A woman wearing safety goggles and a white lab coat leans over an industrial machine. She uses one hand to adjust a piece of the machine that is connected with two wires.
One of Steve Jobs' areas of focus was innovation. Even outside of the field of technology, businesses should always be looking toward the future. — Getty Images/skynesher

Steve Jobs was an inventor, an entrepreneur, and the co-founder of Apple. Although he passed away in 2011, he accomplished more in business and life than most people ever will. Here are five lessons small businesses owners can learn from Jobs.

[Read more: 10 Steve Jobs Quotes Every Business Owner Needs to Hear]

Keep it simple

Technology can be notoriously complex, but Jobs frequently talked about striving for simplicity in all areas of his business. He was quoted as saying, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Simplicity made Apple’s designs stand out — its products are known for their minimalist and modern design. The company took the time to understand what its customers were truly looking for and remove all the extraneous details.

Focus on innovation

Steve Jobs was never satisfied with operating within the current market — he was always looking ahead to the future. He frequently spoke about his reluctance to rely on market research, stating, “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

Jobs understood that customers often don’t truly know what it is they’re looking for. He was always looking for ways to innovate and anticipate upcoming trends. The minute a company stops innovating, it loses its place in the market.

[Read more: Why Innovation Must Be a Routine Function in Your Business]

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Steve Jobs

Strive for perfection

Jobs was a notoriously difficult boss because he demanded perfection from himself and those who worked for him. He was quoted as saying, "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected."

Guy Kawasaki worked at Apple from 1983 to 1987 and then again from 1995 to 1997. He humorously refers to these periods as “tours of duty” but also acknowledges, “In many ways, I am who I am and where I am because of Steve Jobs and Apple.”

Jobs’ perfectionism is frequently criticized, and some may question many of his behaviors. But the overarching lesson business owners can learn is to strive for quality and if something is lacking in your business, to constantly look for ways to improve it.

Hire the best people for the job

Another theme Jobs frequently spoke of is the need for businesses to hire smart people and let them do their jobs. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do,” Jobs once stated.

However, just being good at a job isn’t enough — you also need to look for people who are passionate about your company and all that it stands for. Jobs said he knew that once he found someone passionate about Apple, “everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.”

[Read more: How to Make Smart Hiring Decisions]

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

And finally, it’s impossible to build an innovative company if you’re afraid of taking chances and making mistakes. Jobs was okay with making mistakes, and he knew it was best to accept them and move on quickly.

Jobs made many mistakes early in his career, including poor products and bad managerial decisions. After co-founding Apple in 1976, he was actually fired from the company in 1985, only to return in 1997.

He made many mistakes but was never afraid to go with his gut and break conventions. His career shows that failure is normal, and what you learn from your failures is what matters.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published April 08, 2022