Learning from the big Apple

The numbers are quite simply staggering. $18bn profit for the last quarter of 2014 – that’s roughly £1bn a week. 74.4m iPhones sold – that’s 34,000 every hour – with sales up 70% in China. I’m obviously talking about Apple, the company that sits on a cash pile of $178bn – more than we spend every year on the NHS and education.

But there’s one more stat that I’m struggling to take in. According to the truly terrifying world population clock the number of people on Planet Earth is 7.3bn. Apple sold 74.4m iPhones. That means that in the last quarter of last year 1 in every 100 people on the planet bought an iPhone. Just one product – in the last three months of the year. I’m stunned.

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The Best of Times

600600p82931EDNmainEd_Reid_imageBack from holiday and as I do every year, I’m struggling with my shoes and socks. Shorts and sandals… I get more attached to them every year.

Still, time to suit up and get back to work and as you read this I’ll be in Denver on my annual Alternative Board trip to the States. But the wonders of the age mean that the blog is back on duty and, regrettably, I must start with a confession.

I’ve never read Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. But I do like the opening:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Worst of Times – the moment when the entrepreneur realises he’s trapped by the business he built and that somewhere, somehow he needs to get help.

So it seems appropriate now I’m back to write about the Best of Times – the moment when help has arrived and you’ve finally taken the decisions you know you should have taken a long time ago.

I have to tell you, Ed, that – with the notable exception of proposing to my wife and deciding to make babies – joining TAB has been the best decision I’ve made. I arrived at a point where I was, if not disliking my business, certainly having second thoughts. And I was joining a Board that was already established. Everyone seemed a great deal more assured than me, a lot more experienced and considerably more successful – so I was nervous.

Two years on I realise that I didn’t need to be nervous – the other Board members were exactly like me with exactly the same hopes, fears and frustrations. And what I’ve gained has been immeasurable. Insight, accountability, friendship – and as everyone says, the feeling that you’re not alone.

Without doubt though the big thing was the decision to take someone else on and free myself from the day to day running of the business. I’d had cold feet about that decision for about a year – and it took the Board ten minutes to convince me. I was nervous about the financial commitment but it’s paid for itself three times over. The fact that I can spend more time with customers – and think strategically about the business – is simply invaluable.

The point mentioned in the last paragraph – being persuaded to take a decision you already know you need to take – is one echoed by Simon Hudson in his reply to the previous post. Yes, the Board is there to stop you making dreadful mistakes – but very often its most important function is to rubber-stamp a decision you’ve already ‘taken,’ but not acted on. It’s simply to say, ‘Yes, it’s the right decision. You know it’s the right decision. So just get on with it.’ To go back to Charles Dickens, it’s to inject some wisdom and move you from the ‘winter of despair’ to the ‘spring of hope.’

…And talking of winter brings me on to Christmas. I’m writing this on Thursday 21st August: there are four months and four days until Christmas and effectively 17 working weeks of the year to go.

Some of you will be basking in the knowledge that you’re going to achieve your targets for this year. Some of you may have rather more work to do. Whatever the position I want to make sure that all my Board members and readers of this blog have the best possible end to the year and that they’re in great shape for 2015.

Next week I’ll be looking at what we all need to do in the time leading up to Friday December 19th – the day on which everyone will stop answering your e-mails and the to-do list headed ‘Week commencing January 5th’ will start to look remarkably attractive.