As the week winds down, Apple fans the world over are mourning the passing of CEO Steve Jobs. But for Apple resellers, the sadness is hitting a bit closer to home.
That's because to Apple resellers, Jobs is more than just a creative visionary -- he's also the architect of a business approach they've embraced and emulated since they first laid hands on an Apple computer. It's an approach based on enthusiasm, intensity, and most of all, a willingness to depart from the conventional norms and a confidence that doing so will result in something truly great.
"Steve didn't play by the rules all of the time, and that's how I run my business," said Michael Oh, president of Boston-based Apple reseller Tech Superpowers. "His belief was that if you question conventional wisdom, at the end of the day you'll be remembered for something beyond just the business itself."
"It's about taking that spirit of fun and creativity and applying it to relationships with customers," said Nick Gold, director of business development at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore, Md.-based Apple partner.
It's logical for any solution provider to champion the products of their vendor partners. But it's different with Apple, which hasn’t been known for being channel friendly over the years and doesn't view partners as an extension of its sales force. Instead, Apple resellers see themselves as tiny reflections of the mothership, devoted to educating customers on the aesthetic principles that Jobs so painstakingly wove into his products.
Some also embrace their role in the famously effective Apple corporate marketing engine, one that instills in consumers the idea that life is better when it's lived with Apple products, and shows them why they need a product before they realize it themselves.
Steve Bain, president of Simply Mac, a Salt Lake City-based Apple reseller since 2006, says his company believes strongly in Apple's marketing message and in its core product design belief that simplicity trumps complexity.
"Apple has done a great of making their branding very simple and very powerful, and we've tried to do the same thing. In our marketing and in our training for employees, we've taken a chapter from Apple's playbook and embraced the idea that less is more," said Bain. "We don't try to copy the Apple retail stores, but we have gone to great lengths to align our company as closely with Apple we can."
Next: Importance Of Jobs' Legendary Showmanship
David Doyle, vice president of Simply.ca, a Vancouver-based reseller of Apple products for the past quarter century, also believes it's important for Apple resellers to mirror Jobs' enthusiasm for his products.
"When I see one of our salespeople on the floor talking to customers with confidence and excitement, and maybe even a bit a showmanship, that to me is a Steve Jobs moment," Doyle said. "There's so much passion for the products, and a sense that the products will impact your life in a positive way."
But with Steve Jobs, it wasn't just about the products, but what the products stood for: Hawk-like, obsessive attention to detail and a lifestyle of creative and artistic expression, among other things. "Steve Jobs was a champion of that," said Marc A. Wolfe, CEO of Proactive, an Apple specialist in Oakland, N.J. "The corporate culture of Apple is embedded in the employees, from headquarters to every retail store."
While Apple fanboys' and fangirls' intense enthusiasm is viewed as fanatical in some industry circles, it's also a reflection that Apple is as much about the culture as it is about the products. According to Wolfe, this same sentiment can be readily observed in the corporate world.
"Just try to pry a Mac away from a user -- they'll fight you tooth and nail, even in the biggest corporate environments," Wolfe said. "Every day I hear users saying, 'I don't care what the corporate policy is, I want my Mac'. Why would they go against policy if it were just about a product?"
Apple reseller partners don't seem worried about the future of Apple under CEO Tim Cook -- those that CRN spoke with are confident that the company will continue to crank out innovative products and retain its unofficial title of beast of the mobile market.
At the same time, few would argue that Jobs' passing leaves Apple with a void that will never be replaced.
"Steve Jobs was a unique visionary, and his passing gives us a moment to reflect on how to keep his legacy going," said Gold. "If not for his achievements, maybe we would still have GUIs on computers, and maybe computers would still be viewed as tools for creative design. But it certainly would not have happened this quickly."