In a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, there was an interview with Larry Page as he reflected on what it was like on his first year taking the reins as CEO of a small company he co-founded…Google. The move to taking over the daily operations of an internet search giant was to restore life and market share to the business.
At the time, Larry was surrounded. On one side there was Facebook, the social networking phenom that is about to go public. On the other side was Apple, which had moved the playing field off the desktop computer – Google’s fiefdom – and onto smartphones and tablets. Thus Page, who became CEO of Google a year ago, had the task of steering the company he co-founded through territory defined by two rivals while fending off accusations that his brainchild had become yet another lumbering monopolist or, worse, a follower.
Page is not the first founder to reassert himself as leader of a company he helped create. Another example is Howard Schultz’s return to run Starbucks, which has worked out well, and Michael Dell’s reclaiming the reins of his eponymous PC maker, which has not. Then there was Steve Job’s triumphant homecoming at Apple in 1997, which is a most obvious benchmark of success.
So why do some of these returns to the helm work and others struggle?
The most common answer we hear (and nod our heads in agreement with) is a down economy couple with changes in the market. Understood…and undeniably part of the overall reasoning behind bringing in the big boss, the one who started it all, the iconic figure to steer the course back to success. But that move alone is clearly not a guaranteed winning formula.
These companies all had a vision for restructuring their businesses, but Apple (our benchmark) had more: A brand the consumer believed in and could tie back to the culture of its business. In short, the consumer trusted Apple. When Steve Jobs returned it cemented that trust; the Apple brand was committed to its customers beyond the retail shelf.
The combination of Apple and Steve Jobs reveals a real human side of the brand to consumers in creating trust; not only in the products, but in the company and people behind them. That trust is the core of credibility and influence in the marketplace. The reality is that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. That’s how Apple’s brand makes the emotional connection with its extremely loyal customers.
So what’s the best way to revitalize a business, whether it’s Google or a local grocery store in your community? I think the benchmark speaks for itself…so if you like fruit, how about them Apples?