessons for Entrepreneurs (with Corollaries for Custom Artisans)
The death of Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple and the force behind the “iRevolution” (bet you’re not far from an iPod, iPhone, or iPad), is a great loss for all of us. However, Jobs was “more than just a tech-wiz,” blogger Alvina Lopez reminds us. He was also “an incredible innovator and forward-thinking entrepreneur.” She offers “4 Lessons all Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Steve Jobs,” for the readers of the business blog, theOneOfAKindPreneur.
How do these lessons relate to custom makers? Here, each one is followed by a brief summary and a connection to the world of CustomMade artisans/entrepreneurs.
“Your Career Path Doesn’t Have to be Planned Out”
Entrepreneurs are often anxious about their “career path.” Jobs never finished college, traveled to India to find himself, and rarely followed a linear career trajectory.
Custom artisans have varied backgrounds and sometimes circuitous personal journeys that they bring to bear on their craft. As discussed in a previous blog post on the new wave of Neo-traditionalist artisans, more people are leaving behind 9-to-5 career paths to pursue their calling in custom artisanal production. For example, CustomMade furniture maker Quentin Kelley of Infusion Furniture pursued a career in international development before embracing fulltime the woodworking muse that had always appealed to him. Like its creator, this stylish transformer table can make adjustments. It can be used as a console or a dining table due to its removable 3-part tabletop. Contact Quentin to commission your own multipurpose custom tables.
“Presentation of the Product is Just as Important as Quality of the Product”
Although there are smart phones on the market that can do more than the iPhone, Apple products trump their competitors in both design and overall user experience.
At first blush, the idea that presentation is equal to quality seems like a hard sell to craftspeople who invest considerable labor, time, and pride in creating quality custom work. However, the relationship between custom artisans and their customers is different than the relationship between most manufacturers and consumers. The design of a custom project is developed in consultation with the customer, and the anticipated user experience is vital to that design. The custom corollary to this lesson is that while there may be less expensive items more easily available on the retail market, custom work trumps these products in both design and overall user experience.
Have you ever heard of anyone removing the newel post finials from a stairway in their house before a move so they could continue to enjoy them in their new home? The customer who commissioned these hand-carved oak newel post finials from Joel Shepard Furniture did just that. Each head represented a dream archetype and a specific person: the lion stood for the customer, a psychologist; the bull elephant stood for her husband; and the grizzly bear stood for Joel Shepard himself, who carved these magnificent likenesses “after weeks of studying live critters to catch nuances of expression and muscle movement.” Contact Joel and let him know what kind of animal you are and what kind of animal you think he is. You, too, can have hand-carved wood fixtures rich with personality custom made for your home.
“Failure is Necessary for Success”
Jobs was fired from the company he created in 1985. He moved on to other successful ventures before he was reinstated as CEO of Apple in 1996 and ushered in Apple’s phenomenal recent wave of successes.
Sometimes the custom artisan/customer relationship doesn’t go so swimmingly. Visions and expectations may clash or change. A sudden case of cold feet can lead a client to reject a piece even after construction has begun, which can mean both lost revenue and time for the artisan. Is that a total waste? Not necessarily. If the artisan’s vision remains, the material may be reworked or reimagined in a new project. These bamboo panels by Acorn Fabrication came from a headboard that had been rejected by a client. “Instead of tossing them in the landfill,” the artisan thought he “could give them a second life. The design is loosely based on a cascading bonsai tree that I pieced together from several different cedar trees.” These panels look beautiful and appreciated in their new commercial space setting.
“Do What You Love”
Hackneyed? Yes. However, this obvious bit of advice is notoriously hard to follow. Jobs relentlessly pursued his passions. To succeed, don’t focus on success. “Focus on your passion, and success will follow you.”
Where will your passion take you? Where will success find you?
David Kreider of Kreider Art Galleries has a CustomMade portfolio of stunning pyrographic works of art and also accepts commissions for custom artwork and embellishments for wood objet d’art and fine furniture. He has also added a new kind of project to his repertoire. He writes:
More recently, I have taken to collaborative arts in stained glass for trauma healing and transformation and would be happy to work with individuals or groups on projects giving expression to personal journeys in recovery. I have been certified to conduct Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) workshops by the Practice Institute of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in Harrisonburg, Virginia and would be happy to undertake a collaborative arts-based project with anyone interested in this kind of work. Projects would result in a work in stained glass memorializing the experience.
CustomMade artisans: what lessons or inspiration do you draw from the life and work of Steve Jobs? Please share your thoughts and comments.