Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs was known for his obsessive commitment to quality.
Ron Johnson, former JCPenney CEO and Apple’s retail chief in the early 2000s, learned the lengths that Jobs would go to get something right just before the company opened its first brick-and-mortar store.
Johnson recently spoke at a View From The Top event and Inc. Magazine shares some of his career and life advice, including an anecdote he told about a particularly memorable experience he had with Jobs, who died of cancer in 2011.
It was spring 2001 and Apple was prepping to open its first retail store. Johnson and Jobs were on their way to a weekly planning meeting, when Johnson spoke up about something that had been bothering him. Apple had been setting up its store like any other: Organised around the different products that it would be selling.
“But if Apple’s going to organise around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organised around music and movies and things you do,” he told Jobs.
“Do you know how big a change that is?” he recalls Jobs saying. “I don’t have time to redesign the store.”
It seemed like that was that, but 10 minutes later when the pair walked into the meeting, Jobs immediately spoke up.
“Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong,” Jobs said. “And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store.”
Even though it would take longer to open the store because of the redesign, Jobs knew that it was worth taking the extra time to get it right.
“It’s not about speed to market,” Johnson says. “It’s really about doing your level best.”