Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple yesterday. The evening news, blogs, news sites, and radio were all struggling in some way to make sense of the change happening at Apple. For many, it was a time of reflection on Steve’s illustrious, amazing and yet disruptive career.
He was one of the key players in launching the PC era at the beginning of his time with Apple. He built one of the world’s most successful movie production studios with Pixar. And he returned to Apple culminating with launching the post-PC era before he resigned as CEO. An amazing story by all accounts.
Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been a big supporter of Apple for more than a decade. Ask anyone around BuildDirect and they will emphatically agree with that statement. Some people may think I’m even a bit crazy. But that’s how great brands and great companies affect people. They turn customers, business associates, family, friends and anyone else they come into contact with into passionate evangelists. In fact, for my fortieth birthday, our executive team had a bobble head made up of me made in the likeness of none other than Steven Jobs himself. Note: Seeing yourself as a bobble head is somewhat disturbing!
So, why would I write this article? Reflecting upon video clips and reading articles about Steve Jobs last night made me look back at my own experiences at BuildDirect since joining the company in it’s infancy back in early 2000. It made me better understand what motivates me every day when I walk through the front doors to our office. Other people may be motivated by finances, status, working experience or a number of other factors when working for a company. For me, its about being a part of something far, far bigger than myself. Something with the potential to positively change the lives of thousands or even millions of people. It’s a rare opportunity to discover. People at Apple have lived it. If you find it, grasp it and embrace it as it is an amazing gift. In the end, I wanted to take the time to share my journey so far.
At the end of the first week in January, 2000 I was working just outside of Toronto at Canada Trust, which was merging with TD Bank when I received a call from BuildDirect’s CEO Jeff Booth asking if I wanted to move back to Vancouver and work for BuildDirect. I was tired and, having already known Jeff for more than a decade at that point, clearly realized he was oblivious to the time zone difference as he was calling at 1:00am on a Tuesday night!
However, it was the words he spoke late that night that had the most impact on my decision to move my wife Kim and I across the country. I am not sure even he remembers his words to me then. It was a simple statement but one that has stayed with me through these last eleven years. He said, “Dan, do you want to help us change the world?” It was the way he said it and the conviction in his voice that told me that changing the world was more than possible, it was a certainty.
And so, subconsciously at the time, the comparison of Steve Jobs to Jeff, and the comparison of Apple to BuildDirect began. Steve Jobs was unwavering in his simplicity to change the world. Jeff was no different.
At BuildDirect, we been through an incredible amount of obstacles through the last ten years. Our time has had tremendous wins but also has been filled with losses. From those victories we learnt many things but from those losses we not only learnt but we grew. We’ve not only endured but we have thrived. We’ve strengthened tremendously. We’ve become resilient. We’ve survived through the dot-com bubble burst, through 9/11, and we are growing in the worst housing market of the last hundred years. We have the most remarkable culture at our company. We have built a place where I love coming to every day. Kim said to me a week ago that it wasn’t fair that I went to work each day to a place and job I loved. She was smiling when she said it but she was right.
I could go on at length about how BuildDirect applies great hiring practices, business best practices, and brilliant corporate structure and processes to help us achieve our goals. Yet, while these are all great things that great companies employ, they fail to capture the very essence, the heart and soul if you will, of our company. It doesn’t capture what makes us different from other companies.
I’ve had the privilege of attending numerous executive leadership conferences and had the opportunity to hear great writers and leaders speak. They have included people like Jim Collins, Bill Campbell, and David Sokol. Almost all of these speakers, leaders and mentors agree that the strength of your company lies in its people.
However, the most important key to attracting the right people lies within the core culture, the core mission, and the core essence of your company. Leaders attract people with similar values, temperament and personality. If you’ve read Liz Wiseman’s book on the multiplier effect you understand that strong leaders are either geniuses or genius makers. Geniuses are those people that believe they hold the answers to everything. Genius makers are “leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved.”
Genius makers attract other genius makers. If you align those leaders with the same core values, spirit and determination as your CEO you will have an unstoppable force. Simply put, Apple is so successful because Steve Jobs is a genius maker. The team that he has assembled are genius makers. They are aligned culturally and they all demand excellence. They all want to change the world.
To overcome so much adversity in our young life at BuildDirect, Jeff has developed other genius makers. We are able to rapidly adapt to changing conditions while keeping our core culture intact.
For BuildDirect, our mission is simple. We want to positively change the building industry. The industry is exponentially fragmented, complex and confusing. It is filled with millions of manufacturers. The supply chain contains incredible glut and waste, and ultimately the hundreds of millions of end buyers are left trying to make decisions with little transparency into what their money is buying them.
When Jeff and BuildDirect’s other co-founder Robert Banks started BuildDirect in late 1999, their path to our transformation was ultimately about simplifying the supply chain while being completely transparent about costs and pricing with our customers. We continually execute on this path while striving to get better every day.
Om Malik wrote a great point yesterday over at Gigaom.com about a big lesson Steve Jobs and Apple have taught the world, “If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.”
There is another quote about Steve Jobs that I liken to Jeff and our team at BuildDirect from Carmine Gallo over at Forbes.com, “Innovation requires a team and you cannot inspire a team of passionate evangelists without a compelling vision; a vision that is bold, simple, and consistently communicated.”
Jeff has built a team of passionate evangelists with a vision that is bold, simple, and consistently communicated. Throughout our history Jeff hasn’t wavered from our vision, and by extension, our team hasn’t wavered either. We’re passionate. We’re aligned. And we are going to change the world.
Our journey to transform the building industry still has a long way to go, but looking back we have already come incredibly far.
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